Turkish president Erdogan recites Islamic prayer at Hagia Sophia despite historic link to secularism
12:30, Wednesday, 04 April, 2018
Turkey’s president has recited an Islamic prayer in the Hagia Sophia, a historic Istanbul landmark that has become a symbol of interfaith and diplomatic tensions.
Speaking for an art festival opening Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited the Quran’s first verse, dedicating the prayer to the “souls of all who left us this work as inheritance, especially Istanbul’s conqueror”.
Turkey’s secular founder made the structure a museum in 1935, but there have been discussions by Mr Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning government about converting it back into a mosque.
Thousands of Muslim Turks have prayed outside the Hagia Sophia over the years to demand that it be restored as a place of worship.
In 2015, a cleric recited from the Quran inside the building, a Unesco World Heritage site, for the first time in 85 years.
The following year, Turkey’s religious authority began hosting and broadcasting religious readings during the holy month of Ramadan and the call to prayer was recited to mark the first revelation of the Quran to Prophet Mohammed.