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6 Nov, 2011 08:43

Russian Muslims embrace spirit of major holiday

The four-day Eid al-Adha religious festival is underway, with millions of Muslims traveling around the world to visit family and loved ones. The holiday is also widely celebrated across Russia.

Known as Kurban Bairam in Russia, the festival marks the end of Hajj, the annual Mecca pilgrimage, and commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God.A huge number of worshipers have gathered outside the main mosque in Moscow. Police say more than 170,000 people have taken part in the celebrations. The prayers will be offered in four mosques across the Russian capital.The celebrations are also taking place in traditionally Muslims regions of the country, such as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Chechnya and others. According to the Russian Council of Muftis, there are about 20 million Muslims in Russia with 1.5 million living in Moscow.President Dmitry Medvedev has extended his wishes to Russian Muslims, praising Kurban Bairam as a holiday that refers to the spiritual roots of Islam and calls for kindness, mercy and justice. Eid al-Adha is the second most-important festival of the year for Muslims and is marked with prayers of thanksgiving and celebrations.The holiday is traditionally marked by the ritual of animal sacrifice which originates in the sacrifice of Abraham.However this year Russia’s Muslim religious authorities urged the faithful not to carry out the ritual in Moscow, but in certified areas outside the city. Last year, the ritual of animal sacrifice caused some controversy as the local residents complained when the ritual took place in the streets or in the residential areas.