Concern grows over possible conversion of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia to mosque

( Amid fears in Turkey of the Islamist policies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, concerns are growing over a government commission to convert the 1,400-year-old Hagia Sophia Church of Istanbul, currently a museum, into a mosque.

The Hagia Sophia. Credit: Arild Vågen.

“The desire to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque is not about Muslims wanting a place to pray—as of 2010, there were 3,000 active mosques in Istanbul alone. Rather, it’s about their reveling in, and trying to revive, the glory days of Islamic jihad and conquest,” Shillman Fellow Raymond Ibrahim recently wrote, PJ Media reported.

The church was built in 537 CE during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian and became the seat of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople until the Ottoman invasion in 1453, when it was converted into a mosque. Then, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Turkey’s secular leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, converted the mosque into a museum.

But today, Turkey’s Islamist government is looking into reconverting the museum into a mosque. Turkey’s Hurriyet News reported last February that a parliamentary commission is considering an application to turn the Hagia Sophia into a place of Muslim worship.

Following the announcement, Turkey’s Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople stated, “We want Santa Sofia to remain a museum,” Catholic Culture reported.

Posted on June 20, 2013 .