Motion to transform Hagia Sophia into a mosque: Conquest of Constantinople a national holiday

Full title: Motion to transform Hagia Sophia into a mosque: Conquest of Constantinople a national holiday and the rise of Erdogan

From Asia News:

A little-known independent deputy from the Burdur district, Hami Yildirim, has filed a motion in the Turkish parliament to transform the Istanbul Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia is known to all as an architectural masterpiece, a symbol of united Christendom, built by Emperor Justinian in 537 AD.

The news was broken by Haber Turk and so far has not been denied. On the contrary, there are other worrying signs: a few days ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his desire to celebrate an Islamic function in Santa Sofia on 29 May, the day that commemorates the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet II.

The motion of the unknown Yildirim will have to go through a series of stages: approval in parliament, where Erdogan’s party, the AKP, holds the majority (325 seats out of 550); publication in the Official Gazette; entry into force following the ratification of the Premier.
Also see coverage from various Turkish sources (you can use Google translate to get the gist of the items): Haber Turk, Sabah, Milliyet.

Those Muslims are a great bunch

Sometimes it seems as if Turkey is becoming less secularized. THey would deny this and I hope that they are accurate.

Attaturk did a lot of great things for Turkey and he was committed to a secular government.

I am not sure what the point is here. It was turned into a mosque when Mehmet invaded the place. It only became a museum when it was deemed structurally unsounded to still serve as an active mosque.

Well, yes, but what is the chance that it will be approved? Here in the US, bills are often introduced in Congress which have zero chance of passage.

Here are some of the more unusual bills introduced this congressional session:

Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act: Would establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park on the moon.

Department of Peacebuilding Act: Would establish a Cabinet-level federal department, headed by the secretary of Peacebuilding, dedicated to reducing violence domestically and internationally.

SPA Act: Would prohibit the operation of the House gym during a government shutdown. The Shutdown Prioritization Act was introduced during the 16-day federal government shutdown in October.

Turkey is definitely becoming less secularized as shown by the success of the Justice and Development party.

I would, however, caution you from making Kemal into some sort of paragon. His government was repressive and autocratic, and I doubt you would approve of his hostility towards religion if it were directed towards Christianity. How would you feel if you weren’t allowed to wear a crucifix in public, or if priests weren’t allowed to wear their collar? Kemal took secularism too far. While he Islamism may be down for the moment in Turkey, the repression of Islamism will only help strengthen the movement in the future.

As for the conquest of Constantinople being a national holiday… well why wouldn’t it be? Constantinople, and the attached Dardenelle straits, were of an immense importance to the Ottoman Empire. Most of the elite of Ottoman society were stayed around the Anatolia region because Istanbul became the capital city.

I’d imagine the answer would be internal Turkish politics.

That’s the point. The building has visible cracks on the inside and it is in an earthquake area. It is now a museum do to that and my understanding is that it is only used as a mosque on certain holy days. Maybe that understanding is wrong but it does seem like with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and a push for the return of a caliphate in Turkey that may be fueling this. It seems to show more stupidity to desire to reopen it as an active mosque considering the age of the building and its structural unsoundness. Most of the Christian symbols and art have long been removed and desecrated.

We’d need more information about internal Turkish politics and society prior to making such a conclusion. One could argue that there is a threat of the US turning into a Christian fundamentalist state and society based off of a brief look at the increase in popularity and political power of the “religious right” over the last several decades.

I pray this does not happen and I heard about the wishes to convert the museum back to a mosque several months ago.

I do not know how many christians are in turkey today but at least as a museum christianity can still be seen.

Indeed, a few years ago there was a member of Congress who was advancing a proposal to return the Hagia Sophia to the Greek Orthodox Church. I don’t know that he introduced a bill, but he was advancing the proposal.

While thinking of the Hagia Sophia returning to Christian use is an appealing thought, I doubt that proposal had the support of the local Orthodox, given the controversy it would have raised in the region.

If there are any signs of Christianity left in/on the Hagia Sophia I would think having it be a place where people go to focus on God (a mosque) would make it a better tool of conversion/knowledge of Christianity than as a place where people go to focus on pretty things (a museum).

A member of the US Congress or the Turkish Congress?

How can you not walk into the haggia sophia and not focus on God?The architecture has not changed. It is still a combination of its original purpose and the changes made when it was used as a mosque.
As a museum you are honoring both faiths that have used the haggia sophia as a place of worship.

Sorry. U.S. Congress.

I don’t think he introduced a bill, and if he did, it didn’t go anywhere. He was speaking for a time on the concept.

Well that was rather arrogant of him.

I thought it was turned into a museum due to instability of the building and being in an earthquake area. A museum can also honor it’s Christian past which was desecrated by Mehmet. An active mosque won’t do that. Christians are not given permission in Islamic societies to build or rebuild their Churches and once one has been converted to a mosque
then there is no going back.


This is not true. Although Hagia Sophia does require further restoration (and the complete restoration and stabilization of the dome was recently completed), this had nothing to do with why it became a museum. Ataturk turned it into a museum so that it would not become a religious flashpoint for the country during his secularization campaign. He knew that it would be very difficult to satisfy the Orthodox on one side, who had controlled the building for 900 years, and the Muslims, who had controlled the building for almost 500 more. Both had legitimate claims to the structure that would not yield, and in order to avoid the building facing the problems of ownership that the city of Jerusalem faces, for example, it was simply secularized and turned into a museum. Worship of any kind is prohibited in the building in order to keep the peace, save for one small corner room where museum workers and restorers can go to pray, Christian and Muslim alike.

Ataturk was wise to turn it into a museum and I hope it will remain a museum as part of turkey’s historical culture.