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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Turkey reopens historic Kariye Mosque

The mosque, originally a Byzantine church, then a mosque, and later a museum, has undergone significant transformations.

Turkey has once again stirred controversy with the reopening of the historic Kariye Mosque in Istanbul for Muslim worship. The mosque, originally a Byzantine church, then a mosque, and later a museum, has undergone significant transformations over the centuries. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s order to reconvert it into a mosque in 2020 echoes similar controversial decisions regarding other iconic sites in Istanbul, including the UNESCO-protected Hagia Sophia.

Erdogan’s Controversial Decision

President Erdogan’s decision to reconvert the Kariye Mosque aligns with his efforts to rally support from conservative and nationalist factions within Turkey. However, these actions have heightened tensions with religious authorities, both Orthodox and Catholic, and sparked international criticism, particularly from neighboring Greece.

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Symbolism and Heritage

The Kariye Mosque’s complex history reflects the rich tapestry of cultural and religious influences in Istanbul. Originally built as a Byzantine church, adorned with intricate mosaics and frescoes, it later became a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. After World War II, Turkey’s pursuit of secularism led to its transformation into a museum, showcasing its historical and artistic significance.

Reconversion and Restoration

Erdogan’s decision to revert the Kariye Mosque to a place of Muslim worship has reignited debates over cultural heritage and religious identity. While the conversion has drawn criticism, visitors like Michel, a French tourist, have praised the restoration efforts, emphasizing accessibility to the site’s artistic treasures.

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Greece, already at odds with Turkey over regional disputes, condemned the reversion of the Kariye Mosque, viewing it as a provocation and a threat to UNESCO world heritage. The controversy surrounding the Kariye Mosque mirrors previous tensions sparked by the reconversion of the Hagia Sophia, highlighting broader geopolitical and religious sensitivities.