The first Muslim prayer moment will be held on July 24 in Hagia Sophia, which will be transformed from a museum into a mosque in Istanbul, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoga on Friday night.
Earlier on Friday, Erdogan signed an act to transform Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque, the BBC reported. Prior to this, the court had revoked the Byzantine-era museum status of Hagia Sophia, thus opening the possibility of converting the building into a mosque.
- Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia are open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Erdogan said.
The news of Hagia transforming Sofia into a mosque has sparked criticism around the world. Greece considers the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque to be "a provocation to the entire civilized world."
"The nationalism shown by President Erdogan will take his country back 600 years," Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, warned last month that turning Hagia Sophia back into a mosque would turn millions of Christians around the world against Islam.
The United States has also warned Hagia about changing the status of Sofia, as have the Russian authorities and the Russian Orthodox Church.
- The concerns of millions of Christians were not listened to, Vladimir Legoida, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, told the Interfax news agency after the Turkish court ruling.
Atatürk changed the status of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was built as a church in the 5th century and converted into a mosque in the 15th century. The father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, adopted the museum status of Hagia Sophia in 1934. Since then, the building has been a symbol of secularism and open to all religions.
Erdogan has previously spoken out in favor of turning Hagia into a mosque in Sofia. The country’s Islamists have also long called for the building to be turned into a mosque. Instead, secularized oppositionists have opposed it.
Hagia Sofia is on the UNESCO World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.