Muslim Wire

Bar in Cyprus Mosque Infuriates Muslims

Posted in Politics, Society by muslimwire on October 27, 2009

CAIRO — The building of a bar in the garden of a historic mosque in South Cyprus has infuriated local Muslims who warn the provocative action could foment ethnic tensions in the disputed island.

“What they are trying to construct in the garden of the mosque is not in accordance with the values [of Islam],” Hala Mosque Imam ?akir Alemdar told Zaman daily on Monday, October 26.

Greek authorities in South Cyprus announced the construction of a bar in the garden of the historic Hala Mosque to allegedly serve tourists visiting the site.

The decision stirred a wave of criticism from local Muslims offended by the provocative action.

“The Greeks know in their territory there are some traces left from the Ottoman Empire,” said Mehmet Dere, the Head of the Religious Worker’s Union.

“They should stop the construction.”

Hala Mosque is the most revered Muslim shrine in Cyprus and an important holy site for the entire Muslim world.

It reportedly houses the tomb of Umm Haram, the aunt of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).

Most accounts establish a connection between the site and the death of Umm Haram during the first Arab attempts to conquer Cyprus under Caliph Muawiyah between 647 and 649.

According to these accounts, Umm Haram, being of very old age, had fallen from her mule and had died during a siege of Larnaca in south Cyprus.

She was buried near the salt lake and her grave became a sacred shrine. The shrine, and later the mosque and the whole complex, was named after her.

Harmful

Muslim leaders warn the construction of a bar would be hurtful to the relations between Turkish Muslims and Greek non-Muslims on the island.

“Religious values should be respected in order for relations between the two sides to remain positive,” said Yusuf Suiçmez, Director of Religious Affairs Directorate in the Turkish Republic or Northern Cyprus (KKTC).

Cyprus, the Mediterranean’s third largest island, is partitioned into two main parts.

The area under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus comprises about 59 percent of the island’s area and is a European Union member.

The Turkish-held area in the north covers about 37 percent of the island’s area and recognized only by Turkey as an independent state.

Suiçmez said his directorate has recently filed a complaint at the state offices in Greek Cyprus, but has so far received no response.

Imam Alemdar said the provocation move is offending to Muslims all over the world not just in Cyprus.

“If the construction goes on and officials do not intervene to stop it, we would make this incident more public to the world,” he said.

“It is not an issue related to the KKTC but to the entire Muslim world. Every Muslim should be paying attention to this.”

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