Leave aside being able to tolerate the sound
of the call to prayer, European capitals,
which are the fortresses of modern
civilization, haven’t even been able to
resolve the debate on minarets
Akif Emre
It was a balmy spring evening… That
evening marked my first visit to Granada.
The Alhambra was opposite me as the sun
set in Mirador San Nicolas… The coral red
of the setting sun lit up the Alhambra. A
red sun was sinking below the horizon.
The walls of the Alhambra were covered
in a dark red as the last rays of sunlight
fell upon them.
I felt two types of melancholy combined
into one as I stood on a hill in Granada
from where the best view of the Alhambra
is available. We were looking at the
Alhambra from the place that gets its
name from the San Nicolas Church.
Anyone who pays careful attention to the
church will feel like it is whispering “I
used to be a mosque once upon a time.”
Standing atop the tallest hill in Granada’s
historic quarter of Albayzin, and rising
amidst the Carmen-type houses unique to
Andalusia with gardens and courtyards,
the bell tower maintains its resemblance
to a classic Andalusia-Maghreb type
minaret. A bell was attached to it by
making a minor change…
As the last rays of sunlight faded slowly
from the snowcapped peaks of the Sierra
Nevada mountain range that lie beyond
the Alhambra, I was literally startled out
of the depths of the historical wanderings
my mind had embarked on by a voice. A
chant of “Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar”…
It was like a cry rising from the depths of
history instead of a mechanical sound
emanating from loudspeakers. I suddenly
became alert and listened to the voice…
yes; it was the call to prayer coming from
somewhere very close by.
It was evening and the Muslim call to
prayer was being issued…
A Muslim Spanish friend, Davud Romero,
noticed my surprise, and as if revealing a
previously untold secret, said, “The
mosque is right here. Let us pray there”…
I launched myself in the direction where
the call to prayer was emanating from,
and one street ahead, found myself in
front of the mosque.
I had come here to attend a conference
regarding the Moriscos, who are Muslim
people forced to convert to Christianity
and who were forced to conceal their
Muslim identity long after Granada, the
last pearl of Andalusia had fallen.
Around a million Moriscos were driven
out of their homeland between 1609 and
1612. And for the first time in the history
of modern Spain, a scientific conference
was being held at Granada University to
mark the 500th year of the dispersal. I
was attending along with Burhan Köroğlu,
who is pursuing this topic.
It was as if I was transported to an
unimaginable world where the weight
was lifted off my shoulders and a
lightness took hold of me when the call to
prayer suddenly rose loudly and the
Granada Mosque appeared like an oasis.
It felt like the rediscovery of a lost
heritage when I saw the blueness of the
night and the lights of the Alhambra from
the courtyard facing the Alhambra after
performing my prayer.
The mosque has an interesting story.
Debate ensued in Granada when the
foundations of a mosque were discovered
during excavations. The land was
purchased through an initiative by
Muslims to build a mosque there that
would stay true to the original. But civic
society and the municipality were pitted
against each other. Contrary to what is
believed, the segment of society that
opposed the construction of a mosque
protested vociferously. After a lengthy
struggle, the first call to prayer was made
in Andalusia in 2003, almost 500 years
after the fall of Granada.
The stubborn resistance will increase to
protect the legacy of building a one-
dimensional society that began during the
formation of modern Europe, in the early
modern period, when Muslims and Jews
were driven out and their books burned.
It will take a long time until the Muslim
call to prayer is accepted in Granada.
Being in the most fervent Catholic country
in Europe will undoubtedly have an
impact as well.
It will be even more difficult to see this
acceptance in countries like the United
Kingdom, which is more multicultural and
relatively more liberal, and France, which
considers the principles of equality,
fraternity and liberty as existential ones.
Leave aside being able to tolerate the
sound of the call to prayer, European
capitals, which are the fortresses of
modern civilization, haven’t even been
able to resolve the debate on minarets.
Leave aside the citing of the perception
that a minaret symbolizes Islam’s victory
over Europe; involvement even extends
to mosque architecture and interior
decorations. Even if permission is granted
to build a mosque, the architecture has to
conform to the values of western culture
and aesthetics!
The connection created between mosque
architecture and European values, and the
coercion carried out in this regard
actually provides clues to discussions on
“European Islam” and the creation of a
new type of Islam, which is modernized
and compatible with European values.
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