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    Ertugrul Ozkok: Are more people attending mosques these days?

    Hürriyet Haber
    26.10.2005 - 09:43 | Son Güncelleme:

    With the controversy over the planned construction of a new mosque in Istanbul's Goztepe Park, we have begun to ask: Aren't there already enough mosques in Turkey? And, in a related strain: How many people are attending these mosques?

    Let me make this clear from the beginning: there actually aren't any firm statistics on this topic. Just a few investigations relying on answers from imams. So we went to former Religious Affairs president Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz for some information. Apparently, he had carried out nation-wide research on this subject in 1996. Again though, this research depends on information provided by imams. Still, let me share some of the results with you:
    Of males 12 and over, 9.3% go to afternoon prayers on a daily basis. Which means around 2,182,000 people in the country. Of this same group, 8% go to evening prayers, which means around 2,013,000 people. There were no results on how many people go to morning prayers, but I would guess it would be very few. In contrast to these numbers however, 39.5% of males over 12 say that they go to Friday prayers. Which means around 9,266,000 people. Which means mosques are basically a Friday activity in Turkey.
    A striking statistic provided by Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz: during the 1990s, an average of 2,000 new mosques were being constructed annually in Turkey. In recent years, this number has dropped to around 200-300 new mosques a year. Is there a lessening in people going to mosques though? To the contrary, informal research would seem to indicate that in fact there is a growing trend in Anatolia of people going to mosque on Friday. But as for daily (non-Friday) prayers, there is a dropping number of people attending mosques, even among the more conservative factions.
    And when it comes to Istanbul....due to its rapidly growing population, it is difficult to measure what is happening, but it seems that there is an increase in youth attending mosques. But it's interesting: very few people attend the morning, evening, and night prayers at mosques located in busy business centers, but the afternoon and late afternoon sessions are full. So you might ask, with the growing numbers of mosque-goers, why has construction of mosques slowed down?
    Very simple. Because so many mosques were built at one point that new laws regulating their construction were brought out, and now the pendulum is swinging back into balance.
    Lately however, there seems to be a trend to want to build mosques at certain places, like planting flags on coveted modern land. Every religious person I have spoken with affirms that there are enough mosques in Turkey, in fact that there are more than enough. They say we should be concerned not with the quantity, but with the quality of these mosques, their cleanliness, architectural facets, the level of their imams. This administration needs to stop using mosques for political gain, they need to champion the removal of mosques from the current agenda of the society.
    But instead, the reverse is happening. The ruling party is actually becoming more and more stubborn on the building of the mosque in Goztepe Park. Despite the fact that some of the signatures gathered in support of the mosque have been shown to belong to people who don't even live in the area, the administration continues its push to build the mosque. We experienced this same situation with the drive to build a mosque in Taksim Square. And who did it benefit? It sure didn't benefit the country. One thing is for sure: it harmed the government behind the drive to get it built.




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