The Turkish funded Diyanet Center of America was inaugurated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Washington DC area with a huge ceremony on Saturday.
The facility, built on a 16-acre campus in Maryland, just 21 kilometers (13 miles) from the nation’s capital, represents the ‘kulliye’ tradition of a complex of social and religious buildings which were common in Turkey’s Ottoman period.
Built to seek common ground between people of different faiths and cultures, the complex features a mosque, cultural center, guest house, traditional Turkish houses and a Turkish bath.
An Islamic Research Center within the building will provide a consultancy service for undergraduate and graduate students coming from Turkey to the U.S.
There is also an Islamic Arts Museum below the mosque and 10 traditional Ottoman houses within the complex.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the mosque, Turkey’s head of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Gormez, said the opening was not only the inauguration of a mosque but a center for all humanity.
“It’s my hope that the center will play a pivotal role in bringing committees together and strive for inner peace,” he said, adding that every human being had a divine responsibility to know each other and build together a better world for future generations.
After the speech of Gormez, President Erdogan toured the mosque and cultural center.
Erdogan was accompanied by Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Youth and Sports Akif Cagatay Kilic and Minister of Family and Social Policy Sema Ramazanoglu.
Hundreds of people from all over the U.S. and Canada came to the inauguration despite heavy rain. Among those were not only Muslims, but also Christians, Jews and Buddhists.
Egyptian-American businessman Sayed Zahra, who had travelled from Indiana for the event, said it was a great opportunity to come and see the Islamic complex established by Turkey.
Another businessman, Rashad Richardson from Indiana, who described himself as a non-Muslim, said he came one day before the launch and had attended Friday prayers to learn about Islam.
“I wanted to come out and see and learn as much as I could about cultures, values and not only about the Turkish community but Islam as well,” he said.
The Coordinator of the Jewish Islamic Dialogue Society of Washington, Daniel Spiro, told Anadolu Agency he enjoyed being in a spiritual environment and praying with others from different faiths. “This is a place for Muslims to come and pray and to learn. But what is particularly important is that we grow the interfaith movement because that’s what will bring us peace.”
The construction of the complex started in September 2012 and was completed in October last year. Since the opening, the center has received visitors more than 350 groups and organizations.
The entire complex is built on a 60,000-square-meter (64,600-square-foot) area and includes traditional Turkish baths for men and women, swimming pools, a multipurpose hall and an indoor sport complex.
With its two minarets towers from which worshippers are called to prayer the mosque is built on 879 square meters (9,461 square feet) and along with its courtyard is large enough for approximately 3,000 Muslims to pray at the same time.