ISTANBUL - Doğan News Agency
“We are looking at a sad Hagia Sophia, but hopefully we will see it smiling again soon,” Deputy PM Arınç has said at a ceremony. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has expressed his hope to see Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum be used as a mosque, while already calling it the “Hagia Sophia Mosque” while speaking to reporters.
“We currently stand next to the Hagia Sophia Mosque … we are looking at a sad Hagia Sophia, but hopefully we will see it smiling again soon,” Arınç said in a speech during the opening ceremony of a new Carpet Museum, located adjacent to the ancient Hagia Sophia complex.
He cited two other complexes with the same name in Turkey that have recently been converted into mosques.
“We have recently reopened two mosques with the same name to worship, one in İznik and the other in Trabzon. These were already mosques, but they were being used for different purposes,” Arınç said.
“There were no legal objections about İznik’s Hagia Sophia, but there was one about Trabzon’s. Fortunately, we now have [real] judges in Turkey, which is a state of law, and Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia has been legally registered as a mosque,” the deputy prime minister said.
“I won’t say that I wish same for Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia because you will misunderstand me. But these are what I feel when I talk about it,” he added.
Arınç also referred to an article of real estate law, which states that “Worship places cannot be used for purposes other than their aims.”
“Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia Mosque remained a mosque for centuries, but it turned into a museum after someone made a decision,” he added, particularly criticizing the “selling of tickets” to enter these buildings.
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 being initiated, despite suggestions that this would be disrespectful to the building’s past as a church.