Wednesday 29 January 2003
Last Update 29 January 2003 12:00 am
MOSCOW, 29 January 2003 — Some 5,000 Russian Muslims are expected to perform the annual pilgrimage in Makkah this year, European Russia’s top Islamic religious leader, Talgat Tadzhuddin, said in a newspaper interview yesterday.
"A large majority of the 5,000 Russian believers who will perform Haj are from the North Caucasus," the mufti told the Izvestia newspaper. The Russian pilgrims will travel mainly by plane and pay themselves for the fare, which will cost between $1,200 and $1,500, for some of them the equivalent of a year’s salary.
According to Izvestia, some 200 inhabitants of the war-torn republic of Chechnya have applied to the local mufti to go on the pilgrimage. Last year, only nine Chechens were able to travel to Makkah, the others having failed to get their passports in time, the Vremya Novostei daily said.
Russia is home to around 20 million Muslims, most concentrated in its southern regions, including Chechnya and neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan. (AFP)