Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Lanham, Maryland, this weekend to celebrate the opening of The Diyanet Center of America, an Islamic center. He is expected to speak at the ceremony and open the center.
Erdogan will be joined by Dr. Mehmet Gormez, Turkey’s president of religious affairs, at the event Saturday, April 2. The ceremony is open to the public and scheduled from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The Diyanet Center is a complex that houses a mosque, cultural center, Turkish bathhouse and more.
The center opened after President Erdogan suggested the area be used to serve the entire Muslim community.
“President Erdogan advised us to build a larger community, which could not only serve the needs of the Turkish Muslims, which are very few anyway, but also serve the entire Muslim community and go beyond and become an intercultural center for the other communities," said Dr. Ahmet H. Aydilek, a Diyanet Center spokesman who also is a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The Muslim center is one of the only Muslim centers that have interfaith programs.
The location is 16 acres of land owned by the Turkish government and the Turkish American Community Center, a nonprofit organization in the D.C. area since 1993. The area used to house offices and a prayer area before it was used for the Diyanet Center.
Although the grand opening is this Saturday, the center has been open since June 2015.
At the grand opening, workshops and exhibitions will be held on Islamic calligraphy, traditional Turkish marbling, visual storytelling and more.
Although the center is founded by the Turkish government, it is not a Turkish mosque. There is a mosque in the middle of the center, but that is only a small part of what the center offers.
"It is founded by the Turkish government, but the object is not to serve Turks only. The object is to serve the entire Muslim community," Aydilek said.