Protestors perform prayer in Hagia Sophia after ballerina in museum causes outrage

A group of Muslim men performed prayer at İstanbul’s historic Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) Museum on Sunday, in an apparent act of protest against an image of a ballerina doing the splits in the almost 1500-year-old structure, independent news site T24 reported.

The video of five men performing an Islamic prayer in the Hagia Sophia, which created a buzz on social media, shows security guards helping the group there to protest the image posted on Instagram by Turkish businesswoman Leyla Alaton.

The Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has served as the centre of the Greek Orthodox church for more than 900 years before it was converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. The structure was turned into a museum in 1935; however, Islamists in Turkey frequently campaign for it to be turned into a mosque again. 

The museum’s administration on Sunday announced it launched an investigation after Alaton’s photo received backlash by nationalist and Islamist circles and media.

Alaton has since removed the image and issued an apology statement, noting she never thought the image could be perceived as a ‘’threat’’ to any traditional values.