The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to change the status of Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque, has fuelled a new debate over secularism in Turkey. However, he also assured on 10 July that Hagia Sophia would remain open to all visitors, including the non-Muslims.
He has received criticism over his step from all over the world. While many are calling it an attempt to erase the history, others see it as a signal to Turkey, being converted into an Islamic country. In India, many scholars even compared Erdogan with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A section of media also compared the Ayodhya case with Hagia Sophia. A well-known historian on Twitter called him an ‘Islamist’.
While we are debating over this decision of the Turkish President, it becomes vital to remember how the Turkish government has restored age-old churches in recent times and these are kept open for the visitors.
Dr Umair Anas, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University, Turkey wrote in his Facebook post, “I think it is only Turkey where almost all the major Christians churches are found, Orthodox, Syriac, Catholic, Arminian, Assyrian, Bulgarian, Greek, protestants and other denominations. Majority of ancient churches have been restored in recent years and open for visitors.”