Identity, Equality, Unity
A mosque belonging to the Jafari community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, was set on fire by unidentified persons early on Tuesday in the Esenyurt district of İstanbul.
The library and the minbar (pulpit) of the mosque were seriously damaged in the fire, which started in the Muhammedi Mosque in Esenyurt’s Yenikent neighborhood at around 2 a.m. on Tuesday. According to various Turkish media outlets, unidentified persons entered the mosque grounds with the help of a stepladder near its wall. They set the library and minbar on fire and then fled the scene.
Police and firefighters rushed to the scene after passersby informed them about the fire. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the flames.
Speaking to the Cihan news agency, Hamza Aydın, the imam of the mosque, said that the community had been threatened one week ago and had informed the police about the issue. He said: “They came and threatened us last week. They said, ‘You are Jafaris; you worship stone. We will set this mosque on fire.’ We went to the police. They just took note of the situation. However, no one did anything. It is a pity. Those who did this cannot be Muslims.”
Head of the Association of Ehl-i Beyt Scholars Hasan Kanaatlı said in a statement on Tuesday that the Shiite community has been unnerved by the recent attacks and that the community was saddened by the lack of measures against the recent wave of attacks and threats directed at the Shiite community.
Rıza Musa Koç, a member of the mosque’s executive board, agreed with Kanaatlı, saying: “We received a threat only 10 days ago. We informed the authorities but no measures have been taken.”
In a related development, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Bursa deputy Aykan Erdemir released a written statement on Tuesday, recalling that the Allahüekber Ehlibeyt Mosque, also used by the Jafari community, had been attacked in June. Erdemir called on the government to act against what he described as “hate crimes.” Erdemir said, “The government’s insensitivity shows that it has no intention of fighting hate crimes.”
He said that the imam of the mosque had complained to the police about harassment 10 days prior to the fire. “Why weren’t any security measures been taken against this hate crime which was obviously coming?” Erdemir said, adding that attacks on Jafari establishments were increasing in number, and warned that the sectarian violence of the Middle East — for which, he claimed, the Turkish government was also partly responsible — was spreading to Turkey.
Erdemir recalled a statement from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which he had referred to Shiites as being skilled at “deception, lies, slender, sedition and evil.” The CHP deputy said attacks on Jafari houses of worship are encouraged by the prime minister’s sectarian discourse.
He also said Turkey needs a president who is a unifying figure, not a polarizing one. Prime Minister Erdoğan is the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) presidential nominee in the election to be held in August.