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After decades of debate, Turkey starts building mosque in Istanbul square

By Melih Aslan and Osman Orsal

ISTANBUL, Feb 17 (Reuters) Construction began today of a mosque in Istanbul's central Taksim square, a controversial project championed by Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan but mired in years of court battles and public debate.
Cranes moved into the site and first cement was poured at a modest ground-breaking ceremony on the edge of the square, long a rallying point for demonstrations, as riot police with armoured vehicles and water cannon stood guard.
The square was at the heart of large anti-government protests in June 2013, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest a plan to build a replica Ottoman barracks on the adjoining Gezi park.
Plans for a mosque at Taksim have been discussed for decades, with supporters arguing there are not enough Muslim places of worship close to one of the city's busiest hubs.
"As someone who spent his life in Taksim, I have always felt the lack of a mosque here," Ahmet Misbah Demircan, mayor of the surrounding Beyoglu district, said at the ceremony. "I know that all Muslims who live in or come to Beyoglu share this feeling."
Erdogan, himself a devout Muslim who served as mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, has long argued for a mosque at Taksim.
But opponents see the project as an attempt to stamp a more religious identity on a square that includes a monument to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular republic.
They have long accused Erdogan and Turkey's mildly Islamist ruling AK Party of trying to roll back Ataturk's legacy, a charge they deny.
Some residents of Taksim suggested the timing of the construction might be meant to rally Erdogan's supporters ahead of an April referendum on boosting his powers.
"The timing of this is deliberate and I don't find that very ethical," said one resident, Dincer, declining to give his family name for fear of publicly criticising Erdogan.
The cost of the project has not been disclosed. Demircan was quoted as saying by Haberturk newspaper that it was going to be funded by a private construction company.
REUTERS CJ PM2056
Top News
PM greets Bangladesh on its Independence Day, pays tribute to Mujibur Rahman

PM greets Bangladesh on its Independence Day, pays tribute to Mujibur Rahman

New Delhi, Mar 26 (UNI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi today paid tribute to Banga Bandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and greeted the people of Bangladesh on their Independence Day.

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26 Mar 2017 | 11:50 AM
Rajnath briefed on security situation in Assam

Rajnath briefed on security situation in Assam

New Delhi, Mar 26 (UNI) The security situation in Assam was today reviewed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

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26 Mar 2017 | 6:38 PM
Govt has not learnt lessons from Pathankot attack, says Parliamentary panel

Govt has not learnt lessons from Pathankot attack, says Parliamentary panel

New Delhi, Mar 26 (UNI) The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has said that the central government has "not learnt any lesson from the Pathankot attack" and recommended that there remains an urgent need to further strengthen the Security network in the country.

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26 Mar 2017 | 11:17 AM
RBI to merge 5 banks into SBI

RBI to merge 5 banks into SBI

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26 Mar 2017 | 8:12 PM
No compromise on territorial integrity : CM

No compromise on territorial integrity : CM

Imphal, Mar 26 (UNI) Chief Minister N Biren Singh today said the territorial integrity of Manipur will be protected at all cost.

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26 Mar 2017 | 8:29 PM
Gunfire in crowded Ohio nightclub kills one, wounds 15

Gunfire in crowded Ohio nightclub kills one, wounds 15

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26 Mar 2017 | 10:34 PM
Togadia demands subsidies for Hindus at par with Muslims

Togadia demands subsidies for Hindus at par with Muslims

Ahmedabad, Mar 26 (UNI) Vishwa Hindu Parishad President Pravin Togadia today demanded the government to allocate to Hindus all subsidies and grants it gives to Muslims from money of Hindu tax payers or else stop all relief to the minorities.

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26 Mar 2017 | 8:58 PM
CM orders major statewide crackdown on over-speeding, violation of traffic rules

CM orders major statewide crackdown on over-speeding, violation of traffic rules

26 Mar 2017 | 11:58 PM

Chandigarh, Mar 26 (UNI) Taking a serious note over the death of eight people in two major road accidents in less than 24 hours, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has directed states traffic enforcement authorities to crack down on over-speeding and violation of traffic rules by vehicles, especially buses, and asked the Transport department to examine the feasibility of installing speed governors in public transport.

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