At a moment when it appears that …half – or more – of the Muslim world wants to emigrate at all costs and manner to all points west and north, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Yalçın Topçu shared his …dream of transforming the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul into an occasional mosque for prayers by the faithful.
“Opening the Hagia Sophia to (Muslim-only) prayers is my personal dream, my goal, my ambition. Although there are several debates over its judicial status, the issue is more of a political debate,” he said.
The greatest of all Orthodox cathedrals and the center of eastern Christendom for a millennia was turned into a mosque after the Ottomans sacked Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) in 1453. The place of worship was transformed into a museum in the 1930s by the new Republic of Turkey under Kemal Ataturk.
Topçu was nominated as culture and tourism minister in the interim government by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu ahead of the snap polls on Nov. 1.
He continued, according to a dispatch by the well-known Turkish media group Hurriyet: “There is an international dimension too, because the symbolic meaning of the Hagia Sophia is great. The final decision will be given by this nation rather than the world. A referendum might be the most serious solution,” he said.
He also said demands for the museum to become a mosque again have been reflected as a “radical demand” by the media.
“The number of people who were politically lynched over their demands for the Hagia Sophia should not be underestimated. Some media organs reflect this demand as ‘a radical demand.’ For instance, these media organs praise the opening of the Akdamar Church to religious ceremonies in line with the freedom of religion, but they change their stance when the issue is about the Hagia Sophia,” he said.
The Armenian church of Akdamar in the southeastern city of Van was reopened to occasional prayers in 2010 after a hiatus of nearly 100 years. Turkish authorities restored the church on Lake Van between 2005 and 2007 before opening it as a museum. A church service was celebrated there for the first time in 95 years in 2010.