The Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation to the Maldives has organised a photography exhibition showcasing Muslims in Russia, in partnership with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The exhibition, ‘Muslims of Russia’, opened last night at the Islamic Centre and will close on 3 April. It is open to the public from 10am-12pm, 2.30-6pm and 8-10pm.
The photographs give a glimpse into the culture of Russia’s 22 million Muslims and give colour and life to the white exhibition room under the Mosque at the Islamic Centre.
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Vladimir Mikhalov, gave a speech at the opening ceremony held yesterday.
The ambassador asked for a minute of silence in the memory of those killed in the terror attacks in Moscow on Monday morning.
Mikhalov said Russian police had confirmed the attack was carried out by two female suicide bombers from the northern Caucasus Mountains.
“This region is populated mostly by Muslims and unfortunately about twenty years ago…some selfish local leaders decided to take advantage of the weakness of the central government…and declared “jihad” to Russia and started their fighting.”
Mikhalov said most people, including Islamic spiritual leaders of the region, condemned their actions.
“That’s why they were defeated and peace in general was restored,” he said, but noted that the remnants of the group had been financed from overseas in order to destabilise the situation in Russia.
He assured guests that Russians had never associated terrorism with Islam and believe “terrorists have neither religion nor nationality.”
He said Islam is currently the second most widely professed religion in Russia, and Russians wanted to show “Muslim men, women, their children and elders in every day life.”
He also wished “the friendly Maldivian people…all the success in their development, as well as peace and prosperity.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed also spoke before guests explored the exhibition room.
The photographs are set out around the room, printed on canvases, depicting Muslim festivities, gatherings during Ramadan, Qur’an reciting competitions, Islamic architecture and Russian mosques, Muslim schools, prayer, sermons, Russian pilgrims in Mecca, and even an Islamic fashion show in Moscow.
A beautiful blue-lit photograph shows one of Russia’s oldest mosques, Khan’s Mosque, in the town of Kasimov in Ryazan district. Next to it sits one of the most captivating photographs, named ‘Symbols of Faith’ which shows a crescent-shaped light display on a mosque’s dome.
Another photograph shows a conference named ‘Russia-Islamic World: Partnership in the Name of Stability” held in Moscow and the 2009 International Contest of Qur’an Reciters.
The photographs depict everything from geese seemingly flying towards a mosque, to Russian dancers in a National Dance, History and Modernity Festival.
The first Russian Muslims were the Dagestani people in the current region of Derbent, after the Arabs arrived in the 8th century. The modern Tartars inherited the religion from them. European and Caucasian Turks also became followers of Islam.
Many churches and mosques were closed down during Soviet rule of the country, but started reopening in the 1990s.
In 2005, the Kul Shariff Mosque in Tatarstan was rebuilt in celebration of the 1000 year jubilee of Kazan. It is now one of the biggest mosques in Europe.
Kazan has the second largest Muslim population in Russia after Moscow, and is the location of the Russian Islamic University at Tatarstan.
The St Petersburg Mosque will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary in 2013. It was the biggest mosque in Europe when it was built in 1913 and is still one of the largest in Europe.