Islamization activities of the occupied parts of the island started right after the invasion and the occupation in 1974. Churches were transformed into mosques in the main towns and villages. Religious propaganda went parallel with the increasing activities of the religious parties in Turkey.
When Müftü Dana Efendi retired on 1 September 1971, his deputy, Dr. Rifat Mustafa was appointed as Müftü. The Turkish Cypriot Islam Association was founded already in 1971 with a publication of a fortnightly newspaper Her şeyde ve her yerde milli ve dini NİZAM [National and religious ORDER in everything and at everywhere], on 5 February 1971, which ceased its publication with issue 38 on 19 July 1974. Right wing and religiously oriented columnists from Tercümannewspaper, Ahmet Kabaklı and Ergun Göze, were invited to Cyprus in February 1974; it was a kind of revival of the Şeyh Nazım movement.
A second religious association “Cyprus Turkish Islam Cultural Association” was re-activated after 1974. One of its activities was a conference organized in Kyrenia in June 1977. The chairman of the Association accused the Turkish Cypriots as being “Gavur” (infidel to Islam): “Unless Islam disseminates now or in the future in Cyprus, they shall stay as Gavur as they are today”. The insult provoked Dr. Fazıl Küçük to reply in a series of articles in his daily Halkın Sesi for five days, under the title “Tongues with spikes”. On 12 July 1977 he wrote:
“They have given permission to those members from the Koran courses that are spreading across the island and they are practicing as imams and preachers. The administration should be more sensitive in their duties. […] We are embarrassed from the words of those, who came from mountain or forest villages. They don’t know how to walk properly on the street, with their wide trousers. They are chewing the sentence ‘You are bastards of the British, gavurs, without any religion’ and they passed the limits of tolerance. We don’t know what will happen and what will be the result, when there will be no tolerance for these curses. […] Our arms are open for the Ataturkist imams and preachers and we can share our bread with them. These associations have become hearths of disaster. These Islam associations should be closed without any further delay. Although everyone is free to open an association according to the constitution, but the government has the right to close them, when they engage in dangerous activities. […] There is no authority today, who will force them to withdraw their long tongues back into their mouth, who says ‘We shall make you, the gavur Turks, Moslem’.”
He further wrote that he had received a letter about the activities of Süleymanist missioners, who were employed by the Müftü Mustafa Rifat that they were teaching Arabic to the youth in Famagusta and giving conferences without getting permission in the villages, where they accused the Turkish Cypriots of not being religious enough.Halkın Sesi reported one year later, on 11 August 1978, that Koran courses were organized in a mosque in Famagusta and the children were told not to watch TV, because it was a sin; small boys were not allowed to wear short trousers and they could not learn by heart to sing the prayers properly at the minarets.
The Turkish Cypriots perceive these Islamization activities with concern. For example the Trade Union of Turkish Cypriot Teachers (KTÖS) issued a statement and criticized the ongoing Koran courses and new schools for religious education:
“There are 192 mosques in the TRNC, whereas there are 160 schools, 21 health centres and 17 hospitals. Each university wants to build a mosque and these plans increased the controversies. […] They say that they got permission from the Ministry of Education, but there are Koran courses ongoing in the mosques, without permission and controls. If the government does not have the power to control these places, they should resign.”
Excerpts from the blog “My Island Cyprus”. Read the whole article here.