Did the Turkish president reject criticism of converting Aya Sofia into a mosque?

3 min readJul 12, 2020


Turkish President on Saturday rejected international condemnation and saying the decision violated his country’s “sovereign rights”

It should be noted that the Turkish President had announced on Friday that Muslims will be able to offer prayers in Sofia, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from July 24.

In the past, he had repeatedly demanded that this most important building be turned into a mosque.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended a video conference where he said

“those who do not take action against Islamophobia in their countries are attacking Turkey’s right to exercise its sovereignty.”

An important destination for tourists from all over the world, Aya Sofia was first built as a church in the Christian Byzantine Empire, but has been converted into a mosque since the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement came as Turkey’s Supreme Court overturned a cabinet decision in 1934 to convert an Ottoman-era mosque into a museum during the reign of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Turkey’s modern secular state.

“there are no clauses in the convention (relating to the protection of world cultural and natural heritage) that preclude the use of Sofia in accordance with local law.”

Tayyip Erdogan then signed a presidential decree transferring control of the Aya Sofia Mosque to Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs.

“We have not made this decision based on what others say, but on what is our right and what our people want, just as we have done in Syria, Libya and elsewhere,” he said.

The Turkish president pushed ahead with the project, despite appeals from NATO allies the United States and Russia, with which Ankara has forged closer ties in recent years.

Greece condemned the move as provocative, while France expressed outrage and the United States expressed frustration.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Groshko said Moscow regretted the decision.

“This church is on Turkish soil, but there is no doubt that it is a heritage for everyone,”

he told Interfax news agency.

The Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement that it was “regrettable” that the court had not taken into account the concerns raised in the ruling, which could lead to “major disagreements”.

The spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world said that converting the building into a mosque would disappoint Christians and divide them into East and West.

The World Council of Churches has called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse his decision to convert the Sofia Museum into a mosque.

The World Council of Charges, which represents 350 churches, said in a letter to the Turkish president that “turning the museum into a mosque would create an atmosphere of segregation.”

However, the director of the German Martial Fund in Ankara, Ozgur Anluhsserkli, said the move would win the hearts and minds of the people as most Turks would “support such a decision of religious or nationalist sentiment”.

“This is a debate that President Erdogan cannot defeat and the opposition cannot win. In fact, this issue has the potential to end the alliance of opposition parties,” he said.

Welcoming the decision, the Turkish president’s nationalist ally, Diolet Bahseli, said “we have long wanted to reopen Sofia as a Muslim place of worship.”

Hundreds of people gathered outside the famous building and offered evening prayers after Friday’s verdict, while police set up barricades around Aya Sofia on Saturday.

The Turkish president assured that Sofia would remain open to all visitors, including non-Muslims.

“Will Sofia’s doors remain open to visitors from all over the world?” Tweeted Farhatin Alton, her media assistant.

“People of all religious backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to visit it, just as they can visit other mosques, including the Blue Mosque,”

Originally published at https://zaviews.blogspot.com.




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