(PoliticalLookout.com)- An ancient cathedral in Istanbul is being converted into a mosque after an order from the Turkish high court was made on Friday. The ancient Hagia Sophia cathedral, which was once the seat of Eastern Christianity, is expected to be turned into a mosque after a court ruled that the decision to turn the cathedral into a museum in 1934 broke the law.
The ruling means that the building is technically no longer a museum, and Hagia Sophia will now be able to be returned to its previous use as a mosque. The decision has sparked an international response, with UNESCO immediately stating that the Turkish authorities should engage in global discussion over the matter before making such a drastic decision.
“We call upon the Turkish authorities to engage in dialogue before taking any decision that might impact the universal value of this site,” UNESCO said in an official statement.
Official statement on Hagia Sophia, Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia, part of the property “Historic Areas of Istanbul,” is inscribed on the #WorldHeritage List as a museum.
The inscription entails a number of legal commitments and obligations.
— UNESCO (@UNESCO) July 10, 2020
“Hagia Sophia, part of the property ‘Historic Areas of Istanbul,’ is inscribed on the #WorldHeritage List as a museum. The inscription entails a number of legal commitments and obligations.”
Conservative Muslims in Turkey have been fighting for this decision to be made for many years, making this a massive win for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish leader is expected to benefit from the publicity of this decision, and the expected backlash from the West, as he has struggled to maintain popularity after 18 years of rule.
The cathedral is a huge deal. It was built during the time of Byzantine Emporer Justinian and was the primary seat for the Eastern Orthodox Church for many centuries. Emperors were crowned here in this Christian cathedral and today, it is protected as a world heritage site and offers people the opportunity to learn more about Christian history when visiting.
On Friday, Erdogan signed a decree that gives control of the cathedral, that he calls the Ayasofya Mosque, over to the religious directorate in Turkey. It is expected to be reopened as a place of worship.