No More Mosques in Moscow

Today Paul Goble is blogging about the Russian strategy to discourage Islamic extremism from flourishing in its cities – which also appears to include a ban on the establishment of any new mosques.  The result of this idea, Goble notes, may be counter-productive:

The first policy, enacted under pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian nationalists of almost all stripes, is a general refusal on the part of the authorities to allow more mosques to open in Russian cities (as opposed to in rural areas, where many have opened), even though the number of Muslims in many urban areas has grown rapidly since the end of the Soviet era.

In Moscow, for instance, the number of officially registeredmosques has increased only from four to five since Soviet times, whilethe number of Muslims has risen from less than 100,000 to more than 2.5million. The situation is similar in St. Petersburg, where the numberof registered mosques has gone from one to two, even though the numberof Muslims has increased from 15,000 to around 1 million.

As a result, by deferring to the church and nationalist sentiment,the Russian government is effectively encouraging the formation ofunofficial Muslim groups, many of whose members are either more radicalto begin with or who become so as a result of the secrecy and sense ofofficial persecution they experience.