Turkish PM insistent on giant mosque on Istanbul hill

Turkish PM insistent on giant mosque on Istanbul hill

Erdem Güneş / Vercihan Ziflioğlu ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM insistent on giant mosque on Istanbul hill

No winners were announced in the design competition for the mosque. Two projects were given 2nd and 3rd places, with one being declared ‘applicable.’ AA photo

Academic and Islamic circles have reacted to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistence on building a mosque on Istanbul’s Çamlıca Hill as part of a controversial project.

Erdoğan has forged ahead with plans for two controversial mosque projects in Istanbul, one on Çamlıca Hill and the other to be built in Taksim Square.

“The beauty of the [planned] mosque on Çamlıca Hill is not that obvious on the model. But it will be very beautiful, trust me,” Erdoğan told a group of journalists aboard a plane en route to the Spanish capital of Madrid from Ankara on Nov. 27.

The prime minister first proposed the idea of building a mosque on the top of Istanbul’s Çamlıca Hill May 29. “This giant mosque in Çamlıca was designed so as to be visible from all parts of Istanbul,” Erdoğan said at the time. However, his idea has continued to draw reactions from academic and political circles since then.

Archaeological concerns
Professor Afife Batur from Istanbul Technical University, who specializes in the architecture of the late-Ottoman and Republican periods, said the process was illegal from the start.

“We said it was an archaeological site, they removed the article regarding that area. We said at least do a proper project. They launched a project competition in an illegal way that we have never before witnessed in Turkish history," Batur told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday in a phone interview.

Competition to build a mosque
Üsküdar Municipality and a mosque-building association opened a design project immediately after Erdoğan’s announcement, setting a grand prize of 300,000 Turkish Liras for the winning design.

The competition drew 62 projects but ended without a first-place winner being announced. Two projects were given second and third places, with one of them being declared “applicable.”

According to the winning project, the mosque will occupy a nearly 15,000-square-meter plot and have the capacity to hold approximately 30,000 people.

İhsan Eliaçık, a religious author known for his critiques of capitalism, said the project reflects Erdoğan’s desire to build a “Sultan mosque” in Istanbul just like Süleyman the Magnificent and Mehmet the Conqueror did. “Turkey does not need even one small mosque since 110,000 mosques around the country are [now] empty,” Eliaçık said.

“Social justice should come first. There are only seven or eight poorhouses in an Istanbul of 17 million people.”

Yet the prime minister has claimed many of the criticisms were groundless.

“They say the green area will be ruined. There is no green area there already,” Erdoğan said, adding that a mosque would also be built in Taksim.