It appears that all the talk of turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his administration is now doing a turn around, for now.
According to Turkish daily Hurriyet, speaking to his party’s Central Committee last Wednesday, the Turkish president said: “Hagia Sophia as a mosque can continue to receive tourists, as is the case with the Blue Mosque. That is why only our nation will decide,” as reported by Greek City Times.
However, only yesterday, Mehmet Muş, AKP Group Deputy Chairman, made statements about the Hagia Sophia debate in the country’s Assembly.
Speaking at the General Assembly regarding the proposal of İyi Party to open Muslim worship in Hagia Sophia, Muş said: “Regarding the re-opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, we are now refusing the proposal to be opened for worship but necessary steps will be taken in July.”
The İyi Party made a proposal to the Assembly to open Hagia Sophia for Islamic worship. The proposal, which was submitted with the signature of IŞİ Party Group Deputy Chairman Musavat Dervişoğlu, was rejected by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) while MHP and HDP abstained.
Erdoğan has repeatedly called for the Hagia Sophia to be turned into a mosque, a move that would meet a long-standing demand made by Turkish Islamists.
Hagia Sophia was built in 537 but turned into a mosque following the Ottoman capture of Constantinople May 29, 1453. It was then turned into a museum in 1935 shortly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Turkish Republic.
Hagia Sophia was rebuilt in her present form between 532 and 537 under the personal supervision of Emperor Justinian I. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. After completion, Justinian is said to have exclaimed, Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών (“Solomon, I have outdone thee!”).