The racks usually reserved for the shoes of the faithful are loaded with pasta packages, oil bottles, biscuits -- like a supermarket in Istanbul's  Dedeman mosque.
The racks usually reserved for the shoes of the faithful are loaded with pasta packages, oil bottles, biscuits -- like a supermarket in Istanbul's Dedeman mosque.
AFP

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.

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 AFP 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.

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