A story on the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak’s front page on Tuesday claimed that a recent decision by the Turkish Council of State could be used to convert the famous Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque.
The decision of the Council of State concerns the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, in today’s Edirnekapı neighborhood of Istanbul.
The nine-member Council decided by a one vote majority that the medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church, which has some of the most spectacular Christian mosaics in Turkey, can be turned into a Muslim mosque again, after decades of being used as a museum.
The pro-government newspaper claims that this decision could be copied and used as a precedent in the case of Hagia Sophia, the magnificent cathedral which served as the former seat of Christianity in the East. The enormous edifice has been used as a museum since the early twentieth century.
Muslim fundamentalists in Turkey would like to see what once was the center of the Christian Orthodox world converted into a mosque once again, as was the case during the years of the Ottoman Empire.
Hagia Sophia is often used in domestic party political rivalries in Turkey as an example of Turkish power, and a landmark of the Ottoman victory against its Christian predecessor.