A Turkish decision to reconvert Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia into a mosque after serving decades as a museum has won praise in the Arab world.
“We congratulate Turkey and ourselves for converting Hagia Sophia back to a mosque because it belongs to all Muslims,” Ekrema Sabri, the preacher of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, said in a statement.
The Grand Mufti of Oman, Ahmed bin Hamad al-Khalili, offered his congratulations to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Muslims worldwide for reopening Hagia Sophia as a mosque.
“We congratulate ourselves, the entire Muslim nation, and particularly the Turkish nation headed by its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for converting Hagia Sophia back to a house of worship where Allah authorized his name to be raised and mentioned,” he said on Twitter.
The Muslim Brotherhood group described the Turkish decision on Hagia Sophia as a “historic step”.
This step "confirms the sovereignty of the Turkish people over their land and the exercise of their rights,” spokesman Talaat Fahmy said in a statement.
He said the Turkish court decision to reconvert Hagia Sophia to a mosque “restores the right to its owners”.
The Arab Maghreb Union also described the reopening of the Hagia Sophia mosque to worshippers as a "great historic event".
“We extend our heartfelt congratulations to the Islamic nation as a whole and particularly to the Turkish people, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the occasion of the reopening of the Hagia Sophia mosque to prayer,” the union said in a statement.
On Friday, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 cabinet decree that had turned the Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after 85 years.
The court ruled that the architectural gem was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Istanbul, and presented to the community as a mosque -- a status that cannot be legally changed.
The Hagia Sophia was used as a church for centuries under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. It was turned into a mosque following the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. But in 1935, a cabinet decision had converted Hagia Sophia into a museum.
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*Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara