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  • » 08/30/2013, 00.00

    TURKEY

    Persistent rumours suggest Hagia Sophia will be turned into a mosque

    NAT da Polis

    Two other churches in Nicaea and Trebizond that served as museums have already been converted into mosques. With Hagia Sophia in Constantinople as the symbol of Ottoman conquest, Erdogan's neo-Ottoman plans need such a symbol to cover up Turkey's economic and social crises. For Bartholomew I, Hagia Sophia could only reopen to worship as a Christian church.

    Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Increasingly, rumours are circulating about the future transformation of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia into a mosque. This is worrisome because two other temples, also dedicated to Saint Sophia, were recently transformed from museums into mosques. The two churches in question are Hagia Sophia in Nicaea (Iznik), where the first ecumenical council was held, and Hagia Sophia in Trebizond (Trabzon).

    For the record, with the fall of Constantinople (1453), all of the city's churches were converted into mosques, but with the advent of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the most important monuments were turned into museums.

    Skylife, the free magazine handed out on the planes of Turkish Airlines, Turkey's national carrier, gives further credence to the rumours about the Hagia Sophia mosque.

    As an important platform to showcase the AKP government's success to the world, the magazine recently published a long article in English and Turkish to get people accustomed to an already in its planning phase.

    On the cover, the aim of this idea is clearly spelled out, with an image of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia described as the 'Mosque of the Sultans'.

    The article emphasises the transformation of the cathedral into a mosque (in 1453) and its subsequent history. The long history of the church before the fall of Constantinople is largely ignored.

    By carefully reading the article, one gets the idea that the main cathedral of Orthodox Christianity is the highest symbol of Constantinople's conquest by the Ottomans and a kind of reference point for the sultans. The article seeks to show that Sophia reached its peak, glory and splendour only after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

    In the same article, Prof Semavi Eyice notes that Hagia Sophia's survival was due to Sinan, a 16th century Christian architect who converted to Islam under the Ottomans' janissary policy.

    For his part, Prof Ahmet Akgunduz points out that Sophia is the living memory of Mehmet the Conqueror, and therefore must be restored as soon as possible to "its" spirituality, that of a mosque.

    From a certain point of view, these rumours and views are not surprising, given how things have evolved in Turkey under the AKP party and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    It is generally agreed that an attempt is being made to polarise Turkish society, extolling the Ottoman past and traditions, to cover up the crisis that is beginning to be felt in this part of the world, characterised by the Turkish lira's fall vis-à-vis the euro and the dollar, the Syria crisis, and Erdogan's interventionist policy after the Gezi Park standoff ahead of next year's election.

    Speaking to Turkish newspaper Milliyet on the possible transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said that if Saint Sophia could reopen as a place of worship, it should be as a Christian church; otherwise it should remain a museum.

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    See also

    05/05/2014 TURKEY
    Motion to transform Hagia Sophia into a mosque: Conquest of Constantinople a national holiday and the rise of Erdogan
    The ruling AKP party’s infamous project to regain Turkish Muslims votes and presidency for Erdogan. The Ecumenical Patriarchate refuses to "barter" for opening of Halki Theological School. West only concerned with gas pipelines; in Turkey no one dares to voice any criticism.

    27/02/2014 TURKEY
    Erdogan's mad idea for president: turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque
    Made many times but never kept, the promise to reopen the Halki Theological School is another of the prime minister's mad ideas. So far, his ambitions have been hampered by his own authoritarian streak, allegations of corruption made against him, and the Gezi Park protest movement. Now Erdogan's aim is to get at least 40 per cent of the vote in next month's elections.

    11/11/2011 TURKEY
    Erdogan's religious acrobatics: Nicaea council church back to being a mosque
    The church of Aghia Sophia in Nicaea (Izmit), in which the 787 Council was held, was used as a museum. A controversial decision by the Directorate General of Religious Affairs transforms it into a Muslim place of worship. Erdogan' contents Islamic sectors of society.

    07/04/2017 11:39:00 TURKEY-ISLAM
    Erdogan is preparing to pray in the Hagia Sophia next Friday

    The President will pray together with members of his party and the religious leaders in Istanbul. The event falls two days before the referendum, to garner the Muslim vote. Transformation of the ancient Christian basilica into a museum rejected. Erdogan: Kemalism is dead.

     



    01/06/2015 TURKEY
    Erdogan’s campaign centred on Islam and nationalism
    As head of state, he is constitutionally barred from party politics. However, he is holding rally after rally appealing to conservative Muslim voters. A video from the ruling party released to commemorate the conquest culminates with the Muslim call to prayer being recited from a minaret at Saint Sophia, which is now a museum.



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