Secular Cypriots criticise Turkey-funded mosques

Turkish Cypriots are worried that Turkish-funded mosques will endanger their long-held secular way of life on the troubled island, according to AP reporter Menelaos Hadjicotsis.

Turkey has already sent 400 imams to provide services in the mosques in Northern Cyprus and Erdoğan is using Islam to exert control over the occupied side of the island, head of the primary teachers' union KTOS Şener Elcil said. The imams also give lessons on the teaching of the Quran.

Cemal Özyiğit, the leader of the left-wing Communal Democracy Party, agreed, saying:

Turkey follows the policy of ‘I finance, you obey...’ With the religious Islamic government in Turkey, the Islamic identity of Turkish Cypriots has been questioned for the last decade or more, ’Are they Muslim enough? They don’t practice, they don’t fast.’ And now they’re trying to push this change on us.

Officials in the Northern Cyprus government find secularists' criticisms ungrounded. Education Minister Özdemir Berova said that the demand for religious education came from local families.

The island's Grand Mufti, Talip Atalay, concurred that Muslim demands had long been neglected there. According to Atalay, building more mosques and bringing in imams was not Islamisation, but "normalisation", and there was no need to fear further conflict with Orthodox Christian Greek Cypriots as a result.