Efforts to build a taverna on the grounds of Larnaca’s Hala Sultan Tekke mosque ignited a backlash from animal welfare activists and the Turkish Cypriot religious endowment foundation, Evkaf.
News of the issue broke over the weekend when cat lovers took to social media to express their deep discontent over statements that the cat shelters near the mosque were to be removed with little notice.
It is estimated that up to 150 cats receive care near the mosque, as the shelter has emerged as an unofficial dumping ground for the district’s unwanted felines.
Those caring for the cats posted online that they were given just two days to rehouse the cats as clearing works were to start on Monday at 7am. A later announcement attributed to the district’s mayor stated that work would not begin until the cats have been rehomed.
Elsewhere, Evkaf expressed its strong condemnation following reports that a taverna is to be built near the mosque. A taverna previously existed near the mosque.
“According to documentary evidence and records of property titles, thousands of acres of land around the mosque belong to the Hala Sultan Tekke foundation,” Evkaf said on Monday.
The strong condemnation continued, stating that: “It is completely unacceptable to interfere in a place that Turkish Cypriots and Muslims consider sacred without the input of the bicommunal cultural technical committee and without Evkaf’s permission.”
It concluded that such disrespect will provoke a reaction from Muslims not only in Cyprus but globally, calling on the move to urgently be reversed.
The tomb near the mosque is known to belong to Umm Haram, Prophet Muhammad’s wet nurse who was killed on that spot after falling from her mule.
She was the wife of one of the most high-ranking officers of Caliph Moawia, who led two raids against Cyprus in 649 and 650 AD.
It is revered as one of the most holy sites for Muslims since it is directly linked with Prophet Mohammad.