Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdogan, has stated Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia should be re-titled as a mosque instead of a museum.
Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the foremost cathedral in Christendom for 900 years before becoming one of Islam’s greatest mosques for 500 years until 1935, when it was converted to a museum.
President Erdogan has brought up the issue of Hagia Sophia before. He does not say whether the status of the landmark site will also change.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has condemned Erdogan’s comments.
“Hagia Sophia bears profound historical and spiritual significance to Muslims and Christians alike, and its status as a museum must be maintained,” USCIRF Chair says in a statement.
The Turkish strongman has provoked strong nationalist and Islamic sentiments during his time in power celebrating in particular the achievements of the country’s Ottoman past.