Moscow is the largest Muslim city in Europe. Islam grows under Putin’s watch

Crime has surged – after dark, it’s unsafe for white Russians to leave their homes. Russian children have nowhere to play and practice sports, as public facilities have been taken over by Muslim newcomers.

Towards the end of last year, a photo appeared on social media showing thousands of men of non-European appearance, bowing in one direction. All heads were directed downwards, while their behinds were pointing upwards. The photograph was taken on a street in a city that appeared European. We have become accustomed to public Muslim prayers in Europe, especially in Paris, and that’s how the photo was initially labelled – that it was Paris.

After a while, this habitual association was replaced by reality. The city with hundreds of thousands – as was reported – praying on the street was Moscow. Some Twitter users had been to Moscow, some to Paris, some both, and others lived in these cities, so the initial caption under the photograph could not hold, sparking disbelief and astonishment. After all, such scenes are familiar in Paris, London, Malmö, Brussels, and generally in the West. In the West, it’s more of a demonstration than a necessity, as mosques are being built there, but in Moscow, they’re built reluctantly. Out of two million Muslims in the Russian capital, there are only four mosques.

Indeed, the cathedral mosque built in 2015 can accommodate ten thousand worshippers, but the largest mosque in London already takes in sixteen thousand. The most prominent Muslim cleric in Russia emphasises that the mayors of London and Rotterdam are Muslims and – obviously – they have a better situation there than in xenophobic Moscow. The direction of hope and expectations of Russian Muslims seems clear.

The same spiritual leader predicts that by 2050 “Russians will cease to exist,” and by roughly 2035, Muslims will constitute 30% of Russia’s population, compared to 10% today. One of the Orthodox bishops agrees with this forecast, adding that “nothing can be done anymore.” A cursory glance at statistics confirms these predictions. For every Muslim woman of reproductive age, there are six children, and in Chechnya and Ingushetia, eight. For a native Russian woman – one and a half children.

When, at the turn of the mediaeval and modern era, the Russian duchies freed themselves from the Golden Horde, they began their expansion into Central and Eastern Asia. A large Muslim population came under the czars’ rule, and for a Russian, living in the same country with Allah’s followers is nothing extraordinary. In contemporary Russian state doctrine, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism are religions cared for by the state. However, Orthodoxy is, of course, more equal in state ceremonies.

The government might be officially accommodating, but the general populace has its own sentiments. In recent years, land in Moscow was designated for a new mosque, intended to be several times larger than the 2015 cathedral mosque. The site chosen was by the Holy Lake, where Orthodox Christian processions are held annually, as a church once stood there.

The joy of Muslims anticipating the construction was quickly tarnished by news that a pig’s head was buried on the chosen site. Well, Muscovites aren’t like Londoners or Parisians, who enthusiastically accept many manifestations of Muslim presence where it previously wasn’t.

Apparently, a new site has been designated for the new mosque, instead of the one by the Holy Lake tainted with pork. It’s hard to say how or if it’s guarded.

With its two million Muslims, Moscow is the largest Muslim city in Europe, and Russia has more Muslims than any Western country. A direct comparison is difficult since Russia spans both Europe and Asia, but geographically European territories, previously inhabited by Russians, are experiencing a rapid increase in the Muslim population. For clarity, it’s about the Russian-speaking population of Orthodox faith and culture.
Tatar mufti Ravil Gainutdin during prayer in the Moscow Cathedral Mosque. Photo by Valery Sharifulin / TASS / Forum.
Islamization is particularly prevalent in major Russian cities, where it’s not so much the Muslims who have been in Russia “forever” that catch the eye, but immigrants from republics with a predominant Muslim population and countries that were once part of the USSR and are now independent. The reason for immigration to Russia is, of course, economic, and the inevitable cultural clash becomes mandatory once immigrants feel stable in their new environment.

Moscow authorities were initially opposed to the construction of new mosques, even the one from 2015. Immigrants will work and then return to their countries, it was thought. They’ll work, but they will do everything not to return, as reality has shown. Work permits are required for those from the former republics of the Soviet Union that are formally independent; local Muslims like the Tatars or Chechens don’t need them. Neither do newcomers from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan as member states of the Eurasian Economic Union.

  It’s unclear how difficult it is to get a visa in Russia, commonly referred to as a corrupt country. Those eager, manage – in Moscow, you can see not only guests from Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan but also – recently and so far in small numbers – from Afghanistan. The Russian economy needs them, and they do jobs that native Russians don’t want to do.

In Russia, the reason for accepting immigrants is similar to that in the West, but – as was emphasised for a time – there’s no ghettoization here and the associated crime and functioning of Muslims almost outside the law of the host country – sharia is a different matter – as is the case in many places in the West.

If an average was taken of all Muslims living in the Russian Federation, then some time after the fall of the USSR, the situation might not have seemed alarming. But if you look separately at the major cities and distinguish between Muslims who have been locals for centuries and newcomers, the situation should have been concerning for a long time.

The problems are caused by newcomers from outside the Russian Federation. Classic issues like drugs, fights, robberies, and the unacceptable treatment of women, not just Muslim ones, but all with whom the newcomers come into contact. Authorities might have turned a blind eye and at least not noticed that publicly until this spring.

In May, residents of Kotelniki, a town from the so-called belt of Moscow, i.e., a group of towns surrounding the capital, recorded a video addressed to President Vladimir Putin, complaining about living conditions caused by the increasingly immigrant nature of the city and its surroundings. It’s no surprise when a Russian in the centre of the country should communicate in Farsi or a language from the Turkic group instead of Russian. Nearby was a large bazaar where Muslims traded and settled with their families in Kotelniki. Crime surged, and after dark, it was unsafe to go out if you were a white Russian. Harassments and vulgar words from newcomers were common in broad daylight. Russian children had nowhere to play and engage in sports because the public facilities were taken over by the newcomers.

This was accompanied by previously unknown dirt and disorder. In the tower blocks, there were illegal prayer houses, which caused the gathering of newcomers, taking over courtyards, and children, especially girls, had to go to school by roundabout routes and preferably escorted by adults. Life for Russians in Kotelniki became unbearable and simply dangerous.

Until the Moscow authorities banned ritual slaughter in the city’s backyards, Muslims would slaughter goats and sheep, even concerning the cathedral mosque located in one of the central districts surrounded by dense urban development. The same was true in Kotelniki, where many spaces between tower blocks became slaughterhouses during significant Muslim holidays.

All this was told to the President of Russia by the residents. Whether Putin saw the video is unknown, but someone from the highest authorities saw it and, probably with the approval of the Russian president, Kotelniki saw the deployment of strong police and FSB units.
Similarly to Western Europe, in such districts of cities, the police rarely enter and are not up-to-date with the ongoing events. However, the overall assessment of the situation was impeccable. Officers precisely knew the addresses of “rubber” apartments, meaning those where it’s unknown who lives there and how many residents are in there.

In the “rubber” apartments, there were many illegal immigrants. A significant number of them were rounded up. Since then, the streets have become calmer, and non-Muslim residents find life a bit easier. Still, whoever can, sells their apartment and moves elsewhere. People realise that it was a specific solution, not a systematic one. And there is no sign of systematic solutions, not just in Russia, by the way.

In the IV century AD, one of the rulers in Rome was Emperor Valens – as evidenced by the recorded conversation of brothers in the Arłamów detention centre, a direct ancestor of President Lech Wałęsa. Not every, even the most noble lineage, can be a source of pride. Especially when it’s factual and not fictitious. The unfortunate Valens let the Germans into the empire’s territory, who in turn were fleeing from the Huns. He did not verify if they were entering unarmed as agreed, which led to looting, rapes, and the seizing of properties and lands of Roman citizens.

The emperor intervened militarily. In a decisive battle with the Germans, he didn’t wait for another commander and co-emperor with backup troops. Driven by pride (in Greek, hubris, considered the cause of many disasters) he wanted to triumph alone – and he lost. From the battle of Adrianople, the decline of Rome began.

Has there been a contemporary and metaphorical battle of Adrianople, this time not with the Germans, where post-Christian West and East would play the role of the Romans? The descendants will know, as they will have perspective. From our perspective – a country that has lived for centuries in the shadow of black eagles from the West and East – the fact that a crescent moon appears from under their wings on both sides doesn’t necessarily bring the same hope as news from the seventies from the western press, stating that there are fewer communists and more Muslims in the Union.

According to Polska Zbrojna news website, 40% of those currently serving and trained reserves in the Russian Federation army are Muslims. Emperor Valens had similar, maybe even worse ratios in his legions – Germans present in nearly every cohort and every manipulus. When the Emirate of Cordoba, considerably expanded by what wasn’t conquered before, because the Battle of Poitiers (or Lepanto, Vienna, etc.) prevented it, wishes to unite with the brothers from the Emirate formed after the Golden Horde, that is, Russia, to form a global caliphate, may God and the United States combined with China protect us. In the foreseeable future, we might have walls on all our borders, approached not necessarily by dark-skinned Asians, but by pale-faced post-Christian individuals of both eastern and western rites.

– Krzysztof Zwoliński

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by jz
Main photo: "Cathedral" Mosque in Moscow. Photo by Mikhail Tereshchenko / TASS / Forum
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