Turkish Religious Leader Calls for Friday Islamic Prayer in Hagia Sophia

Hasan Türüt, the leader of the Islamic organization Diyanet Bir-Sen (Religious and Foundation Employees’ Union), asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to allow prayer inside Hagia Sophia the first Friday after regulators lift the ban caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turkey currently has partial restrictions, with people under 20 and over 65 staying at home, small businesses and parks closed, and reduced operating hours for banks. But construction sites and factories are working at full capacity, and citizens can move freely provided they respect social distancing rules.

Occasional 48-hour curfews over the weekend have happened twice in April, and they were met with discontent by the population.

To date, Turkey is among the top ten countries in the world when it comes to coronavirus cases, with 126,045 reported infections and some 3,397 fatalities. When regulators ease the restrictions in place, Hasan Türüt hopes to hold the first Friday prayer inside Hagia Sophia, which is a museum. Still, President Erdoğan still has plans to convert it back to a mosque.

“A short time ago, they converted the Hagia Sophia from a mosque to a museum. Inshallah, after the election, we will convert it from a museum back into a mosque,” the President vowed in May of 2019.

“Hagia Sophia is the means to bring about the resurrection of the world. We must all show together – with the first prayer in Hagia Sophia – that Turkey is not the old Turkey,” said Hasan Türüt in justifying his call for prayer inside the iconic building.

According to Türüt, prayer inside Hagia Sophia would appease the evil caused by the use of a mosque for “other purposes than it was originally intended.”