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The Greek Foreign Ministry expressed its anger recently upon learning that Turkish officials had issue statements on the possible conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque. Hürriyet Daily News photo by Emrah Gürel

The Greek Foreign Ministry expressed its anger recently upon learning that Turkish officials had issue statements on the possible conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque. Hürriyet Daily News photo by Emrah Gürel

Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement yesterday in response to Greek anger over the possible conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque, saying Turkey had “nothing to learn from Greece concerning matters of freedom of religion.” 

The statement said successive Greek governments’ unfavorable treatment of Ottoman era cultural artifacts and places of worship was “well-known by all.” 

“Athens is the only European capital with no mosques open for worship despite its Muslim population, which has reached over hundreds of thousands of people,” it said. 

The Greek Foreign Ministry expressed its anger recently upon learning that Turkish officials had issue statements on the possible conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque.

Repeated statements from Turkish officials concerning the conversion of Byzantine Christian churches into mosques are insulting to the religious sensibilities of millions of Christians, as well as beingre actions that are anachronistic and incomprehensible, coming from a state that declares it wants to participate as a full member in the European Union, a fundamental principle of which is respect for religious freedom,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Nov. 18. 

The statement came days after Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç expressed his hope in seeing Hagia Sophia Museum be used as a mosque, having already called it the “Hagia Sophia Mosque” in speaking to reporters. 

The status of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with a number of campaigns to open it for Muslim prayers having already been initiated, despite suggestions that this would be disrespectful to the building’s former life as a church.

November/20/2013

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Ken Alden

12/22/2013 7:34:51 AM

I would like to state that I have no problems with Greek people at large, what is hard to fathom is the dificulty of the monolitic mindset of their poiticians penchant,to lecture the World at large on all levens & endeavors, particulaly when it comes to Islam &Turkey! Athens, with many Islamic Embacies, pockets of Moslem residents, does't have a single Mosque and is steadfast resisting of having one! Reminding one that there are lots of Mosques in Trace, is like equating to price of tea in China

Vassilios Vassiliades

12/19/2013 7:49:04 AM

The Muslim minority's religious rights in Greek Thrace as protected by the Treaty of Lausanne are fully respected, there are mosques there in abundance. But the recent Muslim illegal immigrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East and beyond, who entered in transit to W. Europe and stuck in Greece due to Dublin II regulations not allowing Greece to send them on, are a transient population, not Greek citizens, and to fill up Athens with tens of mosques on their behalf is unreasonable.

Suhail Shafi

12/18/2013 4:06:48 AM

The Turkish Foreign Ministry is right - let Greece give homilies on religious freedom when its own Muslim communities have decent places to worship - something at least some Greeks, judging by the Golden Dawn's tactics, oppose.

Harry Foundalis

12/1/2013 10:00:36 AM

Brit in Turkey, if Britain hasn’t signed the EU agreement I referred to, perhaps you’re right. But 0.5 million illegal immigrants in a population of 63 million in Britain and you think that’s a lot? In Greece have nearly 1 million (if not more by now) illegals in a population of only 11 million.

Brit in Turkey

11/29/2013 5:25:16 PM

Harry Foundalis: You wrote "No, illegal immigrants don’t end up in Britain. Whenever they do, they’re returned to their “first port of entry into the EU”, which is one of Greece, Italy, etc." Please read some of the British press to get your mind clarified on that issue and you might just see the struggle the British courts have (against the ECHR) to get immigrants deported. Estimates vary as to how many illegals are in the UK, but may be as high as 0.5 million with 100,000 plus asylum seekers.

Harry Foundalis

11/29/2013 9:57:05 AM

Brit in Turkey, I *agreed* that border lengths and economies are not Turkey’s problems when I wrote: “So far so good. C’est la vie.” Your comprehension skills usually fare better than that. But I also wrote something about your adopted Sultan’s practices, which you didn’t register—maybe my eloquence wasn’t as great as you thought. No, illegal immigrants don’t end up in Britain. Whenever they do, they’re returned to their “first port of entry into the EU”, which is one of Greece, Italy, etc.

Brit in Turkey

11/28/2013 2:18:39 PM

Harry Foundalis: The fact, as you so eloquently describe, that Greece's border is longer than Turkey's and her economy is small is not Turkey's problem. A parallel situation exists in Europe where immigrants pour across the Channel from France to England through the Channel Tunnel. But in that situation at least the two countries are talking and working together (sort of) to alleviate the problem. Do all these illegals want to stay in Greece? Probably not - many end up in Britain.

Harry Foundalis

11/27/2013 5:56:22 PM

…when a boat with immigrants is spotted in the sea, and the Greeks call their Turkish counterparts for their attention. The official Turkish mechanism appears unwilling to do its job. *That* is the problem. You must understand that just as RTE appears boorish to some of you within Turkey, he appears equally so to outsiders. Just because I am Greek doesn’t mean that I deserve your PM’s uncivilized manners, whereas you somehow don’t. Judge my words by putting yourselves in my position, please.

Harry Foundalis

11/27/2013 5:53:09 PM

However, things get complicated when one of the two neighbors, motivated by a primitive “Our religion will conquer the world” fantasy, does everything he (yes, he, the Sultan) can to “push” illegal immigrants to the other neighbor. Don’t ask me to prove such things here. By definition, such acts are clandestine, lacking documents. How do I know? I’ve had discussions with members of the Greek Coastal Guards in the recent past. They claim that their Turkish counterparts appear “deaf” when…

Harry Foundalis

11/27/2013 5:50:07 PM

So, Brit in Turkey, I agree that both Turkey and Greece bear *equal responsibility* in guarding their borders. But as a matter of fact (see previous post), Greece’s borders are longer than Turkey’s. As a result, Greece, must exert *more effort* than Turkey in guarding its borders, and because the former’s economy is small (and crisis-stricken), it has to withstand a *much heavier financial burden* than the latter. So far so good. “C’est la vie”, as the French say. However,…
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