Hagia Sophia imam calls for laïcité to be removed from Turkish constitution

The head imam of the newly converted Hagia Sophia mosque has called for French-inspired laïcité,a less libertarian form of the concept of secularism, to be removed from Turkey’s constitution.

The Turkish constitution should reference Islam, Professor Mehmet Boynukalın said on Twitter, noting that the constitutions of 1921and 1924 mentioned Islam as the religion of the state and no reference was made to laicite, which has been present in the second article of the Turkish constitution since February 5, 1937.

Boynukalın’s remarks arrive as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signalled a change to a new, “civilian” constitution. Erdoğan made the surprise comments earlier this month, when he pointed out the country's last two constitutions, enacted in 1961 and 1982, were drafted following military coups.

The Republic of Turkey should return to its “factory settings,’’ Boynukalın said.

Boynukalın, a professor of Islamic Law at Istanbul’s Marmara University, was appointed head imam of Hagia Sophia in July, shortly after the sixth century UNESCO-listed site which was initially an Orthodox Christian cathedral, was converted into a mosque.

Erdoğan issued a decree restoring the building as a mosque this month after a Turkish high court ruled that the Hagia Sophia had been illegally made into a museum over eight decades ago. The move was met with international dismay.