The world-famous Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul, Turkey will be turning back into a mosque. However, it was originally a Cathedral.
The decision comes from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the court has annulled the site’s museum status.
History of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral. However, for 900 years it was the largest cathedral of the world until conquered by Ottoman Turks. As a result, converting it into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest.
In 1453 Sultan Mehmet II gave orders for its conversion into a mosque. However, it was a Muslim place of worship for the next 500 years. In 1931 it was the downfall period of the Ottoman Empire resulting in the closing down of the mosque.
By the orders of the first president of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, it was converted into a museum in 1934. It remained a museum until today. However, it is now a Unesco World Heritage site.
President Erdogan said that it is a sovereign country and has a right of converting it back to a mosque.
In addition, he mentioned in a press conference that first Muslim prayers offerings inside the building on 24 July.
“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.
Right after the announcement, the first call to prayer was recited at Hagia Sophia. Moreover, all Turkey’s main news channels broadcasted it
The decision of the President Condemned
However, Unesco does not appreciate this move of the Turkish President and says it “deeply regrets” the decision. The organization says it’s not wise to turn the museum into a mosque without discussing it. However, they have asked the Turkish authorities to “open a dialogue without delay.”
Many churches have also condemned the move. Such as the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Greece, which has millions of Orthodox followers.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said it was an “open provocation to the civilized world”.
“The nationalism displayed by President Erdogan takes his country back six centuries,” she said in a statement.
In addition, she said, the court ruling “absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice” in Turkey, she added.
But the Council of State, Turkey’s top administrative court, said in its ruling on Friday, “It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally.”
In addition, he said, “The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws,” it said.
Moreover, the world’s largest Orthodox Christian community which is in Russia, says that it regrets the decision. The Church in Russia said the Turkish court did not see the issues it will create before ruling on Hagia Sophia.
However, it also said that there will be greater divisions because of this decision.