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Halal in Havana: Turkey May Be Building Cuba’s First Mosque

25 April 2014 General No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

Cami Vikipedi

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For years, Cuba’s Muslims—estimated at just a few thousand—have been a bit, well, unorthodox.

Most have favored a flexible version of Islam that’s adjusted to years of living in the pork-loving Communist state. Religious practices like avoiding booze, fasting on Ramadan and getting circumcised are often considered optional for Muslims on the island.

Many haven’t even worshiped at a mosque, since Cuba has never permitted one. That is, until now. Cuba, it seems, may be getting its first mosque, courtesy of the Turkish government.

Turkish officials sent a delegation to Cuba last week to discuss the project. The tentative plans call for building a mosque in Havana modeled after the 19th-century Baroque style of Ortakoy Mosque in Istanbul.

“We thought the mosque would fit perfectly in Havana’s historic district with the neighborhood’s European architecture,” says Yuksel Sezgin, press adviser for Turkey’s Religious Affairs Foundation, a branch of the country’s top government-run religious organization.

Turkish officials say the project is part of a wider effort to reach out to Muslims across the Caribbean. The foundation will complete a similar mosque project in Haiti by the end of the year.

According to the plans, the Havana mosque will be 32,300 square feet and have the capacity to serve 500 people.

As it stands, most Cuban Muslims pray in their homes or, on Fridays, in the living room of Pedro Lazo Torre, the leader of Havana’s Muslim community.

Luis Mesa Delmonte, a Cuban professor working on Middle Eastern studies at El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City, says President Raul Castro’s government approved the mosque project as part of Cuba’s wider effort to inch open the Communist system.

“The Cuban government approved the project some years ago, but the idea was to build one with national resources,” Delmonte says over email. “It seems to me that the very difficult economic conditions the island is facing won’t help in that direction.”

Enter Turkey, which is eager to lend a hand and widen its influence as a world power.

Cuba’s Muslim community—comprised of both locals and diplomats from abroad—enjoys good relations with the ruling Communist Party. But getting approval to build a mosque is no easy task on the island, where bureaucracy and ideology are often major obstacles.

The Cuban Embassy did not respond to a request for a comment. But when news of the initiative emerged, there were several reports in Turkey indicating that many Cubans were unhappy about the mosque plan, so President Castro, and his officially retired brother, Fidel, were planning to meet to discuss the project.

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Original post: Halal in Havana: Turkey May Be Building Cuba’s First Mosque





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