Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish leader, wants to build mosque in Cuba

An iconic Turkish mosque could be getting a clone in Cuba. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pitched the plan to Cuban's President Raúl Castro while on a visit to the island nation.

Saudis also want to build in Cuba, but Turkey not interested in partnering

Istanbul's Ortaköy Mosque will be a model for a proposed mosque in Cuba (Turgut Yeter)

The tens of thousands of Canadians who visit Cuba every year know well the Caribbean island's tropical charms.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he thinks the country is missing something — a mosque.

Erdogan stopped in Cuba as part of his Latin American tour, telling reporters he discussed the idea with Cuban President Raúl Castro and government officials.

"I gave them all of the information related to the Ortaköy mosque, including the blueprints," Erdogan said in Turkish while in a scrum with reporters in Havana.

Erdogan said he didn't get a negative response, but Cuba has rejected similar ideas before.

The iconic Ortaköy mosque sits at the shore of the Bosphorus in Istanbul and the Turkish government sees the place of worship as a way to reach out to Muslims in the Caribbean.  

Statistics from the Pew Research Centre from 2011 show there are roughly 10,000 Muslims in Cuba.

Erdogan said Cuba has already received a similar offer from Saudi Arabia, but said Turkey would be willing to build its own mosque outside of Havana, in addition to the Saudi structure, if necessary.

"Our architecture is different from Saudi Arabia's. We want to do this ourselves, we don't want a partner," he told reporters covering his visit to Cuba.

Erdogan made headlines earlier this year for telling a delegation of Latin American journalists visiting Turkey that Muslims discovered the Americas before Christopher Columbus. Erdogan says the explorer's own writings revealed a reference to a mosque atop a hill.  

Some historians have criticized that assessment, saying Erdogan is misinterpreting the passage, suggesting instead that it refers to a mountain top that resembled a minaret.

There is already one other Turkish monument in Havana. The bust of the founder of modern Turkey and staunch secularist Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is located on the island.


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