Hagia Sophia – Reversion, Reaction, and controversies

Hagia Sophia - Reversion
Hagia Sophia – Reversion

Hagia Sophia has a huge & complex history spread across the years. It all started in 537 AD, when it was built under the direction of Roman emperor as a cathedral, now 15 centuries later, in 2020, it is being converted back to a mosque from a museum. This epitome of Byzantine architecture has survived earthquakes, reconstructions, transformations, and so much more.

This time entire world is discussing the latest development on this building. Turks and Greeks are on opposite ends due to the reversion of Hagia Sophia. Beliefs of many people are on stake. Find the reactions from the world on this decision and know more about the history of this world heritage site.

Hagia Sophia - mural
Hagia Sophia – Mural

Romans built it as a church but, in 1453, after invasion of Ottoman troops, the building was transformed into a Mosque. Later in 1935, the Turkish president transformed the building into a museum. That’s not all, 2007 added more controversies to the history. Different champaigns demanded conversion of this building into a mosque again and some of it supported the conversion back into the church.

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia

Eventually in 2016, Muslim prayers were held in a room of this building. The debates of giving it a title of a Mosque were accelerating day by day.

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Decree

In July 2020, an order was passed by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, without consulting UNESCO, to use this site only as a Mosque. Turning Hagia Sophia into a Museum earlier was a decision to promote secularism in the country. So, is the countries’ secularism on stake now?

Hagia Sophia - Decree - Museum to Mosque
Hagia Sophia – Decree – Museum to Mosque

Soon after the order, the museum title were taken down from all the online resources/websites. The Mosque remains open to all the tourists or visitors. The entrance fee has been removed. Mosaics should be removed under Islamic laws but Turkish officials promised that the mosaics won’t be removed, they announced that they will be covered by curtains or lasers during Muslim prayers.

An administrative board will be established to coordinate activities to be carried out at the Hagia Sophia, according to a cooperation protocol signed between the Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) on July 16.

The mosque will be open to prayers on July 24.

WORLD’s take

Hagia Sophia is a World Heritage Site. The latest order has left many heads turned, including the UNESCO, and spiritual heads of Christians. Christians strongly believe that there concern has been ignored and this decision could substantially fracture the East and the West.

According to Toufic Baaklini, President and Chairman of IDC, ‘The Hagia Sophia is one of the most historically Christian sites in the world. It should not be used as a political pawn. Turkey continues to deny the genocide it inflicted on its Christian minorities and it continues to further insult its Christian population by threatening to change the status of this historic Christian cathedral.’

UNESCO “deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, and calls for the universal value of World Heritage to be preserved”

Pope Francis confined himself to a few words on the issue: “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained.”

India and Turkey mostly have had an opposite stand on various Indian situations like Kashmir issue, cross-border terrorism from Pakistan but unlike turkey, India has chosen to keep calm on this decree by Turkish president.

European Union condemned this decision and foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said there was “broad support to call on the Turkish authorities to urgently consider and reverse this decision.” Turkey in response said “We reject the world condemnation.”

Read more reactions from countries across the world.

CONTROVERSIES

Are Muslims even allowed to pray inside Hagia Sophia?

Hagia Sophia - Mosaics
Hagia Sophia – Mosaics

“In Islam, there are stringent and sophisticated rules for the establishment of a Mosque. A building cannot simply be converted into a Mosque by a President or a High Court decision. That is a violation of Islamic Jurisprudence and Sharia Law.” Read more.

According to the above article, the land on which Muslims pray should be either transferred or donated to them or they require permission from land owners. The writer strongly suggests that the property should belong to Christians who have maintained it throughout centuries. This order is merely being considered as a political stunt.

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Is this a political stunt?

Istanbul municipal election results 2019
Source : Istanbul municipal election results 2019

Many people have considered this decision a political stunt by the president to gain support, after his candidate lost Istanbul’s municipal elections last year.

This is worse than a political stunt,’ said HALC Executive Director Endy Zemenides. 

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Hagia Sophia - Reversion, Reaction, and controversies
Hagia Sophia – Reversion, Reaction, and controversies

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