Turkish Court Rules Iconic Monument Hagia Sophia Can Be Restored to a Mosque Again


Hagia Sophia will become an Islamic place of worship once again.

On Friday, a Turkish court ruled that the iconic religious monument can be restored as a mosque after nearly nine decades of it functioning as a museum, according to Reuters.

The restoration proposal, made by Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, directly conflicted with those who wanted to preserve the nation's modern secular roots established under their first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The United States, Greece and church leaders also raised concerns about the move since Hagia Sophia currently serves as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the outlet reports.

In the ruling, the Council of State, Turkey’s top administrative court, claimed that the 1934 government decree — which officially turned the then-Istanbul mosque into a museum — was unlawful and illegal.

"It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally," the Council of State said, according to Reuters. "The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws."

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Originally built in the sixth century as a cathedral, Hagia Sophia has long been the center of a battle between Christians and the Muslims, according to The New York Times.

The monument was changed into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453, but was later turned into a museum by Atatürk. Today, Hagia Sophia annually attracts millions of tourists at the museum and is considered one of Turkey's most-visited monuments, NBC News reported.

With Friday's ruling, many people in Turkey said they were happy about the change and the move towards a more religious nation.

"With Erdogan, Turkey will be a more powerful country in the near future," Ozlem Kaya, a 52-year-old housewife from Istanbul, told NBC News. "There is no need to be secular anymore."

But others, like Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Parliament member Tuma Celik, found the decision troubling, according to the outlet.

“As [a] museum, Hagia Sophia can function as place and symbol of encounter, dialogue and peaceful coexistence of peoples and cultures, mutual understanding and solidarity between Christianity and Islam,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, an Istanbul-based leader of approximately 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Celik, a 56-year-old Syriac Christian, also agreed with those sentiments, telling NBC News, "This court decision has made what we all know and experience in reality very clear, that today’s Turkey is not secular."

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