Hagia Sophia imam green lights funeral service denial for opposition journalists

The head imam of Istanbul Hagia Sophia Mosque has expressed support for the call by an Islamist academic on the country’s top religious body to refuse Islamic funeral rituals for two left-leaning journalists.

Journalist Yılmaz Özdil and Cüneyt Akman have both made clear “their disbelief, by mocking Allah, his verses and prophets,’’ Mehmet Boynukalın, a professor of Islamic law at Istanbul’s Marmara University appointed as chief imam of the newly-converted mosque, said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Professor Ebubekir Sifil was right,’’ he added, referring to a controversial call by Sifil earlier this month, urging the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate and its clerics to refuse the Islamic burial ritual in the eveent of Özdil and Akman’s death.

Özdil is a popular columnist with opposition Sözcü newspaper while Akman hosts a weekly programme on opposition Tele1 TV.

“If they die, their bodies should not be brought into our mosques and funeral prayers should not be offered,” Sifil, a professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Yalova University and Qur’anic expert said.  Özdil has since failed a criminal complaint against Sifil.

Boynukalın was appointed chief imam of the Hagia Sophia in July, after the controversial reconversion of the 6th century UNESCO World Heritage Site into a mosque, in a move that sparked criticism around the world.