2007-06-25 13:47:00

Council of Muftis’ estimation of number of Muslims in St. Petersburg is ten times more than reality - islamologist

Novgorod, June 25, Interfax - The estimation of size of the Muslim community in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region, as given by the Council of Muftis in Russia, exceeds the real numbers by nearly ten times, Roman Silantyev, a specialist in the modern history of Islam in Russia, opines.

Recently the Council of Muftis met in Moscow to consider the issue of St. Petersburg’s Muslim community and said that the community numbers almost one million in both the city and the region.

‘Mufti Ravil Gainutdin said there are almost one million Muslims, but it is not really so. The National Census 2002 and other surveys say that, even if we consider migration, the overall number of Muslims in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region never exceeds 100,000,’ Silantyev told the journalists on Monday as he attended the 5th National Meeting of Army Chaplains in Novgorod Region.

The islamologist urged ‘to be careful’ with what the head of the Council of Muftis in Russia said. ‘If we look at Ravil Gainutdin’s earlier statements, we can find that he is unaware of even approximate number of Muslims and mosques in Moscow,’ he added.

Silantyev said he was surprised when the leaders of the Council of Muftis said that there was no authoritative Muslim leader in St. Petersburg.

‘On the contrary, St. Petersburg has the respected Muslim leader, Mufti Jafar Ponchayev, who officially represents the local Islamic community of the region in contacts with state authorities and in interfaith dialogue,’ Silantyev said.

‘In Moscow there’s no such a unanimously trusted Muslim leader. No mufti in Moscow is supported by a majority of the local believers,’ he noted.

Earlier the Council of Muftis said that the circumstances of the recent failed attempt to assassinate St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko revealed some unhealthy tendencies in the local Muslim community. The muftis said that it lacked any structure, was ethically divided, and did not maintain regular dialogue with the authorities and other religious groups.