MOSCOW -- Are you a Muslim in Moscow? Do you find when it's time to pray there's never a minaret in sight? Do you remember that time you had to pray in the filthy fire escape of some business center? Wouldn't you just prefer it if you could summon a mosque to come to you?
Well, your prayers may soon be answered.
A new crowdfunding initiative posted on the popular Boomstarter website is raising funds to buy a fleet of trailer cars and have them transformed into mobile places of Muslim worship.
The renovated trailers will accommodate a mini-prayer space, and also be fitted with a special ablution compartment for Muslims to wash, a crucial purification ritual performed before prayer, according to a design layout posted on Boomstarter.
The mobile mosques will then travel around the capital, serving Muslims who summon them, free of charge.
"Today 2 million Muslims in Moscow are forced to content themselves with only FOUR functioning mosques in the city," writes Alsu Khafis, the author of the Mobile Mosques project posted online. "The rhythm of the modern city and the small capacity of mosques do not allow practicing Muslims always to perform their regular prayer."
The project aims to raise 850,000 rubles and hopes to resolve Moscow's mosque conundrum by stationing six trailer-mosques at business centers around the city and making a further two available for summoning by clients via a special website.
The raised funds will go toward buying the trailers and the cars to tow them, hiring drivers, and carrying out a full renovation of the automobiles. Organizers promise the trailer service will be self-sufficient, as it will sell takeaway food in order to cover costs.
The exterior of the trailer-cum-mosques will be white and embossed with a green Muslim floral pattern.
Mosques On Wheels?
The project organizers invite users to make contributions of between 100 rubles and 15,000 rubles ($1.5-$229). Contributors of the larger sum will be given the privilege of summoning a mosque-on-wheels without having to queue.
They also will receive a meal -- naturally in accordance with Muslim dietary requirements -- on top of prayer services. The project has so far raised a somewhat modest 20,000 rubles, with 56 days left to raise the remainder.
The Russian capital has long suffered from a shortage of mosques for its estimated 2 million Muslims, many of them migrant laborers.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has spoken out against building new mosques, arguing that the mosques are frequented predominantly by foreign citizens.
Every Muslim holiday sees tens of thousands of Muslims kneeling down on the streets near mosques. In winter, on the territory of Moscow's oldest mosque at Prospekt Mira -- which has been under reconstruction for several years -- Muslims simply unfurl their prayer rugs outside under driving snow.
In a city infamous for traffic problems, traveling to a mosque can also be problematic. "Answer honestly, do you remember how you felt when you read the namaz [prayer] on the fire escape of a business center...? When you prayed at home three times in a row because you can't pray at work and it is a minimum 40 minutes to travel to the mosque?" the pitch asks rhetorically.
Ildar Alyatdinov, Moscow's chief mufti, is ambivalent about the project, however. In local media comments carried by Interfax, Alyatdinov called the proposal "definitely rather interesting," but cautioned that mobile mosques would not be a substitute for the atmosphere of a real mosque.
-- Tom Balmforth