Turkish Cypriots split over Islam’s rise in northern Cyprus

Source: Associated Press

By MENELAOS HADJICOTSIS

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — At over 60 meters (200 feet) high, the four black-coned minarets of the nearly completed Hala Sultan mosque tower over the plain of Mesaoria in the northern, Turkish Cypriot part of ethnically divided Cyprus.

The imposing, Turkish-funded structure that’s believed to be the largest mosque on the east Mediterranean island will hold as many as 3,000 worshippers beneath its massive domes. It’s named after Umm Haram, who legend says was a relative of the Prophet Muhammad and who died in Cyprus after falling off her mule during a 7th-century Muslim military campaign.

But the construction of the huge mosque has become emblematic of fears held by some Turkish Cypriots that a resurgence of the Islamic faith is a direct assault on their long-held secular way of life, and a means by which Turkey can further expand and entrench its control over all facets of their 270,000-strong community.

Religious leaders and education authorities in the north counter such talk as baseless fear-mongering among a radically secular few. They insist what’s happening is the restoration of Islam at the core of Turkish Cypriots’ collective identity, as it was for centuries.

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