Erzincan imam becomes Turkish meme of the day

A mosque in the Turkish city of Erzincan has become the subject of memes on Turkish social media due to the interesting and futuristic design of the minbar, the pulpit where the imam speaks from.

“In Erzincan, the mufti is already in space!” said one Twitter user.

A lot of social media users commented that the design of Terzi Baba mosque in Erzincan reminded them of one of the main themes discussed on Turkish social media this week - the Turkish government’s desire to go to the moon.

Some Twitter users joked that it looked like the government had already honoured its promise to go to space by sending the first imam there.

Others photoshopped the ball-shaped minbar with the imam inside it onto other images, such as using it to replace the wrecking ball from the Miley Cyrus video of the same name.

The space-age aesthetic of the mosque, which was built around 20 years ago to be earthquake-proof, also brought to mind the increasingly glittery and high budget sets for rallies held by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently. The imam’s pulpit would probably not look too out of place at a rock concert either.

Another Twitter user inserted the imam’s ball into the sun from Teletubbies. “As the Islamic sun rises above the hills, it's time for morning prayer,” they joked.

At the start of 2020, Turkey’s religious affairs authority counted 84,684 mosques in Turkey, according to Milliyet. In 2005, there were around 77,500 mosques, so there have probably been around 10,000 new mosques built in Turkey since the AKP came to power in 2002, around the same time that Terzi Baba mosque in Erzincan was built. The newspaper BirGün estimates that the current number of mosques is even higher, at over 90,000.

For many Turks, who do not agree with the huge amounts of money which Erdoğan has poured into expanding the Religious Affairs Authority, Diyanet, and in tax breaks for those who build mosques (which also often include retail outlets within their complexes), it is cathartic to make fun of the pomposity and bizarre aesthetics which religious expressions sometimes take.

This can be a dangerous game for people inside Turkey, who could be accused of mocking religion, and harassed by the government or media. But with so few possible outlets for dissent left within the Turkish media, it’s not surprising that memes mocking symbols of authority are becoming a way for social media users to display their refusal to submit to the authorities of state or religion which are increasingly entwined with each other.

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