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Opinion
Noah Feldman

Race to Build Mosques Is a Waste of Money

Turkey and Iran try to expand influence, but the faithful have moved online.
People in Bucharest protest construction of a Turkish mosque.

People in Bucharest protest construction of a Turkish mosque.

Photographer: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images

For most of the last thousand years, building mosques was a way of consolidating an Islamic empire’s prestige and spreading its beliefs. In recent decades, Saudi Arabia has been the leading global mosque builder, erecting sanctuaries and paying imams to spread its Wahhabi brand of fundamentalist state religion.

Now Turkey and Iran have entered the mosque race, sponsoring new structures in their distinctive architectural styles. But they’re late to the game, at least if the score is tallied by discouraging disfavored ideology and spreading their own religious and political views.