Voices from Russia

Friday, 16 September 2016

Sputnik International Presents… Seven Unknown Wonders of the World


The Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is one of Africa’s most famous landmarks



Great Mosque of Djenné



Chand Baori is a stepwell in the village of Abhaneri in Rajasthan (India)



As others look on, an Indian youth jumps into the historic Chand Baori stepwell



Probably, the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest (Romania) is the largest civil administration building in the world



The Alexandru Ioan Cuza Hall dwarfs foreign tourists… another name for this building is the “House of the People”



The Stari Most (Old Bridge) is a 22-metre-high (72-foot-high) reconstruction of a 16th-century Ottoman bridge over the Neretva River in Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina… in 1993, Croatian forces destroyed the original bridge during the Croat-Bosniak War



A diver leaps from the Stari Most in a traditional bridge diving competition



Kumbhalgarh Fort, in the former princely state of Udaipur/Mewar (Rajahsthan (India))… its walls extend over 38 kilometres (23.7 miles), making them the second-longest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China



Kumbhalgarh Fort



Built in the early 17th-century, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan (Iran) is one of the greatest architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture



Interior of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque



Derawar Fort, a massive square fortress in Bahawalpur in Pakistan… the fortress has 40 towering bastions; the circumference of its 30-metre-high (99-foot-high) walls is about 1.5 kilometres (0.94 mile)



Derawar Fort


Some man-made “wonders of the world”, such as the Colosseum or Taj Mahal, have much fame, but there are many more architectural masterpieces scattered across the globe that aren’t quite so famous.

27 February 2016

Sputnik International



Sunday, 8 September 2013

Georgia: What’s the Definition of Tolerance?

00 Mosque in Imiri GEORGIA. 08.09.13


A revival of the Orthodox faith in Georgia appears to be coinciding with an uptick in discrimination against the country’s Muslim population. For centuries, Georgians defined their existence in “us vs them” terms, as a struggle to survive as a tiny Orthodox Christian nation in a predominantly-Muslim neighbourhood. In part, this concept came, in part, from the Ottoman and Persian Empires’ past control of parts of Georgia. However, today, this definition of national identity seems to leave little room for Georgia’s estimated 433,784 Muslim citizens, roughly 9.9 percent of its overall population. Sociologist Iago Kachkachishvili, the chairman of the Tbilisi State University Sociology Department, said, “The dominant attitude in Georgian society is that being Georgian means being Orthodox. The meaning of being Orthodox isn’t the pure religious meaning; it’s very close to a national identity as well. Many don’t consider non-Orthodox Georgians proper Georgians; they’re Georgians who’re kind of deviants. If an individual wishes to be perceived as a ‘real Georgian’, they must be baptised in the Georgian [Orthodox] way”.

Efforts to convert local Muslim populations are now especially strong in Adjara, an autonomous region of western Georgia that was part of the Ottoman Empire for 300 years. The Georgian Orthodox Church spent millions in state funds building churches and seminaries in villages there; local priests actively encourage their congregations to convert Muslim neighbours to Orthodoxy. However, for most Muslim Georgians, the expectation that they have to convert to be truly Georgian is unacceptable. Georgi Sanikidze, director of the G. Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, noted that although for generations their faith was dormant, today, Muslims are also experiencing a religious revival. He said that where local Muslims tried to build mosques or publicly express their faith, often, tension flared with local Georgian Orthodox believers.

This May and June, angry crowds in the eastern village of Samtatskaro succeeded in shutting down Friday services at the local mosque. The services resumed only after intervention by police and officials. Last October and November, similar outbursts occurred in the western village of Nigvziani in response to rumours about alleged plans to build a local mosque. The hubbub quieted after a senior cleric denied the rumours, and police cautioned locals against harassing Muslim villagers. However, last month, an event raised questions about what, if anything, the government learned from these episodes. On 26 August, troops barred the entrance to the southern village of Chela after the Revenue Service (RS) opted to remove the local mosque’s minaret for allegedly unpaid import duties. The action sparked sharp protests nationwide. RS officials issued a statement that the agency tried to contact the minaret’s owner five days before closing the village and removing the minaret for “analysis”. Currently, the minaret is sitting in “storage” at a nearby site under police guard. The incident aggravated fears about discrimination against Muslims. In comparison, the Georgian Orthodox Church isn’t required to pay taxes and duties on goods. RS representatives didn’t respond to requests from EurasiaNet for additional information about its minaret investigation.

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili sought to ease concerns that Georgian ethnic and religious minorities face discrimination. In a 2 September speech to the diplomatic corps, Ivanishvili reassured Georgian Muslims that Georgia is a tolerant country, saying, “Religious tolerance … isn’t only our tradition, but it’s also one of the fundamental principles of the Georgian constitution”. He claimed that what happened in Chela had “nothing to do with religious intolerance”, without elaborating. Some political analysts in Tbilisi interpreted his comments as a reference to a possible “dirty tricks” campaign against the governing Georgian Dream coalition during the run-up to October’s presidential election. However, sociologist Kachkachishvili cautioned that the concept of tolerance as defined by many ordinary Georgians strongly differs from the common understanding in the West. In Georgia, it’s more of a willingness to forgive those who accept Georgian Orthodoxy. He added, “This is a kind of quasi-tolerance, I’d say”. Ivanishvili pledged that “an appropriate response” would occur for any violations of the law in taking down the minaret or for “excessive force” against villagers protesting its removal. Then again, how far that response would go could be open to debate. Whilst emphasising that the minaret’s forcible removal was “unacceptable”, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani… whose ministry oversees the General Prosecutor’s Office, the government agency responsible for investigating the minaret removal… termed the structure “illegal,” and asserted that Georgia would have to discuss whether or not the country should contain minarets.

In comments to EurasiaNet, Tariel Nakaidze, head of the Georgian Muslims’ Union, welcomed the investigation into the minaret’s “unprecedented” confiscation, but expressed caution. He claimed that the government hasn’t yet properly investigated other past abuses against Muslims. We couldn’t reach government officials to respond to the allegation. Nakaidze said, “This isn’t just about minarets and mosques. This is about our country. Our democracy will have a problem and we shouldn’t allow that to happen”.

6 September 2013

Molly Corso




Saturday, 1 December 2012

1 December 2012. Here are Those Muslims That the Rightwingers are so Hot n’ Bothered About… Friday Prayers at the Mosque at the VOV Memorial on Poklonnaya Gora

00 Mosque Poklonnaya Gora Moscow. 01.12.12


This is Friday Prayers at the mosque at the VOV Memorial on Poklonnaya Gora. The imam preaching used a loudspeaker system to reach all the congregants. He spoke about the commandments, “If you ask a Christian about the Decalogue, how many will be able to list them, and how one complies with them? It’s important to remember them all the time”. The imam went on to say that God commands us not to murder, rob, or commit adultery. That doesn’t sound very terroristic or subversive to me.

In case you forgot, the Decalogue is:

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee
  6. Thou shalt not murder
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery
  8. Thou shalt not steal
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Islam holds to the Decalogue as much as Christians and Jews do. To judge all Muslims by Islamists is wrong. It’d be like condemning Christianity for the excesses of wackos like Franklin Graham or Sarah Palin… real Christians don’t act like unhinged Evangelical sectarian fruitcakes. In like manner, mainstream Muslims don’t act like fire-breathing Islamist nut jobs. A little bit of good sense, alert observation, and common decency allow one to tell the plug-uglies without a scorecard… I think that most would agree with me on that one.


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