Thousands of Muslims pray for Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia to be a mosque again

May 29, 2012

(Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, 18 November 2004/Robert Raderschatt)

Thousands of devout Muslimshave prayed outside Turkey’s historic Hagia Sophia museum to protest a 1934 law that bars religious services at the former church and mosque.

Worshippers shouted, “Break the chains, let Hagia Sophia Mosque open,” and “God is great” before kneeling in prayer on Saturday as tourists looked on.

Turkey’s secular laws prevent Muslims and Christians from formal worship within the 6th-century monument, the world’s greatest cathedral for almost a millennium before invading Ottomans converted it into a mosque in the 15th century.

“Keeping Hagia Sophia Mosque closed is an insult to our mostly Muslim population of 75 million. It symbolises our ill-treatment by the West,” Salih Turhan, head of the Anatolian Youth Association, which organised the event, told the crowd, whose male and female worshippers prayed separately according to Islamic custom.

The government has rejected requests from both Christians and Muslims to hold formal prayers at the site, historically and spiritually significant to adherents of both religions.

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One comment

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It was an even bigger insult to the Orthodox Christians when it stood as a mosque.

It will be an even bigger insult to our common history when they paint the walls and cover the seraphim beyond their present state in order to comply with Islamic tradition of avoiding idols, desecrating a part of ancient history.

The notion that it’s current state is an insult, in of itself, is an insult at the founding values of Turkey.

There is an august mosque, the Blue Mosque, literally across the street, symbolizing everything Mr. Turhan alleges is oppressed by unnamed, vague powers against him and those like him in maintaining the museum status of Hagia Sophia. Politics aside, for the purpose of Islamic prayer, it’s actually more suitable and capable.

I do not see how Hagia Sophia as a museum symbolizes our ill treatment by the West; the fact that it was an autonomously Turkish decision to make it a museum notwithstanding, it was a giant symbol of the Ottomans’ ill treatment of the west for hundreds of years.

Living by and for religion might be the priority of some, but living is the priority of most, meaning we have to make room for everyone. I say there is plenty of room in Sultanahmet Mosque for anyone who wants to pray.

Posted by zebrasonmygrass | Report as abusive