​ Turkey’s Dedeman mosque turns into a temporary ‘No cash’ supermarket, amid coronavirus pandemic - GulfToday

​ Turkey’s Dedeman mosque turns into a temporary ‘No cash’ supermarket, amid coronavirus pandemic

Abdulsamet Cakir, 33, imam of the Dedeman mosque carries boxes at the entrance of the mosque.

At the entrance of an Istanbul mosque, the racks usually reserved for the shoes of the faithful are loaded with pasta packages, oil bottles, biscuits -- like a supermarket.


But they aren't for sale. Instead they are destined for the needy, hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.


The sign on the mosque's window asks anyone who can to leave something, and says those in need can take something.


Abdulsamet Cakir, 33, imam of the Dedeman mosque in the Sariyer district, came up with this idea of reaching out to the poor via the place of worship after Turkey suspended mass prayers in mosques until the risk of outbreak passes.


mosque3 People take their need in the Sariyer district of Istanbul.


Turkey's official death toll from the virus now stands at 2,259 after 119 more deaths were reported on Tuesday, and major cities including Istanbul will be under lockdown for four days from Thursday.


"After the suspension of mass prayers, I had an idea to revive our mosque by bringing together well-off people with the people in need," Cakir told a section of the media inside the mosque, where bags of food and cleaning products were piled up on the floor.


The young imam, who takes the products from the floor and places them on the shelves at the entrance, said he was inspired by a donation culture in the Ottoman period called "charity stone" -- a small pillar stone erected at certain locations of the city to connect rich people with the poor.


'Tough situation'


In this Ottoman system aimed at giving charity in a dignified manner without offending the needy, people with means would leave whatever amount they wanted in a cavity on the top of the charity stone.


mosque2 Abdulsamet Cakir, 33, imam of the Dedeman mosque carries goods.


Those who were in need would then take the amount they needed and leave the rest for others.


"After the coronavirus pandemic, we have thought about what we can do to help our brothers in need," said Cakir, who would already help the poor in his neighbourhood before the outbreak.


"With the inspiration from our ancestors' 'charity stone' culture, we decided to fill the racks in our mosque with the help from our brothers with means," he added.


Cakir hangs a list on the wall of the mosque where citizens who need help write their names and telephone numbers.


The imam later sends the list to local authorities who check whether the names are really in need and his team then sends a message that they can visit the mosque and receive whatever they need: eight items at maximum.


mosque1 Abdulsamet Cakir (L), 33, imam of the Dedeman mosque works as a man waits at the entrance.


'No cash'


The mosque has been providing services for two weeks and reaches out to 120 people in need per day. And the list includes over 900 people.


A maximum of two people wearing masks and gloves enter the mosque and take what they need, while others wait outside, standing a few paces from each other.


The mosque does not accept cash donations and instead receives aid packages.


 The mosque's shelves are full of products sent from all over Turkey and even abroad.




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