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Egypt religious authority says Ottomans ‘occupied’ Istanbul

June 8, 2020 at 2:05 pm

A general view of Hagia Sophia Museum and its surroundings remain empty due to the measures against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Istanbul, Turkey on 3 May 2020. [Mehmet Eser – Anadolu Agency]

Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa yesterday attacked Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s plan to change Hagia Sophia’s title from a museum to a mosque, describing the Muslims’ conquest of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) as “the Ottoman occupation”.

In a statement attributed to the Global Fatwa Index (GFI), run by Dar Al-Iftaa, Erdogan was accused of exploiting religious discourse and utilising fatwas as weapons to achieve illegal political gains inside and outside the homeland.

The GFI said: ”The issue of converting the Hagia Sophia to a mosque was raised decades ago, but it remained a tool and a propaganda weapon in the hands of various politicians in their campaigns to attract voters, especially the religious ones.

Hagia Sophia was built as a church during the Byzantine period in 537 AD, and it remained for 916 years until the Ottomans occupied Istanbul in 1453, turning the building into a mosque.

In 1934, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum by a decree issued by the modern Turkish Republic.

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”Last week, Erdogan criticised Greece’s objection on the reading of passages from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in the Hagia Sophia as part of celebrations to commemorate the day of the conquest of Istanbul.”Not a single mosque of ours still stands in Athens. They were all razed to the ground. But we did not resort to such ways in a city,” said Erdogan.

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education made a series of modifications to its history textbooks altering the legacy of the Ottoman Empire and its former rule over parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

While the former curriculum taught the topic referencing the Ottoman Caliphate, the new curriculum will now cover the Empire’s “occupation”, crimes and subsequent collapse to pupils in the lower years of high school.

Both Egypt and Saudi have been battling against Turkey in Libya and Syria and against Ankara’s influence over Islamic sites in Jerusalem.