The article “Halal in Havana: Turkey May Be Building Cuba’s First Mosque,” speaks about a recent delegation of Turkish government officials who traveled to Cuba last week to discuss a plan for building a mosque in Havana modeled after the 19th-century Baroque style of Ortaköy Mosque in Istanbul. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:
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.
[Image above shows the Ortaköy Mosque in Istanbul.]