Istanbul mayor supports Hagia Sophia conversion move ‘as long as it benefits Turkey’
Hagia Sophia has always been a mosque in my conscious, Istanbul’s mayor has said, who has been criticized for having remained silent after the conversion of the historical structure to a mosque, adding that he supports the move as long as the country benefits from it.
“I have always said in my remarks that Hagia Sophia is a mosque. To me, it has remained a mosque since 1453 [when Istanbul was conquered by the Ottomans]. Some TV channels, who labelled themselves as conservative, have made claims such as the prayer had been called for the first time in Hagia Sophia or that the first prayer will be performed there on July 24. However, prayers have been made five times a day in Hagia Sophia over the past 30 years,” Ekrem İmamoğlu told daily Hürriyet.
İmamoğlu added that if the change of the status of Hagia Sophia will enrich the country, morally and materially, if this change will find a solution to unemployment problems in the country and boost the country’s reputation in the international arena, he fully supports the move.
According to the mayor, it is wrong to question the decision regarding Hagia Sophia by asking whether it is a good or bad decision.
“But we need to ask what has changed over the past year when one said such a decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque could have consequences and its price would be heavy,” İmamoğlu said, referring to the president’s remarks ahead of the March local elections in 2019.
On July 10, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 cabinet decree, which had turned Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a museum. This recent verdict by the court paved the way for its use again as a mosque after 85 years.
Hagia Sophia was used as a church for centuries under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. It was turned into a mosque following the conquest of Istanbul. In 1935, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum after Turkey was founded as a secular state.
Erdoğan said the historical complex would be ready for worship by July 24 for Friday prayer.