The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared that the Istanbul Monument Hagia Sophia that has been a museum since 1934 will be turned back into a mosque and will be open for worship.
Hagia Sophia is nearly 1,500 years old and was originally built as a Greek Orthodox Catherdral in 537AD but later turned into a mosque after the city was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453.
However in 1934 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the founding father of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk turned the monument into a museum as a sign of commitment to a secular state making state separate from religion.
Although Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has declared that Hagia Sophia is being turned back into a mosque and will be open for worship after the country’s top court rules that the conversion of the mosque into a museum was unlawful.
Turning this UNESCO heritage site back into a mosque has received a lot of criticism from the Christian community around the world with both the US and UNESCO condemning the decision made by the Government.
However, it has been promised by Turkish Officials that even though Hagia Sophia will be open for worship, it will not stop tourist from visiting the site and the building will be preserved including all its Christian icons.
Turkish historian Zeynep Ahunbav who has worked on the conservation of the site believes otherwise stating:
With the images of Madonna, mother of Christ, and other saints on the walls – do they accept to pray in the presence of these images?
She also mentions about tensions in the Turkey as conservative people are making decisions as if this was an Islamic country and church leaders in the country are arguing that this is a move by the Government specifically Erdogan’s AK Party to boost its popularity polls since this decision isn’t because there needs to be more places for worship for Muslims but rather to fulfill the president’s religious conservatism beliefs.
The Christian leaders are also arguing if Hagia Sophia has been Muslim for 500 years, it has certainly been Christian for a much longer time giving the government no right to such a decision.
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