MOSCOW -- The official head of Russia's Muslim community says the new central mosque in Moscow will be inaugurated and ready for worship in 2014-2015, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.
Ravil Gainutdin, chairman of Russia's Council of Muftis, told RFE/RL in an interview on November 2 that the outside of the new building will be completed by 2013, when work will begin on the interior. He said the mosque will be fully ready by 2014 or 2015.
The new mosque will be built on Vypolzovy Street, site of the former central mosque which was demolished on September 11.
The oldest mosque in Moscow was built in 1904 on the initiative of, and with financial support from, Tatar businessman Salikh Yerzin.
Its destruction was widely protested by Moscow conservationists and Tatar activists in the Russian capital and elsewhere in the country, who construed it as an attempt to eliminate all traces of a Tatar presence in Moscow.
Gainutdin, an ethnic Tatar who supported the demolition of the old mosque, rejected as unfounded claims by Tatar activists in Russia that there will be nothing specifically Tatar about the new central mosque.
"Of course, we cannot proclaim that we are building a new mosque which will be for Tatars only, because the Muslim community in Moscow these days is very diverse," he said.
"However, we have invited [prominent Tatar artist and painter] Ferdinand Khalikov to decorate the interior of the new mosque with Tatar national ornamentation when it is ready."
Gainutdin also said that the majority of those who say the new mosque will no longer have a specific Tatar identity are not practicing Muslims and have never "set foot in a mosque."
Gainutdin's comments to RFE/RL were his first on the subject since the old mosque was torn down.
Muslims make up roughly 12 percent of Russia's population.
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