Hagia Sophia: How does world reflect on Turkish decision?

The world continues to reflect on the decision of the Turkish government to convert the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, Ahval reported.

“To convert it back to a mosque is to say to the rest of the world unfortunately we are not secular anymore,” Turkish Nobel prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk told the BBC on Friday.

“There are millions of secular Turks like me who are crying against this but their voices are not heard.”

According to Pamuk, this step of Ankara deprived the “pride” of some Turks who believe they are a secular Muslim country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree on Friday to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque after a Turkish court overturned a 1934 government decree that changed it into a museum.

In his TV address, Erdogan said that prayers will be held at the site on July 24.

The Hagia Sophia was the Roman Empire’s first Christian cathedral: it was converted from a Greek Orthodox cathedral to a mosque in 1453 and then became a museum in 1935.

Over the years, Erdogan has repeatedly proposed re-converting the cathedral into a mosque in response to the long-term demand of Turkish Islamists.

At the same time, the world is concerned about this decision.

Thus, US Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez have also denounced the decision to turn the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

“Erdogan’s move today is a deep affront to Christians around the world who look to Hagia Sophia as a shining light and deeply revered holy site. This conversion of its status is unnecessarily divisive at a time when we need more, not fewer, efforts to build bridges between Islam and Christianity,” the senators said. “We strongly urge Erdogan to reverse this decision and sustain Hagia Sophia’s remarkable legacy and maintain its status as a religiously neutral museum for people of all faiths and cultures to visit and celebrate our common world heritage.”

The Russian Orthodox Church also expressed its concern.

“The concern of millions of Christians has not been heard,” the Russian news agency Interfax cited Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida.

“Today’s court ruling shows that all calls for the need for extreme delicacy in this matter were ignored,” Legoida said.

UNESCO announced that the World Heritage Committee will review the status of Hagia Sophia.

“UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialogue without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session,” the UN cultural body noted.

The EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell declared the decision as “regrettable”.

“The ruling by the Turkish Council of State to overturn one of modern Turkey’s landmark decisions and President Erdoğan’s decision to place the monument under the management of the Religious Affairs Presidency is regrettable,” he said in a statement.

Greece called this step of Turkey an “open provocation to the civilised world”.

“The nationalism displayed by Erdoğan… takes his country back six centuries,” Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.

According to her, this court ruling “absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice” in Turkey.

This decision was approved only in northern Cyprus and Palestine.