On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia will be renamed as Hagia Sophia Mosque. During an interview, Erdogan told that it was a ‘very big mistake’ to convert it into a museum.
“Hagia Sophia will not be called a museum. It will be taken out of that status. We will call Hagia Sophia a mosque. Those who come to Hagia Sophia will visit Hagia Sophia mosque,” said Erdogan. He also told in the interview that the plan would be discussed after the municipal elections. “We think the time has come to take such a step given there is a demand from the Turkish people,” he added.
This decision of the Turkish leader is being criticized by the foreign officials as the place has equally significant for the Christians. Referring US President’s decision of converting Jerusalem into the capital of Israel, Erdogan said that those who remain silent when Al-Aqsa Mosque is trampled cannot tell us what to do about the status of Hagia Sophia.
“After municipal elections, it will be converted back into a mosque from a museum. As US president Trump declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel and the Golan Heights an Israeli territory, Turkey will give an adequate response as the rotating chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation”, Erdogan said while aired on television.
Why Is Hagia Sophia Important For Muslims And Christians?
Hagia Sophia is often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world as it is one of Istanbul’s impressive sights. After being built in 537 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, for about 900 years Hagia Sophia was a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral. Under the Ottoman Empire in 1453, Hagia Sophia was declared as Islam’s greatest mosque and this status remained till 1934 when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey turned it into a museum.
The status allowed the worshippers of both the religions to come and offer their prayers but it also created tensions between Muslims and Christians. The collective prayers of Christians and readings of the Holy Quran were held under the same roof with peace or with pressure sometimes.
In May 2018, US President Donal Trump ordered to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem which escalated the tensions among Muslim and Christians. He announced his decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem back in December calling it “a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement.”But after being criticized, Trump stepped back and postponed his decision.
It seems that political leaders are now using religion as a tool for their own purposes. And this is not a new thing for people of the 21st century. We have a list of examples and the most recent one is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in India. He used the power of religion to mold the people’s mind which benefited him in terms of the vote. Political critics think that Teyyeb Erdogan’s decision of changing Hagia Sophia’s status into a mosque is another tactic for winning elections.
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