(28 Mar 2016) LEAD IN:
An open day at Moscow's Cathedral Mosque has attracted a large crowd.
Both Muslims and non-Muslims had the opportunity to explore the building and its artefacts.
The mosque, which recently reopened after years of restoration and renovation, hopes to become a centre of social and religious life for Muslims in the Russian capital.
The gleaming domes and spires are a recent addition to Moscow's skyline.
Moscow's new Cathedral Mosque was opened to the public late last year.
And today the mosque has opened its doors to non-Muslims.
A long queue gathers at a display case. Inside there's an important artefact - the 'Hair of Mohammed'.
This was a gift from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov when the mosque opened in October, 2015.
The mosque's leaders believe this building is important for the country's Muslims.
"The mosque is a kind of spiritual shelter, where a person either turns into nothing or is revived. The Moscow Mosque is the main mosque in the whole of Russia. It is a central mosque and it attracts many people, and today we wish to have more non-Muslims here," says Eldar Alliutdinov, Imam of Moscow Cathedral Mosque.
He says Russia's 20 million Muslims live alongside the predominantly Christian population in harmony.
"Muslims in Russia are not aliens, they are not people who appeared here a hundred years ago. They are natives, and even many historians argue about this - about who was here on this land earlier," says Alliutdinov.
"Muslims or non-Muslims, without divisions along the lines of nationality, have been living next to each other from time immemorial, they live as neighbours. It's true, there were different times - you can have a look at history. But this is not the situation we see in Europe or in America (where there are divisions)."
Around two million Muslims now live in Moscow, after an influx from the North Caucasus republics of southern Russia, Azerbaijan and the former Soviet states in Central Asia.
The city also has long had a sizeable Tatar minority.
Part of the day's programme is a Quran reading competition, where children under 14 put their skills to the test.
A crowd gathers to hear the children perform and amongst them a regular visitor to the mosque – Mohammed.
"In general there is no such thing as persecution (of Muslims) as some people say. I live, I'm a Muslim. Everything is very peaceful, no one bothers me. What's important is to be a good man, a moral man, and there will be no problems whatsoever," he says.
"There are extremist movements - but don't go there, don't become a radical. Live as a common man lives. Have common sense. Everything is very good. No one interferes, no one oppresses."
Also on offer is a guided tour around the mosque, a chance for visitors to learn more about the building and its artefacts.
And Moscow businessman Hadji Ilhomidin Kadirov has come here to pray with his family.
The new mosque has transformed the way he worships.
"Everybody knows that 10 to 15 years ago - it's impossible to imagine now - a billion Muslims in the world knew that when we prayed, marked Kurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha), or took part in Ramadan, we sat in the street, on the pavement and prayed under rain and in slush and in snow," he says.
"But today the almighty has given us an opportunity such as a multi-storied, beautiful mosque where we can pray, both on regular days and on Fridays."
Brightly coloured pictures of mosques are displayed on easels in one room of the building.
The artworks are produced by children who are busy working away on their masterpieces.
Away from the events of the open-day, prayers continue as usual.
Built on the site of a smaller, more than 100-year-old mosque destroyed in 2011, it can accommodate 10,000 worshippers.
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