|Anasayfa | Son Dakika | Gündem | Yazarlar | Astroloji | Hava Durumu | Sinema | TV Rehberi|
Why a mosque in Taksim?
|Why a mosque in Taksim?|
|Turkish Daily News Electronic Edition, Features Section, Jan 31 1997
Reconquering Istanbul, or meeting prayer needs:
Why a mosque in Taksim?
By M. Akif Beki / Turkish Daily News
ISTANBUL- The insistence of the senior partner in the government, the pro-Islamist Welfare Party (RP), on rebuilding a mosque in Taksim Square has given rise to the question as to whether this project is really a response to the prayer needs of the area's Muslim population, or an attempt by the RP to symbolize the power of the Islamists over Taksim as well as the whole country.
The arguments suggested by both sides, those who have reacted against the project and those who support it, contain an interesting discussion which seems to be the continuation of an old debate.
In the past, the center right parties, such as the main opposition Motherland Party (ANAP) -- currently led by Mesut Yilmaz -- and the junior partner of the government, the True Path Party (DYP) -- now led by Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller -- promised at various times during the past 10 years to carry out a mosque project in Taksim, but the mosque was never built.
This indicates that promising to build a mosque in this area, where religious minorities have concentrated since the Ottoman Empire era and which is currently known as the entertainment center of Istanbul, would be a serious message to the pro-center right public.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan is being accused of trying to build this mosque in the middle of Taksim Park side by side with the five star hotels and entertainment places, as a show of strength by the Islamists. In particular, this accusation is being based on messages given by Erbakan recently in which he said that Taksim would be "reconquered" via the rebuilding of this mosque.Comparison of mosques and churches
On the other hand, RP representatives are trying to prove that this project is not aimed at making a show, but is aimed at meeting the natural demands of Muslims living around Taksim for places to pray.
"There is one church per 2,000 Christians, while there is one mosque per 200,000 Muslim citizens," revealed Nusret Bayraktar, the RP mayor of Beyoglu district, who as the ruling authority in Taksim promised to build the mosque.
Bayraktar's argument is based on a special survey which shows that there are 14 churches around Taksim, while the size of the minority population located there is nearly 23,000. However, there were just three small mosques in Taksim, in which the daily circulating population is around two million, and 600,000 Muslims were living in this area.
According to Bayraktar, in this case three mosques are not able to meet the prayer needs of the Muslim population, or even the needs of less then 10 percent of those 600,000 citizens.
"This discussion has gone on for the past 40 years, and every Muslim citizen is demanding to be able to go to a mosque in Taksim," claimed Bayraktar.
Furthermore, responding to accusations that this project would damage the green environment of Taksim Square, which is protected by laws, he added: "The Marmara hotel could be built, as well as the Ataturk Cultural Center (AKM), the Sheraton (now Ceylan Intercontinental), Hilton, Conrad and swissotel; so why shouldn't a mosque be built in Taksim? In addition, this project is planned in accordance with the protection of the environment."Rediscovery of the historical Taksim mosque
In addition, Islamist dailies and magazines which are supporting this project have revealed as a historical reality that there was a mosque at Taksim square until 55 years ago.
The mosque was built within the military headquarters at Taksim, called Topcu Kislasi by Halil Pasa, a minister of Sultan Adulmecid, during the era of the Ottoman Empire. The mosque was located on the right side of the street opening onto Harbiye from Taksim Square.
According to claims by Islamist publications, the historical mosque was destroyed together with the military headquarters at Taksim by order of the second president of the Republic, Ismet Inonu, in 1940. Taksim's Gezi park, in which the controversial mosque project is to be established, replaced this destroyed military headquarters.
The Taksim Park Mosque debate
By Zeki Ayik
Turkish Daily News
ISTANBUL- The countdown for the Taksim Park mosque project, which was first proposed by Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan two years ago, has begun, while whether or not the mosque's construction would be in breach of the law is debated.
Erbakan launched the project by asserting that the Turkish people wanted a mosque in Taksim Park, but the realization of his dream depended on the approval of the Beyoglu Municipality, Istanbul Greater City Municipality and the Conservation Council.
According to development and conservation regulations, the Taksim Park mosque building project requires the approval of the Greater Istanbul Municipality and the Protection Council. Greater Istanbul Municipality, controlled by the RP, is guaranteed to give approval, while the Conservation Council's decision is not so certain.
The mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has reportedly begun work on new legislation to bring the Conservation Council under the Municipality's control. Allegations that Minister of Culture Ismail Kahraman is pressurizing the Conservation Council for approval are adding further controversy to the situation. The resignation of the Council's chairman, Semavi Eyice, and the fact that the new president, Professor Zekiye Yenen, is under pressure to resign vindicate these allegations.Unlawful project
In addition to the fact that Taksim Park is a protected zone, given that the mosque will bring an extra load to Taksim Square, the Taksim Park mosque project is also argued to be against the laws on development and urbanization.
The decision that Beyoglu Municipality took with the overwhelming majority of the RP members of the Municipality Council, is claimed to be unlawful. The existing law requires the same size of green area as the building built to be provided. But it is not possible to find as much green area as the mosque would cover in the Beyoglu district.
The former mayor of Beyoglu, Huseyin Arslan of the Republican People's Party (CHP), commented on the Taksim Mosque project for the TDN and called it a political game. He said that there were enough mosques in the district to meet the needs of the people.
Arslan pointed out the coincidence of the launch of the project during Ramadan and said that the whole project was a gesture by the RP to its grass roots and constituency in order to give the impression that it is holding on to their principles.
The former mayor also criticized the Istanbul mayor's attempt to bring the Conservation Council under Greater Istanbul Municipality's control.
"They only try to use religion for political goals," he said. "The area across from Taksim Park where they plan to build the mosque is the tourists' favorite place. Building a mosque there will also effect the hotels around. In addition, they will kill off one of the few green areas in Beyoglu by building it.
"Erdogan's efforts to bring the Conservation Council under the Greater City Municipality is an attempt at dictatorship," continued Arslan. "While I was the Beyoglu mayor, many mosques were repaired, restored and opened to worship in the district. There are enough mosques around Beyoglu. But if they have to build a mosque, they can do it after demolishing a few of the old buildings in Tarlabasi"
The junior partner of the RP-DYP (Refahyol) government, the DYP, is also uncomfortable with the mosque project. DYP deputies do not have a definite position on the issue, but are embarrassed at being silent against the RP. They avoid commenting on the project and are waiting for a statement by the leader of the party, Tansu Ciller.The story of Taksim Park
The park was originally built as an artillery corps' barracks in the 19th century. The barracks were ruined during the March 31 incident in 1908, and were converted into a stadium thereafter. The first sports competitions of the Republican era were held there.
The area became a park in 1940. The well-known governor of Istanbul, Lutfi Kirdar, carried out the project which was prepared by the French architect and urban planner, Henry Prost, who was invited to Turkey by Ataturk. Ismet Inonu's statue was erected in Taksim Park in 1944, and the park was given the name Inonu Walk." The statue was removed in the 1950s after the Democrat Party under Adnan Menderes's leadership took over from the Republican People's Party (CHP).
Nowadays, the park, with its statue of the Republic, made by the Italian master sculpture, Pietro Canonico, and with Republic Road by the park, is an easily accessible leisure area for Istanbulers where they can have a tea break whenever they want to escape from city life."A square for religious provocations"
The general secretary of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects, Yildiz Uysal, commenting on the Taksim Park mosque project for the TDN, said that she found the project of building a mosque in Taksim Walk, which she asserts was brought onto the agenda without any technical research, worrying.
She claimed that the image of Taksim Square, which symbolizes democracy and secularism, would be damaged with the proposed mosque. Pointing out that no mosque projects had participated in the Istanbul Municipality's Taksim Square Restoration Projects Contest in 1987, Uysal said that on the contrary in the protocol of this contest it was stated that: "The symbol of secularism and democracy, Taksim Park, should be rearranged in accordance with its image."
Uysal claimed that the real aim of the RP lay beyond building a mosque in Taksim Square, and in using the area for religious provocation.
"This square, which has seen many democratic demonstrations, is subject to an attempt to become a central square where anti-secular demonstrations can be held -- as in the case of Beyazit Square."
Uysal also said that the proposed amendment in Law No. 3030, by which the powers of the Conservation Council are to be transferred to the greater city municipalities, would provide the mayors with extended powers, and concluded: "These powers will secure for the greater city mayors the ability to rule the cities like dictators."Refah Party's panic attempt
The Association for the Support of Contemporary Life (CYDD) emphasized that the RP was giving priority to wearing veils and building mosques in a panic since they were worried of losing popular support due to the Susurluk accident and the recent scandals involving the religious sects and orders.
The Association invited all political parties to oppose these attempts, which it claims threaten the future of the Republic and are dragging the country into darkness.
In a written statement, the CYDD charged the RP with pursuingdangerous and partisan policies.
"The RP has made an unforgivable mistake by shaking the basis of our republic," the statement read, "by attempting to drag the life style and the essential principles of the nation away from modernity, and by bringing religious sects and orders, the real faces of which have been well exhibited, and the discrimination between religious people and nonreligious people into state institutions. We condemn these attempts which aim to drag Turkey's future into darkness."
Back to first page of this issueBack to Submenu for more choices