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17484Turkish Parliament considers converting Hagia Sophia to mosque

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Feb 6, 2013
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      Turkish Parliament considers converting Hagia Sophia to mosque

      DALLAS February 5, 2013 – In a surprise move, a commission of the
      Turkish Parliament last week accepted a petition from a Turkish citizen
      to reopen the Hagia Sophia as a place of worship for Muslims.

      The center of Orthodox worship in the Eastern Roman Empire for over a
      thousand years (360 – 1453), the Church of the Holy Wisdom, more
      commonly known by its Greek name Hagia Sophia, has been a museum since
      1935 and draws millions of visitors every year. After the conquest of
      Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, it became the first imperial mosque
      of the Ottoman Empire, and the call to prayer sounded from its minarets
      for almost 500 years.

      The decision by Atatürk’s government to designate the building as a
      museum was an obvious attempt at reconciliation between the Turks and
      Greeks, who had been feuding for centuries.

      The fact that the Turkish Parliament would consider opening the building
      for use as a mosque may reopen old wounds. The former church still
      prominently features six gigantic green medallions with the names of
      Allah, the Prophet, and Islam’s first four caliphs.

      Conservative groups in Turkey, such as the Anatolia Youth Association,
      have been conducting campaigns to have the structure rededicated to
      Islamic worship. It’s conversion to a museum has long been viewed as a
      betrayal of the Ottoman Empire by Muslim groups.

      One such group conducted a survey in the Turkish city of Kocaeli, just
      east of Istanbul, and found that 97.8% of the respondents supported
      reopening the Hagia Sophia as a mosque. This survey was also submitted
      to Parliament. In the following days, the Parliamentary Petition
      Commission received 15 more petitions asking that the structure be
      redesignated as a mosque.

      The decision by the parliamentary commission caused an explosion on
      social media like Twitter. A twitter account called Islamic Brotherhood
      tweeted, “We want to do our prayers in the Hagia Sophia!” The tweet had
      a link to a picture of the building and a caption that read, “We don’t
      need a ticket to enter; our ritual washing should be enough to get us in.”

      Another person said, “Oh Hagia Sophia, how You must miss the call to
      prayer and we miss performing our prayers inside You.”

      These calls for the former church to be reopened as a mosque echo
      statements made last year by Bulent Arinc, the 22nd House Speaker of the
      Turkish Parliament, about a church in Trabzon that, like the Hagia
      Sophia, had served as a mosque before being converted to a museum.

      “The Hagia Sophia Mosque in Trabzon has, unfortunately and for no good
      reason, been used as a museum until now. This sort of thing won’t happen
      as long as we are in power. Mosques are for worshipping Allah. No law
      can ever change its original purpose. If Allah is willing, we will all
      together reopen the Trabzon Hagia Sophia as soon as possible. If Allah
      is willing, we will go to Trabzon. We will line up for prayer and say
      ‘Allahu Ekber’ in the mosque of our ancestors.”

      The neo-Ottoman aspriations of Islamist politicans like Arınç are no
      secret. Statements like the preceeding are standard fare in Turkey’s
      cultural war.

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