Why Turkey Launches International Mosque-Building Program?
Turkey currently is building 18 large Islamic religious centers around the world. The projects include a mosque in Tirana, Albania which will hold more than 4,000 worshippers. Turkey will also build mosques in the United States, Russia and Kyrgyzstan. It has similar projects set for the Philippines, the United Kingdom, the Palestinian Territories and Somalia.
Observers say President Erdoğan’s goal is to establish Turkey as leader of the Muslim world. This was the country’s position during the Ottoman Empire, which ruled from the 14th century through the early 1900s.
The Diyanet is the government group that administers the Islamic faith in Turkey. President Erdoğan has expanded the group’s international office. Supporting religious education is a main element in Turkey’s campaign for greater influence over Islam internationally. Turkey has offered financial assistance to foreign students who want to attend its universities. The government also supports international student exchanges.
However, Turkey is not the only country interested in leading the Islamic world. Other Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia are also seeking to fill the role. For many years, Saudi Arabia has been spreading its oil money around Islamic countries.
Experts say President Erdoğan may well be looking to the language of the street to rise above such obstacles. Increasingly, his speeches appear to be aimed at ordinary Muslims, in Turkey and around the world. His talks often include a strong anti-Western message.
President Erdogan is increasingly campaigning against what he considers the growing threat of Western “Islamophobia,” – prejudice against or fear of the religion of Islam and Muslims. He is also demanding that the United Nations Security Council create a permanent seat for a Muslim nation.
Observers warn that such rhetoric is likely to continue as Turkey’s campaign to lead the Islamic world progresses.