On July 10, Turkey turned a famous museum and historic building Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan had long proposed this idea which was finally executed after a court in Turkey ruled its museum status as illegal.
Hagia Sophia plays a significant role in the history of Orthodox Christians and Muslims. It serves as an anchor that connects modern Turkey with the historic city of Istanbul and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What Is Hagia Sophia?
Admired by both Christians and Muslims, this architectural wonder was built around 1500 years ago when Istanbul’s name was Constantinople. The city was named after the first Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, whose son commissioned the establishment of Hagia Sophia. Originally, it was a basilica Church for Greek Orthodox Christians but its status kept on changing many times over the centuries.
Reaction from the World on Change of Hagia Sophia Status
After reigning for nine years, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk converted the Hagia Sofia mosque into a museum. Since 1935, it has been operated as a museum by the national government which attracts more than 3 million annual visitors.
The decision to convert it again into a mosque has been criticized widely due to several reasons related to peace, stability, and humanity in the region.
After the considerable damage done to the structure and the city, people think that this decision might present another threat to peace and stability. UNESCO World Heritage Site was suffering abuse since the beginning only because the two dominating religions could not tolerate each other’s differences of opinion. It could have been an interfaith building to serve as a worship place for both Muslims and Christians to strengthen international relations.
A rigid message from the former advisor to President Trump represents the ideology of Greek Orthodox who are traumatized by this conversion. Their heritage site has been transformed in a worship place of Muslims who are already despised by the majority of the world. It seems like they won’t hesitate to retaliate.
Turks thought that this was a massive blow to their efforts in maintaining Muslim secularism in Turkey. There are millions of secular muslims in turk who are hurt over this conversion but cannot raise their voice due to lack of freedom of speech.
Many people suggested that this marvel was so big that it could have been used for multiple purposes. As a World Heritage Site, it must have sent messages of harmony and equality rather than religious imperialism.
The religion of Islam preaches about basic principles of life with excessive stress on peace and harmony. Even some Muslims argued that this was a hypocrite move by their community which contradicted those principles and highlighted political interests.
History about Destruction of Hagia Sophia
This structure has always been a major part of international politics and conflicts It was first burned to the ground in 404 A.D because of family politics of then reigning Emperor, Arkadios. His successor, Theodosios II rebuilt the Hagia Sophia in 415 to be burned down again for the second time in 532 during the Nika riots.
It was completely demolished before rebuilt again as a Christian basilica in 537. When Romans took brief control in the 13th century during the crusader era, it was again severely damaged but later repaired when the Byzantines regained the control of the surrounding region.
The next significant point in history for Hagia Sophia began when the Ottoman Empire led by Emperor Fateh Sultan Mehmed captured Constantinople in 1453. The Ottomans changed the name of the city to Istanbul and converted the basilica into a mosque.