By Evie Andreou
JUST as monks and priests can live at the Apostolos Andreas monastery, Hala Sultan Tekke should be handed to the Muslims, Turkish Cypriot Mufti Dr Talip Atalay said on Wednesday.
Atalay escorted more than 1,000 pilgrims from the north to a special ceremony at the Tekke in Larnaca to celebrate the Mevlid, the anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
Following the ceremony, Atalay said that Mevlid this year falls around the same time as Christmas and wished the Greek Cypriots a Merry Christmas.
Christianity and Islam should co-exist, the Mufti said, and for many years there has been peaceful co-existence in the country and that is a good example to build the future on.
He said that he and Archbishop Chrysostomos should have a “common language and common base” as per the 2014 joint declaration of the island’s religious leaders.
He added that the practices and the speeches of the religious leaders should reflect the love of Mohammed and Jesus, and that they should refrain from statements deriving from racism and nationalism.
Atalay also said that the Hala Sultan Tekke is an important religious monument not only for the island’s Muslims but for all Muslims in the whole world and that as it is under the control of the antiquities department, it is open for Friday prayers but at the moment there cannot be five prayers per day.
“We hope that this will become a reality,” Atalay said.
Commenting on the restoration of the Apostolos Andreas monastery in Karpasia, he said that he is satisfied with the progress there. The monastery, he said, along with the Hala Sultan mosque, belong to the “whole of humanity”.
“Just as monks and priests can live at the Apostolos Andreas monastery, I believe that Hala Sultan Tekke should be given to the Muslims,” he said.
Hala Sulatn Tekke, which is considered to be an ancient monument, is operated by the antiquities department and it is only open during museum hours. For a number of years, a Turkish Cypriot imam, Shakir Alemdar, has been offering religious services at the mosque, but only during museum opening hours. He has had a long standing request that the mosque operate as a place of worship.
The pilgrimage was organised by Atalay with the support of Archbishop Chrysostomos and with permission from Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides, as part of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden (RTCYPP).
The religious leaders agreed to support and organise three such special pilgrimages to Hala Sultan annually for Eid Al Fitr (Ramazan Bayram), Eid Ul Adha (Qurban Bayram) and Mawlid ul- Nabi (Mevlid) on dates mutually discussed and decided.