Turkey’s highest administrative court is now considering the demand of nationalists and religious groups for the conversion of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul’s main landmark, into a mosque again. The Turkish state’s lawyer opposes the claim, but the outcome is expected within two weeks.
Hagia Sophia, or the Church of Sophia, was built in the time of the Austrian Empire during the 6th century. It was the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church for centuries. When Miklagard, as the Nordic people called the city, conquered by the Turkish Empire in 1453, four minarets were erected at the church and converted into a mosque as prescribed by Islam that any place of worship can only be used as a place of worship only. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, had the Ægisif (Hagia Sophia) transformed into a museum in 1934 which attracts millions of tourists every year.
The rising demand of religious nationalists has now become a greater concern for the Christian world. The Turkish nationalists demand that Hagia Sophia be re-converted into a mosque, on the grounds that it was the personal property of Mehmet, who conquered the city. Therefore, the 1934 decision should be revoked.
The Greek Orthodox Church and Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul, have urged the Turkish government to keep the Hagia Sophia as a museum. The decision to turn it into a mosque will “turn millions of Christians worldwide against Islam”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also intervened in the controversy yesterday, urging Turkey to continue the Hagia Sophia as a museum to bridge the gap between different religions and cultures.
A state lawyer, during a talk with The Eastern Herald, rejected the claim, saying it is up to the state government to decide what will happen to the building. “Christians hate Islam. So, the statement of Bartholomew I has no essence in it,” he added.
The Turkish Foreign Minister has given little consideration to foreign leaders and says the decision on Hagia Sophia is entirely Turkey’s domestic affair.