Turkey: Work commences on 'Erdogan the Magnificent' mosque

On hill over the Bosphorus, highest minarets in the world

03 April, 19:55

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, APRIL 3 - Polemics, accusations, and sarcasm have failed to put a damper on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans to build an enormous mosque towering over the Bosphorus.

The mosque will be gigantic, covering a surface area of some 15,000 square meters on the Camlica hill on Istanbul's Asian side, with another 250,000 square meters housing a park, museum, bar, restaurants, amusement park, and a terrace with a breathtaking view over the Bosphorus and Byzantine and Muslim Istanbul. Erdogan had announced the project a year ago, saying that the ''enormous'' mosque would be ''visible from anywhere in the city'' with ''the highest minarets in the world''.

In the eyes of opposition secularist Turks, Erdogan - who is referred to as 'the new sultan' by many - would like to leave his mark on the city in the tradition of the caliphs of the past. His mosque will be endowed with six minarets instead of two, a distinction of which thus far only Istanbul's famous Blue Mosque can boast.

''There are many places in Istanbul where a mosque could be built, but they want to send a message,'' Hurriyet was told by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) MP Mehmet Ali Ediboglu. ''The message is that they want to build an Islamic republic in the place of the secular system. That's what they are doing, step by step''. Erdogan's Turkey cannot be said to be lacking in mosques.

According to Milliyet, since 2002 when Erdogan's AKP gained power, 17,000 new ones have been built. In Istanbul, where Erdogan was mayor 20 years ago, there are 3,113. The Turkish leader has now decided to build one even in the well-known Taksim Square, the heart of the city and the symbolic location of large gatherings of left-wing groups and unions.

The ''enormous'' mosque on Camlica will be another sort of symbol, said Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar: ''a work symbolizing the AKP rule''. Nothing will stand in the way of the 'sultan's' plans. Neither the sarcasm on social networking sites referring to the 'Mosque of Erdogan the Magnificent', nor the alarm bells from the Chamber of Architects, who say that the edifice will ''destroy Istanbul and the Bosporus's horizon''. The cries of ''genocide'' against Istanbul's historic landscape launched by CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and the appeals from Muslim intellectuals have also fallen on deaf ears.

One of the most highly respected among the voices of dissent, Ducane Cundioglu, pleaded with the prime minister, saying that he should give up the project so as to ''avoid inflicting on this country's youth an ugly work which will be a source of embarrassment for years to come''. But in vain: the mosque will be built. (ANSAmed).

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