Turkey’s global soft-power push is built on Mosques

Ankara is funding thousands of mosques out of more than just goodwill

The mosque being built in Albania’s capital will be the largest in all the Balkans. Still a few months away from opening, it already dominates a corner of Tirana, overshadowing the neighboring Parliament building from a 105,000-square-foot compound. The building’s walls are clad in pale stone and topped with domes and minarets, which look nothing like any structures that have stood in the area before.

Instead, the building echoes classic Ottoman architecture, and for good reason—it is being funded by Turkey. It’s among a series of new mega-mosques constructed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government at home and abroad. One in Accra, Ghana, is the largest in West Africa. Another in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is the largest in Central Asia. A complex in Maryland is said to be the largest of its kind in the entire Western Hemisphere. There are at least 2,000 others of various sizes that are funded by Ankara, and still more have been planned or discussed in places such as Venezuela, where Erdoğan is bolstering Nicolás Maduro’s beleaguered government, and Cuba, which Erdoğan claimed Muslim sailors reached before Christopher Columbus. Once completed, many of these mosques remain controlled by Ankara, and—in areas with large Turkish diasporas—deliver the same state-mandated weekly sermon heard in every city, town, and village back in Turkey.

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