A professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University has called upon Turkey’s Muslims to boycott the Friday prayers at the Hagia Sophia mosque announced by the Turkish government.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared on July 9 that the sixth-century Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which was converted into a museum in the 1930s, would once again begin to host Muslim prayers this month. At an event in the city marking the official conversion of the site into a Muslim house of worship, Erdoğan said that the “resurrection” of the Hagia Sophia augured well for the “liberation” of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Professor Saad el-Din Helaly told Egypt’s MBC Masr TV on July 13 that the announcement by the “Muslim Brotherhood government of Turkey” was “an escalation against human civilization,” and harmed Muslims and Islam.

This, he said, was the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam, which “will put their hands on people’s possessions from China to America” if they rise to power.

“We wash our hands of their taking over of the property and possessions of others,” he said.

The Hagia Sophia should remain a museum, he said, emphasizing that the “era of religious strife” when “Muslims were fighting Christians or Jews were fighting Muslims” was over.

“Therefore, I call upon the honorable Muslims in Turkey to boycott [the Friday prayers at the Hagia Sophia] on July 24 and onward, out of respect for the property of others and the property of the people,” he said.

If the Hagia Sophia was considered a museum, he said, then it belongs to the people, whereas if it is considered a cathedral “in line with the chronological historical right,” then it belongs “to our Christian brothers.

He added that in 1945, the world had agreed to “let bygones be bygones” and solve conflicts peacefully. He also accused Erdoğan of wanting to “turn the clock back to the way it was before [then].”

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