News World Europe Hagia Sophia reopens for Muslim prayers

Hagia Sophia reopens for Muslim prayers

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Muslim prayers will echo from Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia for the first time in nearly a century on Friday (local time).

The prayer session will be the first since the 1500-year-old building was reconverted from a museum into a mosque by decree of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr Erdogan and his Islamic-conservative allies will attend the prayers at the monument, which was built by Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 537 as the largest church in Christendom.

It was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul, in 1453 by Mehmet II, known as the Conqueror.

Its status was changed to a museum through a 1934 decree signed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic.

On July 10, the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, nullified the decree signed by Ataturk.

Hours later, Mr Erdogan signed the order converting Hagia Sophia into a Muslim house of worship. The “dream from his youth”, had come true, he said.

The decision has been condemned internationally and dismayed Turks who view Hagia Sophia as emblematic of their secular constitution.

The UNESCO World Heritage site is a cultural landmark for both Christians and Muslims. It is one of Turkey’s most-popular tourist attractions, with 3.7 million visitors in 2019.

Mr Erdogan pledged to keep it open to tourists and those of all faiths.

-with AAP