09/16/2020, 12.29
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A symposium on Hagia Sophia Mosque and Turkish-Islamic civilisation

by Marian Demir

The meeting will be held on 30 September in Istanbul. The Presidency of Religious Affairs is behind the initiative. National and district directors and staff of the Ministry of Education have been invited to attend.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – A symposium on the theme ‘Hagia Sophia-Kabîr-i-Shérif’ will be held in Istanbul on 30 September under the auspices of Turkey’s Presidency (Directorate) of Religious Affairs (Dinayet).

According to available information, the symposium will address four themes, including the history of Hagia Sophia and its place in Turkish-Islamic civilisation.

The gathering comes just over two months after the first Islamic prayer was held in the Christian basilica, following the decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to reopen it to Muslim worship after 89 years.

The decision to end its use as a museum[*] met with a lot of criticism. Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew, the Russian Orthodox Synod, the World Council of Churches, UNESCO and various foreign governments, including those of some Islamic countries, like the United Arab Emirates, expressed their distress and opposition over the use of the basilica for one religious community, disregarding the building’s universal value.

In an attempt to assert Hagia Sophia's affiliation with Turkish-Islamic culture, the General Directorate for Religious Education of Turkey’s Ministry of Education sent a letter to the national and district directors of education to invite all of their staff to the symposium.

[*] The building was turned into a museum in the mid-1930s by order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey.

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