In Istanbul, Erdogan builds a mosque fit for a sultan

By Reuters Staff
November 29, 2012

(Seagulls fly over Golden Horn as the sun sets over the Ottoman-era Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

Tayyip Erdogan has described his third term as Turkish prime minister as that of a “master”, borrowing from the celebrated Ottoman architect Sinan and the last stage of his storied career after apprenticeship and graduation.

It’s a lofty allusion.

Sinan’s 16th-century creations came to define the Ottoman Empire at its apogee, the Suleymaniye Mosque, built for Sultan Suleiman, part of Istanbul’s unmistakable skyline.

Now, entering a second decade at the helm of a country revelling in its regional might, Erdogan wants to leave his own mark on the cityscape with what will be Turkey’s biggest mosque, a “giant mosque,” he says, “that will be visible from all across Istanbul.”

To be built on the highest hill on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, planners boast the structure will hold up to 30,000 worshippers and bear six minarets taller than those of the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, or the Prophet’s Mosque, in Medina.

It is symbolic of Turkey’s tilt to the east under Erdogan, who has chipped away at the founding secularism of the modern republic and presided over its emergence as a power in the Middle East.

But the Istanbul elite are up in arms.

Some have branded the proposed mosque unsightly and ostentatious, a thinly-disguised declaration of victory by Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government over the secularists and their guardians in the military.

Read the full story by Matt Robinson and Ece Toksabay here.
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