Muslim Chechnya marks Prophet's birthday
In a new bid by Chechnya's leader to brand the restive region as the face of moderate Islam, the celebration is the country’s first.
Grozny -- Thousands of Muslims attended the first major celebrations of the Prophet Mohammed's birthday here Monday, in a new bid by Chechnya's leader to brand the restive region as the face of moderate Islam.
Some 20,000 people headed toward Grozny's newly constructed mosque -- said to be Europe's largest -- where verses from the Koran were being recited starting at midnight, the presidential press office said.
"All this shows there is not and there has never been a social base for Wahhabism," Chechnya's strongman president Ramzan Kadyrov was quoted by Interfax as saying, referring to the radical current of Islam that gained ground in the war-torn Caucasus republic in recent years.
"There are perhaps 10, 20 (fighters) still left in the mountains. But hundreds of thousands of people celebrated Mohammed's birthday today," added Kadyrov, who attended the festivities with the leader of Ingushetia, another Muslim republic in Russia's Caucasus.
Kadyrov, who has been pushing an increasingly public role of Islam in Chechnya, has also promised 50,000 roubles (1,100 euros, 1,400 dollars) to the parents of every boy born on the Prophet's birthday.
The pro-Moscow Chechen leader signed a decree in February restricting the sale of spirits like vodka to just two hours a day and banning them completely during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.