Sunday, December 16, 2007
Time for the the pilgrimage called the Hajj - millions journey to Mecca
Says the NY Times of Russian Muslims in 2007, "Islam, like Orthodox Christianity, is in a state of revival here after years of confinement to the kitchens and basements of the Soviet Union, which severely restricted the open practice of all religions.
Russia has about 4,000 mosques now, compared with about 90 in the waning days of the Soviet Union. In Moscow, Muslim groceries and other stores selling Muslim fashions have appeared, and the first hospital catering to Muslims opened this month.
Fourteen million to 23 million Muslims live in this country of about 140 million people, making Islam the largest minority religion. They live mostly in the Caucasus and in two autonomous republics, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan; there are also about two million Muslims living in Moscow.
The Kremlin has worked to facilitate the pilgrimage, part of a strategy to ward off potential unrest among the country’s Muslims and monitor their activities, while also improving ties with Saudi Arabia, where Russia has budding economic interests. When President Vladimir V. Putin visited Saudi Arabia in February — the first Russian leader to do so in decades — his lobbying efforts helped persuade the Saudis to raise the quotas for Russian Muslims this year."
Some 26,000 Russian pilgrims will be allowed into Saudi Arabia for the Hajj this year.