ANKARA, TURKEY -- The crowds stretch from the interior of the mosque into the foyer and courtyard, beyond the walls of the enclosure and into the street. Raised speakers carry the hutbah, or sermon, to all believers within earshot.
"Look to the East and look to the West, believers, and you will see we have no friend but God!" intones Imam Safan Cakirogulari in his address to the faithful. "The people of Anatolia will not be servants -- you, whose ancestors came here and pitched your tents and drove away your enemies, be strong, and Allah will watch over you!"
"Amen," sighs the mass of humanity, rising from a crouch to their feet before bending over like a long and wide undulating wave and returning to their knees to prostrate themselves in obeisance again. "Amen."
There are more than 3,000 believers here, perhaps as many as 5,000. The Persian Gulf crisis simmers south of the border, but aside from a few oblique references, their leaders are here to direct them in Friday prayers at Ankara's oldest and most historic mosque.
The Haci Beyram Veli was built in early 15th century atop the ruins of an Orthodox cathedral, itself built on the foundation of a Roman Temple dedicated to the Emperor Augustus. Rows of religious bookstores and itinerant hawkers of holy beads, baubles and other pious paraphernalia remind one that this is the very center of Islam in the capital of the modern, secular Republic of Turkey.
Except for a knot of shawl-covered women, praying for fertility to the mosque's namesake Moslem saint near the entrance, most of those in attendance are men.
The believers defy easy description: Taxi drivers, grocery owners, bureaucrats, politicians, all rising from their mats on cue, standing, wiping their faces with their hands, kneeling and prostrating themselves, until finally, with the last evocation to God, they pick up their shoes, fold up their prayer mats and return to their daily lives after their weekly inculcation of Islamic scripture and sermonizing.
Turkey is a Moslem country -- officially 98 percent, with the remaining 2 percent consisting of the ethnic and religious minorities of some 50,000 Armenians, 20,000 Jews, 5,000 Orthodox Greeks and perhaps 100,000 Jacobite "Suriyani" Christians, mainly concentrated near the Iraqi-Syrian frontier.
Within the House of Turkish Islam, up to 30 percent consists of Alevites, a 16th century splinter group of Shiite Moslems whose peculiar historical development has made them nearly anti-religious, and who form the bedrock of secularism in Turkey.
The remaining 70 percent of Sunni Moslems are further divided into people whose sense of Islam is about as profound as adherence to papal authority of lapsed American Catholics, others who only attend mosque services during religious holidays and those -- like on this day -- who attend services every week.
Lastly, there is a tiny minority who might be described as fundamentalist, and who are often accused of trying to reestablish a Khomeini-like regime of Koranic law. They are represented politically by the Welfare Party, but it has never polled more than 10 percent nationally, and its power base has been further co-opted by the public piety of President Turgut Ozal.
The statistics and numbers are misleading when it comes to speculation about Moslem solidarity, especially with a fellow Moslem like Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
"It is not a Moslem issue, but a human issue," said Metin Gunes, a thirtyish owner of a religious bookstore abutting the mosque whose appearance and general mien suggest that he would fall into the fundamentalist camp. "Saddam is at fault within this bad business, and he must pay."
Indeed, even the editorials in such "religious" newspapers as Zaman are blunt in their condemnation of Iraq. The most generous they have been is to suggest that their good, pious Moslem president act as a mediator in the conflict.
The anti-Islamic, "liberal" press -- such as the Istanbul daily Cumhuriyet -- is so far the only voice suggesting that Turkey should stay as far away from the conflict as possible. Those writers suggest the country is being used by the United States as a potential new "oil policeman" in the Gulf, set to take on the role once played by the shah of Iran.
But even that debate seems far removed from the words of Friday's sermon in Ankara's most pious mosque.
Zeki Aslan, the mufti, or leader, of Haci Beyram, has just completed an appeal for donations to the mosque's Koranic classes, where 17 boys and girls have begun to memorize the Holy Koran, the Islamic book of prayer.
In the last part of his sermon, he reminds the faithful of the days when the "brave, heroic Turkish nation, young, old, men and women, shoulder to shoulder and following in the path of God, threw back the foreign invaders of Anatolia," and turned "what the Christians called the sick man of Europe into the beloved country we now call our home."
Is it an oblique message that the nation must now ready itself for war once again in light of the gathering war clouds on Turkey's southern doorstep?
"Next week is Victory Day," said an older man in a skull cap, referring to Ataturk's victory over the Greeks in 1922. "That is the last war we were in and the last one we want."