Constantinople, September 14, 2018
The Turkish Supreme Court has rejected the request of one religious group to convert the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, currently a museum, into a mosque again, reports Interfax-Religion.
The court rejected the application based on the formal mistakes that appeared in it. In its plea, the religious association had argued that barring Islamic prayers at Hagia Sophia was a breach of the right to the freedom of religious and conscience, according to Channel News Asia.
There has been an increase in Islamic activity in Hagia Sophia and increased calls for turning it into a mosque again over the past few years. The ruling Justice and Development Party has been talking of turning the museum into an active mosque again since 2013. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , who has referred to the time of the Christian Byzantine Empire as “a dark chapter” in history, publicly announced that he would read Muslims prayers in Hagia Sophia on Holy Friday last year. He also claimed that Kemal Ataturk’s order to transform Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum is a fake.
Although the president did not read the prayers in the end, the movement for making Hagia Sophia a mosque continues to gain momentum, as seen with a group prayer used as a demonstration on May 13, in which participants brandished signs reading “Break the chains, open the Hagia Sophia.”
Hagia Sophia served as the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople from the time of its construction in 537 by Emperor St. Justinian, until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. Under the Ottomans it was converted into a mosque until 1931, being secularized and opened as a museum on February 1, 1935.
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