In a move that is said to be as Turkey’s display of a Secular yet Muslim majority dominated nation, it has decided to convert a UNESCO World Heritage site into a Mosque. The country has decided to convert the Hagia Sophia museum which is around, 1,500 years old heritage site into a place of worship for Muslims.
Hagia Sophia or in its full form, the former Church of Hagia Sophia holds historical significance as a culminating feature of the Christian era Roman Empire. It also an example of artistic and architectural achievement of the ancient world. Before this, the place was converted into a mosque in after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and is originally an Orthodox Christian cathedral.
The move which is also compared to as Turkey’s ‘Babri Masjid’ by netizens irked the Christian world and UNESCO. There was a long call by Islamists in Turkey to convert it into Mosque but secular opposition members opposed the move. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the official announcement and said that the first prayers inside the building would be held on 24th July.
” Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims“, said the President. The Cyprus’s Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides criticized the move through an official tweet. The Archbishop Elpidophoros of America also expressed his concern over the decision.
The re-conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is the worst example of religious chauvinism. By shuttering Hagia Sophia as a monument, Turkey has shut the window that Ataturk opened to the world. #HagiaSophia— Elpidophoros (@Elpidophoros) July 10, 2020
“We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia”, said Morgan Ortagus, U.S. State Department spokesperson. UNESCO also criticized the move in an official note.
The decision of conversion by Turkey’s government was followed by top court’s ruling that the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal. Culture Minister of Greece Lina Mendoni criticized the court’s decision. “Open provocation to the civilized world. The nationalism displayed by Erdogan … takes his country back six centuries“, she said.
#GREECE's Culture Minister Lina Mendoni says #TURKEY court verdict on #HagiaSophia is an "open provocation to the civilized world."— Arwa Ibrahim (@arwaib) July 10, 2020
Photo credit: (EUROKINISSI/Stelios Missinas) pic.twitter.com/tmCTHIj4uZ
“Turning it into a mosque will not do anything for the Muslim world. It does not bring nations together, but on the contrary, brings them into collision“, said Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the foreign affairs committee Russian Parliament. The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the decision “regrettable”.