Dispute on Hagia Sophia’s former conversion to museum ‘not meaningful’: Erdoğan

Dispute on Hagia Sophia’s former conversion to museum ‘not meaningful’: Erdoğan

Dispute on Hagia Sophia’s former conversion to museum ‘not meaningful’: Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 27 said that the discussions on the former conversion of Hagia Sophia from a mosque to a museum does not “carry a meaning.”

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdoğan said that the reversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque is an example of Turkey using its sovereign rights.

“Just the evolution of Hagia Sophia is proof of under which difficulties our nation has been maintaining its 1,000-year-old existence in these lands,” Erdoğan said.

“We believe that discussing under which circumstances Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum, from its 500-year-old mosque identity, has no meaning,” he added.

The president said what was important was that Hagia Sophia turned to its “real” state.

“Hagia Sophia, which [Ottoman Sultan] Fatih [Mehmed II] turned into a mosque in 1453, and which is the apple of Istanbul’s eye, will continue to serve as a place of worship for Muslims,” he said.

Erdoğan also added that Christians will still be able to visit the mosque.

Diyanet head targeting Atatürk ‘out of question’

Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın addressed a recent debate over a khutba (sermon) delivered by Ali Erbaş, the head of Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), that stirred a fierce debate as critics claimed that he targeted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic.

“It is out of question that [Erbaş] defamed Atatürk at the khutbah. There, the Diyanet head talked about the foundation. Because, this foundation is a part of our tradition, culture,” Kalın said during a televised interview on July 28.

“Atatürk did not remove this foundation. He did not use this for his own benefit. Within the conditions of the era, [Hagia Sophia] was decided to be used as a mosque. Reaching to the conclusion that [Erbaş] ‘cursed Atatürk’ is not done with good intentions,” he added.

“Any property that is endowed is inviolable in our belief and burns whoever touches it; the charter of the endower is indispensable and whoever infringes upon it is cursed,” Erbaş said in the sermon.

A cabinet decree back in 1934, when Atatürk was still alive, had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum. On July 10, a Turkish court annulled this decree, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after an 86-year hiatus.

Erbaş dismissed claims that he cursed Atatürk in the sermon.

“All deeds of trusts for foundations conclude with such a curse. And in my sermon, I referred to this and I referred not only to Hagia Sophia but all foundations. I also did not refer to the past but the future,” Erbaş told daily Hürriyet.