Russian President Vladimir Putin has inaugurated one of the biggest European mosques in the capital, Moscow.
“This mosque will become an extremely important spiritual center for Muslims in Moscow and the whole Russia,” Putin said in a televised speech during the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
The unveiling ceremony of the 20,000-square-meter mosque, known as the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, in the Russian capital was attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas and a host of other guests.
“It will be a source for education, spreading humanist ideas and the true values of Islam,” Putin underscored.
He went on to say that the mosque is a central part of Moscow’s efforts to counter recruitment by extremists.
The Russian president further stated that terrorist groups such as Daesh Takfiri group have distorted the image of Islam.
Russia’s Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev estimated last week that some 1,800 Russian citizens are fighting for the Daesh terrorist group.
“Terrorists from the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) actually cast a shadow on the great global religion of Islam,” he said, adding, “Their ideology is built on hate.”
Putin said the Takfiri group "attempts to cynically exploit religious feeling for political ends. We see what is happening in the Middle East where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State group are compromising a great world religion, compromising Islam, in order to sow hate."
The USD170-million (EUR150-million) project, which took a decade to complete, can host over 10,000 worshipers.
The mosque has been built on the site of a smaller mosque in the city which was constructed in 1904.
“Finally, Moscow, which lays claim to the title of the biggest Muslim city in Europe, has a big mosque,” said Aleksei Malashenko, an expert on Islam at the Carnegie Moscow Center, adding, “It shows that the center of Islamic life in the Russian Federation is in Moscow.”
An estimated 20 million Muslims live in Russia.
There are three other official mosques in Moscow where Muslims make up about 16 percent of the population. As many as 12.5 million people live in the city.
“It is strange that in such a big city like Moscow there are only four mosques, and even this one does not solve the problems in terms of space,” said Maksim Shevchenko, a member of the Kremlin’s human rights council who concentrates on religious issues.