Muslim Holiday ‘Eclipses’ School Opening Day In Moscow – OpEd


Two hundred thousand Muslims, most from Central Asia and most relatively young, took part in Kurban Bayram celebrations in Moscow, easily “eclipsing” the first day of school and highlighting just how Islamic the Russian capital has become, the URA news agency said (

Not only were many in Moscow elsewhere angry about the fact that the authorities rescheduled the openings of schools near the mosques of the capital, but residents were also upset that they had to make long detours around the crowds to get where they normally were able to go more quickly and directly.

If the Muscovites were aware, they might also have been upset by the fact that when the ceremonies began at 7:00 am, Muslim leaders read out messages of official greetings from President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

The overwhelming majority of those attending the services were young people, some of whom did not know the required prayers or even the meaning of the holiday and had to ask their elders for guidance. Many took pictures with their cellphones to send home to show people in Central Asia that Kurban Bayram in Moscow is marked in a serious way.

The correspondent surveyed the opinion of residents nearby after the services were over – the Muslims had to travel to the suburbs to one of the sites where animal sacrifices were permitted – and got an earful from non-Muslims about all this.

One local woman complained that “after they built this mosque, it became impossible to live here.” She and many others also expressed anger about the fact that the school opening seemed “less important to the authorities than a Muslim holiday.” But one elderly Russian woman proved an exception.

She said that “religion is important. If opening day had been shifted because of an Orthodox holiday, no one would have gotten upset.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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