Russian President Vladimir Putin has delivered a speech at the opening of the country's largest mosque. He sought to promote the positive values of Islam, but also to codemn extremist violence.
Vladimir Putin, concerned about the growing number of Russian-speaking citizens joining the ranks of the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist group fighting in Syria and Iraq, on Wednesday painted jihadism as a distortion of Islamic values and the opening of the new mosque as a positive outlet for Russian Muslims.
"We see what is happening in the Middle East where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State group are compromising a great world religion, compromising Islam, in order to sow hate," he said at the site of the newly reopened Moscow Cathedral Mosque.
The speech, which was delivered just a day before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, also emphasized the mosque's role as a spiritual center for Russians. "It will be a source for education, spreading humanist ideas and the true values of Islam," Putin said.
Among those in attendance were Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was set to meet with Putin later that day to discuss the conflict in the Middle East and specifically in Syria. Concern has grown among world leaders regarding Russia's role in war-torn Syria, with the United States recently accusing Putin of sending troops and military equipment to his embattled ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey, meanwhile, has been highly critical Assad during the country's civil war.
In addition to the estimated 2,000 Russian speakers who have traveled to the Middle East to fight alongside IS, Moscow has also been fighting an Islamic insurgency in the restless Caucusus region in the south.
The Moscow mosque was originally built in the early 1900s, and then demolished in 2011. The reconstruction, which cost $170 million (152 million euros), drew controversy after another mosque was demolished in order to make room for it. One of the largest mosques in Europe, it will be able to accomodate an estimated 10,000 people.
bc/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)