Turkey’s Religious Affairs [Diyanet] Foundation announced that the Cuban government allocated a historic site in Cuba’s capital Havana to be used as a small mosque by the Muslims of the country supported by the foundation until the construction of a grand mosque which was commissioned by Cuba to the Turkish government has been completed.
The Diyanet Foundation is funded by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (DIB).
Speaking in a press conference on Friday General Director of the Diyanet Foundation Ismail Palakoglu, said the Muslims of Cuba has prayed in the mosque for the first time during the teravih and Friday prayers in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
He stated that there was no actual place for the Muslims to pray in Cuba before opening the mosque and that the only place diplomats could use for praying was a room located in an old museum in Havana.
The small mosque covers an area of 200 square metres, Palakoglu added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented a grand mosque project to Cuban President Raul Castro during his tour to Latin American countries in February 2015. Turkish media reported the project as the number one topic of Erdogan’s Cuban visit at the time.
Saudi Arabia had also previously asked for permission from the Cuban government to build a mosque in Havana and Cuban officials deferred to the demand, the reports said.
However, Erdogan said, “Turkey and Saudi Arabia have different architectural styles. We have previously informed the officials about the Ortakoy Mosque and gave all the necessary information and images related to the project works,” speaking to reporters following his meeting with Castro in Havana.
The name of the mosque Ortakoy refers to a famous neighbourhood in the Besiktas district of Istanbul along the Bosphorus where the original Ortakoy Mosque has also been located since being built in 1856 by the Ottoman Armenian architects Garabet and Nigogayos Balyan.
“I said to the Cuban officials that ‘We will do our own mosque and do not want a partner. If you agree, we can build it in Havana. If you promised a mosque to another country in Havana, we can build it in another province of Cuba,’” Erdogan said.
“We will follow the procedure through the DIB and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). The officials do not have a negative approach to our project,” he added.
Erdogan first announced the Cuban mosque project following the Summit of Religious Leaders which was held in Istanbul in November 2014.
Deputy Director General of the DIB Mustafa Tutkun also said last November that Ankara was in negotiations with Cuban officials to build a mosque on two hectares of land in the historic center of Havana.
Turkish media has recently reported that the construction of the Ortakoy Mosque continues.
Palakoglu said, “The Diyanet Foundation has built more than 100 mosques and education centers in 20 different countries abroad until now.”
The foundation has also built around 3.500 mosques in Turkey, he added.