CAIRO - Plans to build a mega mosque in the Russian capital, Moscow, to serve the religious needs of Muslim residents have sent hundreds of Muscovites into the streets to protest the construction of the building in their city.
"We are sending signature sheets round today so that a meeting of deputies that will apparently take place in October gives a negative reply to the construction of the mosque," Igor Kononov, chairman of the municipal assembly, was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency.
Up to 2,000 Russians took to the streets late Wednesday, September 19, to protest against plans to build an Islamic center and mosque in the Mitino district in Moscow.
Opponents argue that the Muslim worship place would cause traffic jams in their area and lure Muslim immigrants into the neighborhood.
They also claim that the inflow of Muslim worshippers, many of whom would be guest workers from Central Asia, would drive up crime rates.
I am firmly against it!, one Muscovite said in an online comment cited by Russia Today.
We are flooded with those aliens, and now they want to have this insult standing virtually under my window.
Let them build it outside of Moscow. There is plenty space there, so they all shove off there.
The rally echoes similar protests against the building of mosques in several Western countries.
In the United States, at least 35 mosque projects have found foes, who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
Building mosques was also meeting opposition in several European countries as France, Italy and Spain.
In Switzerland, Swiss voters have supported a referendum to ban the building of mosque minarets in the country.
Officials have tried to persuade the protestors that the mosque was urgently needed to serve the religious needs of Muslim residents.
There are quite a lot of Muslims living in our area. They too need a spiritual place, a mosque, Vladimir Gorovetsky, the prefect of Moscow's North-Western administrative area, said as he answered questioned from readers of the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.
We cannot deny them.
Some protestors have also acknowledged the right of Muslims to fulfil their religious needs.
It's just another religion, and they are just people. Let them be. As long as they don't mess with anybody, one of the demonstrators told Vesti FM radio station.
Moscow is home to a Muslim minority of more than two million, one of Europe's biggest cities with Muslim concentration.
But the city has only four mosques, which cannot cope with the flow of worshippers on Fridays.
This forces many worshippers to pray outside the mosque in the freezing weather.
There are some 23 million Muslims in the Russian Federation concentrated in the north of the Caucasus, representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million population.
Islam is the country's second-largest religion, behind the Russian Orthodoxy.According to Russia Today, experts say that, by 2050, Muslims will make up about half of Russia's population, making it one of the world's largest countries.