A full-time imam will be appointed to Turkey’s Hagia Sophia, according to Turkish news sources.
The appointment is likely to be controversial, especially with the Greek government and those who fear Turkey is becoming “Islamised”. In July, the Greek foreign minister called the reintroduction of Koran readings in Hagia Sophia, for the first time since 1935, “regressive”. In response, the Turkish Foreign Ministry described Greek criticisms as “unacceptable”.
Hagia Sophia symbolises Turkey’s fraught religious history. For nearly a thousand years after its construction in 537, it was the world’s largest cathedral.
In 1453, after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire, it became a mosque. In 1935, as Turkey embarked on a secularisation programme, it was turned into a museum.
The building’s increasingly Islamic identity comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan implements policies which critics have described as Islamisation.
Erdoğan says he is committed to secularism, but his administration has lifted a ban on headscarves and attempted to restrict alcohol sales.
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