Istanbul, Turkey – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey has converted the iconic former cathedral, Hagia Sophia into a mosque, which has is Islamic majority party rooting for him as Christian leaders and the US fume with fury.
Hagia Sophia, which is now known as the Ayasofya Mosque, was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was later converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. In 1935, in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it was transformed into a museum.
However, on Friday, the highest administrative court of Turkey issued a landmark ruling that unanimously annulled the Cabinet’s decision to renovate the building into a museum in 1934.
“It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally. The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws.” Turkey’s top administrative court said in the ruling.
Only an hour after the court issued its ruling, Erdoğan signed a decree handing the affairs of the mosque over to the Religious Affairs Presidency of the country, not batting an eye for the public criticism he faces worldwide, for the decision.
The UNESCO World Heritage site has now been open for Muslim worship, is a 1500 year old monument, and the change in status of the building is believed to have a profound impact to both Muslims and Christians, given the history it has served.