Sun sets behind the sixteenth-century Ottoman era Blue Mosque in the old city of Istanbul, September 26, 2005.
Fatih Saribas / Reuters

On an April visit to Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that U.S. President Barack Obama had agreed to join Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the opening of a $100 million mosque in Maryland later this year. 

The news attracted considerably less notice than it likely deserved.

A year after founding modern Turkey in 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk abolished the caliphate and created a government directorate of religious affairs, or the Diyanet. Through the management of mosques and religious education, the new body would make Islam subservient to the state to secure the republic’s ostensibly secular identity.

A statue of Ataturk with a mosque in the background in Kirikkale, central Turkey, March 4, 2014.
A statue of Ataturk with a mosque in the background in Kirikkale, central Turkey, March 4, 2014.
Umit Bektas / Reuters
Today,

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