Jihad, Crusades Etc: Turkish President Erdogan Reconverts Istanbul’s Iconic Hagia Sophia Museum Into A Mosque  

by Swarajya Staff - Jul 11, 2020 11:15 AM +05:30 IST
Jihad, Crusades Etc: Turkish President Erdogan Reconverts Istanbul’s Iconic Hagia Sophia Museum Into A Mosque  rnz.co.nz  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree on Friday ordering Hagia Sophia to be opened for Muslim prayers,

Originally built in 537 A.D., the Hagia Sophia served as a Greek Orthodox cathedral for the Byzantine Empire. It epitomised the zenith of Byzantine architecture. When Muslims under Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Istanbul in 1453, the Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque.

The bells, altar, iconostasis, and other relics were subsequently destroyed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, his mother Mary, Christian saints, and angels were eventually destroyed or plastered over. They also added the minarets for azaan.

The building was finally transformed into a museum in 1935 by Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish republic. Ataturk envisioned it as a symbol of the secularism that was part of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.

Erdogan’s decree came minutes after a high court in Turkey announced that it had revoked Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum. The court threw its weight behind a petition brought by a religious group and annulled the 1934 Cabinet decision that turned the site into a museum.

Erdogan has long been demanding that the world heritage site, that attracts millions of tourists, should be turned back into a mosque despite widespread international criticism, including from the United States and Orthodox Christian leaders.

As soon as court pronounced its judgement, there were widespread of scenes of Jubilation outside Hagia Sophia with slogans of “Allah is great!”.

The order is certain to shore up the Islamist credentials of Erdogan among his Turkish followers. Quranic recitations have been previously held outside Hagia Sophia to mark the anniversary of Mehmet’s victory over Istanbul

The court order sparked deep dismay among Orthodox Christians.

The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, widely regarded as the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, had denounced the attempt to turn the Hagia Sophia into a mosque in a sermon last week.

“We consider it as detrimental for Hagia Sophia, which, due to its dedication to the Wisdom of God is a point of encounter and a source of fascination for the faithful of both religions, to become, in the 21st century, a cause of confrontation and conflict,” Bartholomew said. “The Turkish people have the great responsibility and the highest honor to give prominence to the universality of this exquisite monument.”

Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, called for “prudence” and the preservation of the “current neutral status” for the Hagia Sophia, which he said was one of Christianity's “devoutly venerated symbols.”

U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo said last month that the landmark should remain a museum to serve as bridge between faiths and cultures.

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