New mosque a symbol: Zuma

By Drum Digital
04 October 2012

The construction of a new mosque at Midrand, the largest in the southern hemisphere, reflects growing ties between South Africa and Turkey, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

"We're happy about this development because it builds on the diplomatic and economic relationship with Turkey."

"(The mosque) will complement our efforts to advance the values of religious tolerance and the preservation of religious harmony as espoused by the Constitution," Zuma said.

He was speaking at the opening of the Nizamiye mosque complex built by Turkish businessman Orhan Celik.

Celik, speaking through an interpreter, said he first intended to build the mosque in the United States but was beset by delays.

He complimented South Africa's speed in authorising his project.

"In the US what took three years, we made in one week in South Africa," Celik said.

The design of the mosque is based on the Selimiye Mosque in the city of Edirne in Turkey.

It was built in the 16th century by the Ottoman Sultan Selim II.

Two hundred workers were employed to build the Nizamiye mosque which has one main dome, four half-domes, 21 small domes, four minarets and 232 pieces of stained glass.

The official opening was attended by Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, and a trade delegation from Turkey, which included that country's minister of economic development.

There were also hundreds of people from South Africa's Muslim and Turkish communities.

The mosque includes a clinic, bazaar, sports and recreation facilities, and a school.

Patel said it was the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere and the largest religious education complex in the country.

Turquoise Harmony Institute executive director Aydin Inal said the school would be for both second-generation Turkish-South Africans as well as other Muslim South Africans.

It would serve about 800 students who could complete secondary to high school.

Local Turk Erdogen Yucel drove from Durban for the official opening of the mosque.

"We're very proud," he said. "We're very happy to have a historical mosque in South Africa.

Zuma said trade relations between South Africa and Turkey had been continually growing since with the advent of democracy.

South Africa's exports to Turkey increase by 20 percent to R3.5 billion in the past year.

Imports had increased by 78 percent to R3.6 billion in 2011 from the previous year.

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