Entitled 'Erdogan Talks of Making Hagia Sophia a Mosque Again, to International Dismay', an article on the New York Times notes that the Turkish president's move to turn the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, fulfils "a dream for himself, his supporters and conservative Muslims far beyond Turkey’s shores."
However, the author, Carlotta Gall warns that the decision to turn the historic monument into an Islamic place of worship could lead to a resurgence of the rivalry between Islam and Christianity.
Gall makes special reference to the mosaics in Hagia Sophia, which depict various religious and historical figures such as Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Emperor Justinian I and Empress Zoe. As the depiction of any type of figures is considered idolatry under Islam, these precious mosaics had been covered for many years and were restored when Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum"
"Since it was built in the sixth century, changing hands from empire to empire, Hagia Sophia has been a Byzantine cathedral, a mosque under the Ottomans and finally a museum, making it one of the world’s most potent symbols of Christian-Muslim rivalry and of Turkey’s more recent devotion to secularism," she wrote.
"Mr. Erdogan’s opponents say he has raised the issue of restoring Hagia Sophia as a mosque every time he has faced a political crisis, using it to stir supporters in his nationalist and conservative religious base," Gall continued.
Yesterday, Turkish journalist Mehmet Ardıç, who is Erdogan’s secret adviser, tweeted that Turkey’s Supreme Court decided to overturn Kemal Ataturk’s decision (from 1934), which turned Hagia Sophia into a museum.
This news comes as a representative of Turkey’s governing AKP, Numan Kurtulmuş, told Turkish media that on July 15, or even earlier, Hagia Sophia will be opened as a mosque “for prayer”.
The sole decision-making authority about the status of Hagia Sophia, a matter of Turkey’s national sovereignty, is only belong to Turkey.
We do not need anyone’s call or recommendation on our own affairs.
— Numan KURTULMUŞ (@NumanKurtulmus) July 1, 2020
It is noted that six days ago, on July 2, the Turkish Supreme Court announced that a decision on whether Hagia Sophia will be converted into a mosque will be made within 15 days, as reported by Greek City Times.
“The hearing lasted about 17 minutes. The Council of State completed the hearing to explain later the 10th Ministry’s decision on the request for Hagia Sophia. The Council of State will announce its decision within 15 days,” the court said in a statement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has proposed turning the museum into a mosque against condemnations from UNESCO the US, the EU and others.
*It must be noted that the decision has not been officially announced.
Meanwhile, Russian lawmakers sent a letter to members of Turkey’s Grand National Assembly on Tuesday, appealing against the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
The former Orthodox Cathedral is an “outstanding monument of Byzantine architecture, a world masterpiece,” they said, and is also “one of the places of interest in Istanbul visited by Russian tourists most often.”
The lawmakers also expressed their appreciation for “the friendly nature of Russian-Turkish relations,” calling on their Turkish counterparts to “analyse the situation thoroughly” and to encourage decision-makers to “show wisdom and not review the decision by founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which turned the Hagia Sophia into a symbol of peace and interfaith harmony for many years.”