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Erdogan declares Hagia Sophia a mosque after Turkish court ruling

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Erdogan declares Hagia Sophia a mosque after Turkish court ruling

By Daren Butler and Ece Toksabay

 

2020-07-10T134430Z_1_LYNXMPEG6913Y_RTROPTP_4_TURKEY-MUSEUM-REACTIONS.JPG

A woman gestures in front of the Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya, after a court decision that paves the way for it to be converted from a museum back into a mosque, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul's Hagia Sophia a mosque on Friday with the first Muslim prayers to begin in two weeks, after a top court ruled the ancient building's conversion to a museum by modern Turkey's founding statesman was illegal.

 

Erdogan spoke on Friday just hours after the court ruling was published, brushing aside international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument that is revered by Christians and Muslims alike.

 

The United States, Russia and church leaders were among those to express concern about changing the status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.

 

Greece's culture ministry described the court decision as an "open provocation" to the civilized world, while UNESCO said it regretted it was not notified ahead of time and would now review the building's status.

 

Erdogan has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of Turkish politics in his 17 years at the helm. He has long floated restoring the mosque status of the sixth-century building, which was converted into a museum in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

 

"With this court ruling, and with the measures we took in line with the decision, Hagia Sophia became a mosque again, after 86 years, in the way Fatih the conqueror of Istanbul had wanted it to be," Erdogan said in a national address.

 

In a telling of history at times critical of the Byzantine Empire and the modern republic's founders, Erdogan said Turkey could now leave behind "the curse of Allah, profits and angels" that Fatih - the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II - said would be on anyone who converted it from a mosque.

 

"Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be open to all, locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims," said Erdogan, who earlier on Friday signed off on the Religious Affairs Directorate managing the site.

 

The U.S. State Department, which had urged Turkey to maintain the building as a museum, said in a statement it was "disappointed" by the decision but looked forward to hearing the plans "to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all."

 

APPLAUSE

 

The association which brought the court case, the latest in a 16-year legal battle, said Hagia Sophia was the property of Sultan Mehmet II who captured the city in 1453 and turned the already 900-year-old Greek Orthodox cathedral into a mosque.

 

The Ottomans built minarets alongside the vast domed structure, while inside they added panels bearing the Arabic names of God, the Prophet Mohammad, and Muslim caliphs. The golden mosaics and Christian icons, obscured by the Ottomans, were uncovered again when Hagia Sophia became a museum.

 

In its ruling the Council of State, Turkey's top administrative court, said: "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... defined it as a museum did not comply with laws," it said, referring to an edict signed by Ataturk.

 

Erdogan, a pious Muslim, threw his weight behind the campaign before local elections last year which dealt a painful blow to his ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party. Members stood and applauded in parliament on Friday when his decree was read out.

 

In Istanbul, hundreds of people gathered near Hagia Sophia to celebrate the ruling. "Those who built this did it to worship God as well," said Osman Sarihan, a teacher.

 

"Thank God today it reverted to its main purpose. Today God will be worshipped in this mosque."

 

REVERSING ATATURK STEP

 

By reversing one of Ataturk's most symbolic steps, which underlined the former leader's commitment to a secular republic, Erdogan has capped his own project to restore Islam in public life, said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

 

"Hagia Sophia is the crowning moment of Erdogan's religious revolution which has been unfolding in Turkey for over a decade," he said, pointing to greater emphasis on religion in education and across government.

 

The Russian Orthodox Church said it regretted that the court did not take its concerns into account and said the decision could lead to even greater divisions, the TASS news agency reported.

 

Previously, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said converting it into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would "fracture" East and West.

 

Turkish groups have long campaigned for Hagia Sophia's conversion, saying it would better reflect Turkey's status as an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

 

(Additional reporting by Mehmet Emin Caliskan and by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Editing by Dominic Evans, Jonathan Spicer, Gareth Jones and Daniel Wallis)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-07-11
 
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29 minutes ago, Tug said:

That’s the #1 problem in the Middle East imo is mixing religion and politics you can’t govern a diverse nation with religious law leaving Sophia a museum imo was the safe and unifying thing to do another sad day for human relations 

It is their country, shouldnt they be able to do what they want, as we want to do in our countries? Im all for getting religion out of the state matters, but again, it is vise to controll the masses somehow by also controling the religion. Religion and politics will never let go of each other, since religion have to be controlled, if not it will be a treath to the society. To much power in religion, and in wrong hands,,,,,,,,,,,,, we all know how it goes. 

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Posted (edited)

 

“House of One” don’t works in middle Est. Almost all the world wars have been caused by religious ideologies.  In this case, geographically, these two religions cannot coexist.  This is a good occasion.  take the Turks out of the European Union.

Edited by Tarteso
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7 minutes ago, Tagged said:

It is their country, shouldnt they be able to do what they want, as we want to do in our countries? Im all for getting religion out of the state matters, but again, it is vise to controll the masses somehow by also controling the religion. Religion and politics will never let go of each other, since religion have to be controlled, if not it will be a treath to the society. To much power in religion, and in wrong hands,,,,,,,,,,,,, we all know how it goes. 

Kinda depends as to who (they)is the average guy if he says or does what (they) don’t like he faces pretty dire consequences leaving Sophia as a museum imo would have been a safer more unifying thing to do

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18 minutes ago, Tarteso said:

 

Almost all the world wars have been caused by religious ideologies.  In this case, geographically, these two religions cannot coexist.  This is a good occasion.  take the Turks out of the European Union.

Yes, we should not coexist with Turkey In a union, but again, they are our buffer zone to the middle east, and we do not want them to open their borders, and bypass everything and anything in Europe, as well we do not want them to allie with Russia. Europe need Turkey, maybe more than Turkey needs us, and on the other side, Europeens have invested heavely in Turkey as well. 

 

Keep your enimies close and so on

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2 hours ago, Tarteso said:

 

“House of One” don’t works in middle Est. Almost all the world wars have been caused by religious ideologies.  In this case, geographically, these two religions cannot coexist.  This is a good occasion.  take the Turks out of the European Union.

 

The have never been in the EU !

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1 hour ago, Deli said:

 

The have never been in the EU !

They want join the EU long time ago... I meant to keep out this country from European community.

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4 hours ago, Tarteso said:

 

“House of One” don’t works in middle Est. Almost all the world wars have been caused by religious ideologies.  In this case, geographically, these two religions cannot coexist.  This is a good occasion.  take the Turks out of the European Union.

I agree it would be a great opportunity to take Turkey out of the EU except . . .  that Turkey is not in the EU.

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12 minutes ago, Proboscis said:

I agree it would be a great opportunity to take Turkey out of the EU except . . .  that Turkey is not in the EU.

Technical they are in Eu, just not on paper yet. They buy weapons, got trade deals, and private companies have invested in large scale in turkey, as people have invested in holidays homes from all over Europe. We talking big investments. 

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A  pile of  stones to worship a fantasy, isnt the world  incredible.

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