The village of Sary-Mogol boasts has gone through a boom in mosque building, but basic amenities like water and electricity remain in short supply. (Zhibek Begalieva, Current Time TV)
HEWLÊR-Erbil, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’,— At least 327 mosques at an estimated cost of $30 million were built in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region in the past two years despite the severe economic crisis, and many more are on the way, said the Kurdish religious ministry.
“The cost of these mosques with the cost of those expected to be finished soon will stand at about $40 million,” Mariwan Naqshbandi, the ministry’s spokesman told Rudaw.
The Ministry said that around the foundation work for 50 other mosques has been prepared.
Most of them are built and funded by philanthropists, Naqshbandi said.
The autonomous Kurdistan Region has been facing tough financial difficulties in the last two years due to a budget freeze by the federal government and a sharp decline in oil prices in the world market.
According to Naqshbandi, the number of mosques in Kurdistan has increased from 5,010 in 2013 to 5,337. Most of the newly established mosques located in Erbil Province.
Building a village mosque costs about $80,000-100,000 whereas in urban areas this cost reaches up to half a million dollars.
“Building this big number of mosques in the course of two years of economic crisis is something odd,” said Naqshbandi. “How could people pay this huge money?”
“We can say that a new mosque opens each week,” he revealed.
The religious affairs ministry says that it has strict rules and regulations for building mosques which has been violated by some of the philanthropists.
The distance between two mosques must be at least one Kilometer and the land no less than 2,000 square meters, and must be first registered as the Ministry’s property.
“Some of these mosques in the cities are only 200m away from each other. Some neighborhoods have a lot of mosques while in some others there are none or not enough mosques,” said Naqshbandi, adding that that the ministry cannot resolve the issue because people who build the mosques are sometimes famous religious figures.
Abdullah Saeed, of the Muslim Scholars Union agreed that “in some places the mosques are close to each other, or mosques have been built in neighborhoods where there was no need.”
“In some places by building a mosque the philanthropist has helped government, so we appreciate their support,” Saeed added.
Some believe that the region is in need of more schools and some money from building mosques would have been better donated to this end.
Shorsh Ghafouri, the spokesman for the Ministry of Education says that the region needs at least 300 more schools and kinder gardens.
“In the past two years a number of schools were built by the Kurdish government and people, but the number of philanthropists who would like to establish schools is really few,” Ghafouri said.
Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump says the United States would have “absolutely no choice” but to close down some mosques where “some bad things are happening,” in the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Paris.
“Nobody wants to shut down religion institutions or anything, but you understand it.” Trump told Fox News on Tuesday night. “A lot of people understand it. We’re going to have no choice.”
“Some really bad things are happening and they’re happening fast,” added the Republican frontrunner, known for his often controversial remarks.
On Monday, Trump said he would “strongly consider” closing mosques as part of a response to the Friday night attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 and injured more than 350 more.
Daesh (ISIL) terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, have claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks in France. They now control parts of Syria and Iraq.
However, some independent American analysts like former White House official Paul Craig Roberts say the United States and NATO actually orchestrated the Paris attacks as a “false flag” to enter the Syrian war in order to counter Russia, which has been conducting air strikes in Syria against ISIL terrorists since September 30.
Russian fighter jets have also attacked the CIA-trained militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to US officials.
“This was a false flag attack,” Roberts, a former assistant secretary of the US treasury, told Press TV on Monday. “It does not serve ISIL, but it does serve the Western political establishment.”
In his interview with Fox News, Trump again vowed to “blast the hell out of ISIS” in the wake of the Paris attacks.
“I’d get everybody together—this includes Russia—and I’ve been right about that too.”Trump said. “Now, all of a sudden [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s going wild with bombing ISIS, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Who needs to take the credit? Let him have some credit.”
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said Monday that the United States must resume heavy surveillance of mosques.
As president, Trump said, he would consider shutting down some mosques, The Washington Post reported.
“I would hate to do it, but it’s something that you’re going to have to strongly consider because some of the ideas and some of the hatred – the absolute hatred – is coming from these areas,” Trump said in an interview on “Morning Joe.”
This isn’t the first time Trump has said he’s willing to consider closing down mosques, which some critics say would be a violation of the country’s religious freedom protections. During an interview with
Fox Business in late October, Trump said he was unsure if he would close mosques, but said, “You’re going to have to certainly look at it.”
During the Monday interview on “Morning Joe,” co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Trump if closing down mosques would only incite more hatred.
“There’s already hatred,” Trump said. “The hatred is incredible; it’s embedded. It’s embedded. The hatred is beyond belief. The hatred is greater than anybody understands. And it’s already there. It’s not like, what, you think that they think we’re great people? It’s already there. It’s a very, very sad situation. And I know so many people, Muslims, who are such unbelievably great people, and they are being so badly tarnished by what’s happening now. It’s a shame.”
Trump said the United States needs to resume its surveillance of mosques, especially in New York City, where he says such surveillance has ceased. He said that has been “a mistake.”
“You’re going to have watch and study the mosques because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques,” Trump said “And from what I heard, in the the old days — meaning a while ago — we had great surveillance going on in and around mosques in New York City. And I understand our mayor totally cut that out. He totally cut it out. And I don’t know if you brought that up, and I’m not sure it’s a fact, but I heard that under the old regime we had tremendous surveillance going on in and around the mosques of New York City and right now that has been totally cut out.”
At one point, host Joe Scarborough asked Trump if he agrees that only a small percentage of Muslims are violent radicals.
“Yes,” Trump responded, “but it’s a tremendous amount of horror and damage and vitriol. I mean, if you look at what’s happening… this is something that needs to be stopped. And we have to be very strong. We have to be vigilant, and we have to be intelligent.”
France’s top Muslim official has suggested turning empty or abandoned Catholic churches into mosques, saying as many as 5,000 are needed for the country’s Muslim population – the largest in Europe.
“It’s a delicate issue, but why not?” Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris and the president of the French Council of Muslim Faith, told Europe 1 radio on Monday.
There are currently about 2,500 mosques in France with another 300 under construction, but the number falls short of what is needed, he said. With roughly 5 million Muslims in France, at least 5,000 mosques are needed, Boubakeur said. Report RT
During the interview with French radio he gave an example of the transition of a church into a mosque in Clermont-Ferrand, which was welcomed by the local religious community. The church had been abandoned for more than 30 years and the building was given to the Muslim community in 2012.
“It’s the same God, these are neighboring rites, fraternal, and I think that Muslims and Christians can coexist and live together,” he said.
It’s not the first time the lack of places of worship for millions of Muslims has been brought up in France. In April, Boubakeur called for doubling the number of mosques.
His remarks were welcomed by the Christian community as a “legitimate” demand.
“Muslims should, like Christians and Jews, be able to practice their religion,” Monseigneur Ribadeau-Dumas, spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of France, told French radio station Europe 1.
However, this suggestion has been criticized by the far-right National Front party. In April, Florian Philippot, its vice-president, argued France doesn’t need more, because “100 percent of places of radicalization are mosques.”
The party’s leader Marine Le Pen called to stop the construction of new mosques in March.
“We must today freeze the construction of new mosques while we verify the origin of their financing,” she said in an interview to France 24.
The question of building closer ties with the Muslim community was discussed at the talks between the French government and about 150 Muslim leaders in Paris on Monday.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stressed there was no link between extremism and Islam.
“We must say all of this is not Islam,” he said. “The hate speech, anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Zionism and hate for Israel… the self-proclaimed imams in our neighborhoods and our prisons who are promoting violence and terrorism…
“Islam still provokes misunderstandings, prejudices, and is rejected by some citizens,” he added. “Yet Islam is here to stay in France. It’s the second largest religious group in our country.”
The first conference between the government and Muslim community leaders comes five months after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher store jihadist attacks in Paris that killed 17 people.
The terrorists responsible for the attacks “belong to a different world than we do,” said Boubakeur, speaking at the conference.
There has been a huge increase in anti-Muslim incidents in France following the Islamist attacks in Paris. A report issued in January by the National Observatory Against Islamophobia said that over the month there has been an 110-percent increase in attacks.
A Dutch right-wing political party has demanded Netherlands be cleared of mosques, amid an ongoing row over the integration of Muslim and Turkish minorities in the country, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Machiel de Graaf, a member of Dutch anti-immigration and anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV), asked all mosques in the country to be shut down while speaking during a debate on integration in the House of Representatives.
Emphasizing that a Netherlands without mosques would be better, the parliamentarian said “We want to clean Netherlands of Islam.”
In addition to not being integrated into Dutch society and refuse to be assimilated, Muslims living in the country threaten Dutch identity and culture by giving more birth, according to de Graaf.
De Graaf’s remarks drew harsh criticism from members of social democratic parties attending the debate.
While Labor Party (PvdA) deputy Roos Vermeij urged the right-winger to retract his words, Democrats 66 (D66) deputy Sten van Weijenberg stressed his statements were dangerous.
De Graaf’s party, which is led by right-wing politician Geert Wilders, has been a vocal critic of Muslims and immigrants living in the country, but his words mark the first time that the request for the complete closure of mosques has been expressed.
The debate also came as Turkey warned Dutch authorities about aggressive and racist policies toward the Turkish community living there.
Two weeks ago, two lawmakers of Turkish descent from the PvdA were expelled after refusing to support their party’s critical remarks about a number of Turkish organizations that were accused of being “too focused on promoting Turkish and Islamic identity.”
By EMRE USLU
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) likes to take special pride in the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA). This agency is implementing various projects in different places around the world. It restores historic monuments and lends support to civil society organizations (CSOs). TİKA projects even make Turkey the third-largest assistance-providing country after the US and UK. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently spoke of this fact as a source of pride during his visit to the US.
The TİKA projects were generally advertised as efforts to revive historic monuments that were legacies of the Ottoman Empire. For instance, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque, Kosovo’s largest mosque, in Pristina, was renovated thanks to a TİKA project. In Kosovo, there are dozens of mosques that have been repaired by TİKA. They are financing these projects with our taxes, but this expenditure is sufficiently justified.
Whom does TİKA really help? The answer to this question can be found in the recent crackdown on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front in Kosovo. A few days ago, the Kosovo police launched an operation against radical Islamic groups in the country. Thirty imams were taken into custody on charges of sending jihadists to Syria and Iraq. Many of them were arrested. Sixteen foundations and associations were shut down on charges of aiding and abetting members of ISIL, the al-Nusra Front and other al-Qaeda-linked organizations.
The key figure arrested on charges of aiding these organizations is Şefçet Kraniçi, the imam of Pristina’s Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque, which was renovated by TİKA. This amounts to repairing the mosque with funds from Turkish taxpayers and then delivering the mosque to radical Islamic groups.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Others taken into custody included other people working at TİKA-funded mosques.
Some might suggest that TİKA’s duty is to renovate mosques, and it cannot meddle in the process of assigning imams or officials to those mosques. But it is not so simple. We are talking about Kosovo, and one of the most dominant rivalries is between Hanafism/Maturidism and Salafism. In Kosovo, Hanafi clerics are being purged and replaced with Salafi clerics. Moreover, this plan is supported by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) as well as TİKA and the Yunus Emre Foundation.
There is more to the crackdown by the Kosovo police on ISIL and the al-Nusra Front. Many of the CSOs backed by TİKA and the Yunus Emre Foundation in Kosovo were closed down during this operation.
The largest of them is the Association for Culture, Education and School (AKEA), which was frequently visited by Ahmet Davutoğlu in the past.
AKEA was established in 2004 by Husamedin Abazi, who was trained in Riyadh. The leading figures linked with this association are Behar Avdiu, Nhari Toska, Bashkim Mehani, Ilir Xhoxhaj and Ilir Gashi. All of them are connected in some way or other to Turkey’s AKP or affiliated organizations. Many observers have defined AKEA as the Kosovo branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). But the significant majority of imams who were arrested on charges of aiding and abetting ISIL are “volunteer members” of AKEA.
AKEA’s founder, Abazi, was frequently hosted by organizations that are close to the AKP in İstanbul, such as the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) and Fatih Sultan Mehmet University (not to be confused with Fatih University).
There may be a link between CSOs close to the AKP and radical Islamic groups. That is a matter of choice. But when it comes to how our taxes are spent, we, as citizens, are entitled to question it.
AKEA is an organization that is financed by TİKA, and with the support of Kürşat Mamat as TİKA’s Kosovo representative, it has recently become Kosovo’s most effective CSO.
Gashi, the head of AKEA’s Prizren branch, openly acknowledges TİKA’s support for AKEA. “We conduct our joint activities generally with TİKA and the İHH. We cooperated with TİKA in cultural matters and with the İHH in humanitarian aid operations, and our cooperation continues. Moreover, we have hosted many intellectuals, columnists and writers from Turkey. We were honored to host Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who paid a visit to our association during his official talks in Kosovo, as well as other dignitaries such as Mustafa Özel, Mustafa İslamoğlu and Abdullah Yıldız, and other academics, journalists and municipal managers” (Aug. 16, 2012).
The state-owned Yunus Emre Foundation admits its relations with AKEA on its official website. For instance, the “Islamic Arts Exhibition” was a joint project between the Yunus Emre Foundation and AKEA. At the opening of the Sixth Islamic Art Photography Exhibition, which included 14 photographers, the values of Islam were presented to Prizren. Fifty-one works by 14 photographers were put on display at the Prizren Yunus Emre Turkish Culture Center through cooperation between AKEA and the Yunus Emre Turkish Culture Center. Many other activities were jointly organized between Turkey’s public institutions and radical Islamic organizations such as AKEA. And these activities were funded by our taxes.
The ruling AKP is doing everything to ensure the closure of Turkish schools — which are run by Turkish entrepreneurs inspired by the ideas of well-respected Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen — but if AKEA, frequented by Davutoğlu, has been closed down on charges of ties with ISIL and al-Qaeda, then we, as citizens, have the right to ask: Are you financing radical Islamists with our taxes?