ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
A 5,000-person mosque planned for Ankara's Eskişehir road will not solely serve VIP visitors but also ordinary citizens, the Religious Affairs Directorate said in response to harsh reactions against the original proposal.
There was news in the media this week that the Prime Ministry planned to build a mosque on Ankara's busy Eskişehir road in which senior state officials would be hosted in VIP standards when they worshiped at the mosque. The project attracted harsh reactions from different segments of society, raising questions about whether it is appropriate for the Islamic religion to offer VIP services in religious places to top state officials.
Commenting on the issue, former head of the Religious Affairs Directorate Süleyman Ateş said protocol rules can't be applied in mosques and that they were not in line with Islamic rules. He said everybody is entirely equal in mosques, speaking to the private NTV television channel Thursday night.
Speaking on the same program, the deputy president of the directorate, İzzet Er, denied the allegations regarding the project, saying that the mosque was intended to serve all and would not include separate sections secured for VIP visitors. He said the mosque would meet the standards on the Eskişehir road, where many new building complexes were located, and would not be an alternative to Kocatepe Mosque.
No hierarchy in mosques
Speaking to the Turkish Daily News yesterday, Er said the directorate's aim was first to meet the requirements of its personnel, but they also have to take into account the requirements of the region, he acknowledged. He said there are many state buildings and planned structures on both sides of the Eskişehir road and that there was a need for such a mosque in the region.
�There is no mosque located between the building of Ankara Chamber of Commerce, or ATO, and Ümitköy. We want to take into account the potential and need in the region in this respect,� he noted.
The area will expand with the planned structures such as the building of the Council of State and the 20-story Agriculture Ministry. It is already a busy neighborhood, with existing buildings, such as the Atatürk Hospital located just behind the directorate building, as well as the state buildings, which constitutes a great potential source for the mosque, according to Er.
He said that 5,000 people would be able to worship in a closed area. He also said the protocol rules would not be applied in the mosque, but security measures would be applied for some occasions, as applied in other places, including mosques.
The mosque will have a 2,000-car capacity parking lot and martyr funerals could also be held in the mosque if such a demand came from the general staff and Defense Ministry. The martyr funerals are currently being held in the Kocatepe Mosque. The mosque is expected to cost $15 million.
There are currently 2,694 mosques in Ankara, according to the Web site of the directorate. The high number of mosques has always been debated in the country. Recently, ruling party deputy Edibe Sözen said there were already a great number of mosques in Turkey, adding in response to questions about her much-criticized proposal anticipating the establishment of a place of worship in schools for students of every religion, that schools would not need to have small mosques for Muslim students.