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Religious pressure in north

By Esra Aygin
A large religious organisation that brought together thousands – including politicians, to listen to passages from the Quran, hymns and Arabic preaches in a central spot in Nicosia revived concerns about socio-cultural changes in the north.
Some 5,000 people attended the controversial ‘mother’s day event’ organised by the Universal Love and Brotherhood Association ESKAD.
Turkish Cypriot economy and energy office chief Sunat Atun was one of the speakers at last week’s event along with Turkish and Arab theology professors.
Atun declared: “The most esteemed office is to be a servant to Allah”.
ESKAD, a student association established in 1996 with no evident financial resources, has two dormitories and 50 student houses in north Cyprus.
The association’s web site has photos of officials from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party AKP attending ESKAD events.
There has been an evident increase in the number of mosques, Quran courses and religious activities in the north in recent years, tolerated by many Turkish Cypriot politicians seeking to score points with Ankara.
While some regarded last week’s organised event within the framework of freedom of religion, many expressed concern about a religious pressure on the Turkish Cypriot community, which is historically very moderate.
“We have no problem with freedom of religion,” said Tufan Erhurman, the secretary-general of the Republican Turkish Party CTP.
“This organisation wouldn’t have disturbed us if it wasn’t for their stated aim to ‘instill the Pan-Islamic consciousness in Cyprus’. If you try to instill something in a community, especially as an outsider, this is social engineering. This organisation was beyond just a gathering or a meeting.”
Erhurman was referring to an interview given by ESKAD president in 2013, during which he stated: “Cyprus is the legacy of our prophet. Our aim is to revive, instill the Pan-Islamic consciousness back in Cyprus.”
“Turkish Cypriots have a certain lifestyle. We don’t shove our religion in others’ faces,” said journalist Huseyin Ekmekci during a TV programme.
“In the past they told us ‘you are not Turkish enough’. Now they tell us ‘you are not Muslim enough’. This is an attack on the lives of Turkish Cypriots.”
“The last school was built 12 years ago,” said journalist Cenk Mutluyakali.“But a mosque is being built every day for the last 12 years. This is an intervention in the genetics of this community.”
“Reactionism will continue, said journalist Mehmet Moreket. “They are destroying us from within.”

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