Some locals reacted against the glittering message, “May your Lailat al-Miraj be blessed, Fatma Şahin Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality Mayor,” saying politicians should not use religious buildings such as mosques for political campaigning.
The message twinkled between the minarets of the Ersoy Mosque in Gaziantep's Barış neighborhood to mark Lailat al-Miraj, or Miraç Kandili in Turkish. Former Family and Social Policy Minister Şahin, who was elected mayor of Gaziantep on behalf of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in last March's local elections, said on Saturday that she was not aware of the wording on the lights.
In a similar incident last year, Şanlıurfa Mayor Celalettin Güvenç, also from the AK Party, was criticized when he hung a mahya at a mosque in Şanlıurfa, which illuminated his name during the holy month of Ramadan. Amid criticism, Güvenç removed his name from the mahya and claimed to have launched an investigation into the incident that he also said he was unaware of.
The mahya is a 400-year-old Ottoman tradition, and hung only on blessed nights and for religious festivities between the minarets of all “sultan” mosques, or those built with the sultans' personal wealth. This is because most sultan mosques had at least two minarets, making them most suitable for a mahya. However, modern-day mosques with multiple minarets also started to display mahyas following public demand. Each mahya reflects a different religious message or piece of advice during blessed nights.
Lailat al-Miraj marks the Prophet Muhammad's night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and his ascent to Heaven and into the presence of God.