The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will be decided in fifteen days


Evening light bathes the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. EFE / Tolga Bozoglu / Archive
(TOLGA BOZOGLU /)

Istanbul, Jul 2 (EFE) .- The highest administrative court of Turkey today postponed until fifteen days the decision on whether or not to convert the Basilica of Saint Sophia in Istanbul, converted into a museum in 1935 by the then young secular republic. which replaced the Ottoman Empire.
The State Council examined Thursday the request of an unknown association close to the Turkish Islamist Government to change the decree that secularized the building 85 years ago, and announced that it will make a decision within the next two weeks.
That association argues that the decree contained forged signatures of the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The initiative has been supported both by the AKP, the Islamist party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and by its partners in Parliament, the ultra-nationalist MHP, while it has fervent opposition in the academic sector and part of civil society.
In the case of being converted into a mosque, tourists could continue visiting the building, but the authorities should decide how to reconcile Islamic prayer with Christian mosaics, when Islam prohibits having images in a temple.
More than 200 scholars of Byzantine and Ottoman art signed a petition this week to preserve Hagia Sophia as a museum, reiterating that the Turkish government should not be asking “if it is a museum or a mosque” but “how can we take care of the building”.
In the event that the request to convert the building into a mosque is accepted, the Turkish Government hopes to open the emblematic building for prayer on July 15.
The Turkish government already transformed the Byzantine church of Saint Sophia of Iznik, the former Nicaea, into mosque in 2011, which had been in ruins for centuries and had been restored as a museum in 1935.
In 2013 it was the turn of Santa Sofía de Trebisonda, a 13th-century church converted into a mosque.