Turkish philanthropist who built a spiritual centre in South Africa on Nelson Mandela's request passes away
- South Africa
Prominent Turkish-origin businessman and philanthropist Ali Katırcıoğlu, who built a practical spiritual centre and ''not just a mosque'' in South Africa at the request of anti-apartheid icon and late president Nelson Mandela, has passed away at the age of 85.
Popularly known as 'Uncle Ali', Katırcıoğlu was buried here on Friday in the cemetery adjacent to the centre he set up in 2012.
He passed away due to illness here on Thursday, just two months after the passing of his wife Necla. Close family friends said Uncle Ali was inconsolable after her death.
The couple had been living in South Africa for a number of years, while the rest of the family was in Turkey and other places across the globe.
Katırcıoğlu, a wealthy businessman in Turkey, achieved fame in South Africa after he built the Nizamiye Mosque complex in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, at his own cost following a request from Mandela.
During the opening of the mosque in 2012, Katırcıoğlu shared how he was motivated by Mandela.
"President Mandela told me that I should build something that is not just a mosque where people go five times a day to pray. He said it should be a living centre in addition to that. In particular, he suggested that a clinic be added to the premises," Katırcıoğlu said.
It took three years to construct the complex, which includes a school, clinic, hall for cultural activities, a museum of Islamic artifacts, and several shops to ensure the sustainability of the complex.
Popularly known as 'the Turkish Mosque', the Nizamiye complex includes the mosque, which is modelled after the Ottoman Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey. It features the blue ceramic tiles that Turkey is famous for.
The Nizamiye Mosque, which was officially inaugurated by former President Jacob Zuma in 2016, has become a major tourist attraction, attracting attention from the busiest highway in South Africa, between Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Close family friend Dr. Ismail Mitha said Uncle Ali was engaged in many community activities since settling in South Africa in 2006.
At the funeral, ANC leader Nomvula Mokonyane, who was Premier of Gauteng province at the time and accompanied Zuma at the opening in full Turkish regalia, said Uncle Ali played a major role in fighting two of the greatest challenges in South Africa - poverty and inequality.
A number of South African Muslim religious, social, and welfare organizations said Katırcıoğlu would be sorely missed for his support and sage advice on diverse matters.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)