Approval for a mosque in a Muslim-majority country should not be a big deal. However, for Taksim Square, one of the best known places in Istanbul, along with İstiklal Avenue, having a proper, large mosque has been out of the question for decades.
A set of bureaucratic obstacles prevented the construction of a mosque for years. However, in a recent decision that has gone unnoticed for weeks by the mainstream media, an independent board has finally approved it.
The mosque was approved by the Board of Preservation of Cultural Monuments, which oversees construction in preserved, historic sites, clearing the final hurdle for the construction long championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since his work as the city’s mayor in 1990s.
The mosque, whose design phase photos circulated on media outlets yesterday, will be a larger alternative to two small mosques that barely have the capacity to house a few hundred people. It will be built on a space of 2,482 square meters and be located next to a Catholic and an Orthodox church in the area where a majority of the population have been members of non-Muslim minorities for centuries.
Designed by two Turkish architects in an art deco style, the mosque it will be capable of hosting about 1,000 people for prayers. The triple-story mosque will have an underground parking lot as well as a conference and exhibition hall.
Building a larger mosque at the square has long been an issue with successive governments since the 1960s. When a high court rejected plans for its construction in 1983, plans were shelved for a long time, forcing people to pray in a crammed mosque.
Erdoğan, who was elected the city’s mayor in 1994, had repeatedly sought for the construction of the mosque though it faced opposition. The president had last called for the construction of a mosque in that area a few months ago while authorities were in the planning phase of a thorough renovation of Taksim Square, which will be entirely closed to traffic during this time.