Turkey’s controversial president is reportedly looking into converting Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia Museum back into a mosque.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is looking to turn the 1,400-year-old site, which is visited by millions of tourists every year, into a mosque, according to local newspaper Hurriyet.
Erdogan reportedly told the leaders of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) that “prayers can be performed” at the site which “can continue to be visited by tourists as a mosque” at an executive board meeting on 3rd June.
The site was completed in the 6th century and was an Orthodox Christian cathedral during the Byzantine Empire and the Greek authorities have made objections to Muslim worship being conducted at the site.
When the Ottoman Empire conquered Istanbul in 1453 the building was converted into a mosque.
The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, said the site should be permanently used as a museum in 1935, and it has remained as a popular museum for tourists since.
Erdogan, who himself has prayed inside the building, has spoken before of turning the site back into a mosque and Islamists have called for the conversion.
Turkey’s religious authorities have been holding religious readings inside the Hagia Sophia in recent years during Ramadan, while in 2015 Muslim cleric Ali Tel recited the Quran in the building for the first time in 85 years.
The site was recently used for religious readings during a ceremony to celebrate the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquering of the city, and its subsequent name change from Constantinople to Istanbul.
Erdogan’s critics accuse him of using Islam to rally support from its conservative base as the country’s economy has been hit by the COVID-19 and rising inflation.
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