Turkey: 'Model Mecca' opens in Istanbul district

Hilmi Turkmen surrounded by people in front of the replica Kaaba Image copyright Haberler.com
Image caption Mayor Hilmi Turkmen (centre) says the models celebrate the Prophet Muhammad's birthday

A district mayor in Istanbul has been criticised for building models of some of Islam's most sacred sites, it's reported.

The replicas were unveiled on Sunday in the city's Uskudar district, and include a model of the Kaaba and a copy of the Well of Zamzam, the Hurriyet Daily News website reports. The real Kaaba is located inside Mecca's Grand Mosque, and is visited by millions of Muslims each year during the Hajj pilgrimage. The models are part of celebrations for the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, according to Uskudar's mayor, Hilmi Turkmen. "In these days that we say 'happy birthday' to our master, we wanted to experience the feeling of Kaaba in our city," he tells the Anadolu news agency.

Image copyright Le Man
Image caption Le Man magazine's front cover referenced the replicas

But his model Mecca hasn't been welcomed by Turkey's highest religious body, the Diyanet. It says the Kaaba, which is circled seven times by pilgrims in Mecca, should only be imitated when practising for the Hajj. Circling a model of it for any other reason is "a great sin", it says in a statement.

There were more mixed feelings among Turkish social media users, but one journalist wryly noted that it could be a money-spinner. "The Kaaba they erected in Uskudar is a great source of income," Selami Ince tweets. "Just imagine: millions of Muslims will come here now." And it has also attracted the attention of satirists. The front cover of Turkish satirical magazine Le Man features a cartoon of two men discussing the Hajj. "Where did you do your pilgrimage?" one man asks. His friend replies: "Oh mine was very easy - in Uskudar."

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