Istanbul: Hagia Sophia to Have a Permanent Imam -- De Facto Transformation Into a Mosque
(Istanbul) Since 2003 when the Islamic Party for Justice and Development (AKP) took control of the government in Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a re-Islamization of the country has taken place.
Since mid-19th century the expulsion and oppression of Christians had begun. In the decade 1910-1920 the coup de grace against the Christians took place by a cruel and bloody genocide. Armenians, Greeks and Chaldeans were killed, expelled or forced to convert to Islam. One hundred years ago in Istanbul, then still Constantinople, it was said that it was half Christians and Muslims. About 25 percent of the residents in the area of what is now present-day Turkey were still Christians. Today there are only 0.2 percent.
The "Prestige" items of Re-Islamization is fulfilled by the conversion of famous ancient Byzantine churches. After the Turkish conquest of the country, they were made into mosques. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a representative of a national Turkish secularism, made them museums. For years, ACP Islamic circles have again called to make them mosques.
In some cases, Erdogan's government is already putting the various proposals into practice.
The Hagia Sophia of Nicea which was built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian I. again became a mosque in 2011. In 787 it had witnessed the Second Council of Nicaea. In 1337 Nicaea was conquered by the Muslims and made into a mosque. However, the Turks forfeited it and gave it up at the end of the 19th century. Under Atatürk it became a museum in 1935.
2012 Hagia Sophia of Trebizond followed. It had been built in 1250 by Emperor Manuel I Comnenus on the site of an earlier church. In 1204 the Byzantine Empire had been conquered during the Fourth Crusade. The noble family of Comnenus established the Empire of Trebizond as a successor state. In the new capital, the Hagia Sophia was inspired by the famous model of Constantinople. Trebizond would even last a few more years than Constantinople. In 1461 the small empire on the Black Sea was conquered by the Muslims as well. Since the Basilica was a few kilometers outside the city walls, it was only desecrated in 1511 by the Turks and converted into a mosque only in 1584. The monastery which was attached to the Basilica was inhabited until the early 18th century by Greek Orthodox monks. The use as a mosque ended in the 50s of the 20th century. In the spirit of Ataturk it was then made into a museum. At the same the church frescoes whitewashed by the Muslims were uncovered again.
Hagia Sophia of Constantinople, the magnificent Basilica of the East
The most significant and magnificent Basilica of the Byzantine Empire, Hagia Sophia of Constantinople is still a museum. The question is: for how long? The Hagia Sophia was begun under the Emperor Constantine the Great in 325. Under Emperor Justinian I it took its present form and was consecrated in 537. It is one of the outstanding monuments of late antiquity. The great dome which rests only on four pillars, represents an architectural masterpiece. It was the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the coronation church of the Byzantine emperors. For 1128 years, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated there, of which 916 years was in its form visible today. After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks, it was desecrated and converted into a mosque in the same year.
The Hagia Sophia, the largest and most splendid Basilica of the East, the imperial church of East Rome was desecrated by the Turks and converted into a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The Christian basilica can be seen today. In the Muslim period, four minarets were built and the cross was replaced on the main dome with the crescent to mark the Islamic conquest. In 1931 it was converted into a museum and is the biggest tourist attraction of Istanbul.
Since 2010 Demand for Renewed Conversion Into a Mosque
Its conversion into a mosque was called for at the political level in 2010. In 2012 an unknown Muslim Turk named Talip Bozkurt from Kahramanmaras in Anatolia, made a proposal in the Turkish Parliament to transform the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. The suggestion was taken up and entered into parliamentary debate in January 2013.
The Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and Constantinople demand its the return to the Christians. If the Hagia Sophia is to be reopened for prayer, then it should be a church again, says Patriarch Bartholomew
Due to its formative significance on the cityscape of Istanbul, neither Muslims nor Turkish nationalists are ready to return it to the Christians. For the AKP government, the issue of re-Islamization of the monument has a special symbolic meaning. This also applies to the Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who was relected in May. In order to understand the reasoning behind this, the words of the then Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Bulent Arinc, on the conversion of Hagia Sophia of Nicaea (Iznik Turkish) in 2011, are useful:
"With this act we have recovered the recognition of our ancestors. The Hagia Sophia of Iznik is the booty of our conquest and as such we have a right to it. A church can be converted into a mosque. "
From a Ramadan Mosque to a Permanent Imam
Last June, the Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque during Ramadan for a month. This is only a first step, say observers. Since then, imams who entered the Basilica, were there to do two of the five Islamic daily prayers. Now the next step will take place. As the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported, a proposal was made jointly in Constantinople between the State Office for Religious Affairs and the Mufti of Fathi to nominate a permanent imam for the Hagia Sophia who will perform the five-day prayers daily.
With the appointment of Imam, conversion into a mosque is consummated fact, regardless of any expressed decision.
For now there is still no response from the Greek Government and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Athens has criticized attempts at Islamicization in the past as an "insult to the religious sensibility of millions of Christians", which is all the more serious because these have been "undertaken by a country that wants to join the European Union."
In the European and overall in the international press it is difficult to find mention of these initiatives toward Islamicization. "Not a good sign," writes Corrispondenza Romana.