Muslim leaders sit out on Hagia Sophia reopening - Orthodox Times

No leaders of Muslim countries, including Turkey’s close allies Azerbaijan and Qatar, attended the ceremony for the reopening of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia on Friday, the Orthdox Times said on Saturday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Recep Tayyip Erdoğan found himself flanked only by his ruling Justice and Development Party ministers and junior coalition partner, Devlet Bahçeli, on the long-awaited day the structure once again became a mosque, it said.

On July 10, Turkey’s top administrative court annulled a 1934 decree that turned the sixth-century Byzantine monument Hagia Sophia into a museum. Within hours, Erdoğan issued a decree to re-convert the site into a mosque and the first Friday prayers were held there on July 24.

The move - a long time demand of Turkey’s Islamists - to convert the former seat of the Orthodox Christian Church, has been met with international condemnation, with critics accusing Erdoğan of using the UNESCO World Heritage Site as a political tool. 

Turkey had announced that everyone was invited to the ceremony, including the Pope, the Orthodox Times recalled, pointing out that the latter demonstrates the historic ignorance of the Turkish president, who falsely held hope that the Pope would attend such an occasion.

Erdoğan failed to gather the large crowd or statesmen he was hoping for, it said, with 350,000 showing up for Friday’s prayers.