Muslim leaders are expressing their support to keep the Hagia Sophia in Turkey open to people of all faiths.
Judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, the general secretary of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, a religious committee representing Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, contended that any decisions regarding the Hagia Sophia be not for creating divisions but rather as a place that encourages "mutual respect and understand among all religions."
"HCHF calls on everyone to avoid any step that could undermine interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural communication, and that could create tensions and hatred among the followers of different religions, confirming the humanity's need to prioritize the values of coexistence," Judge Abdel Salam wrote to Dr Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
Respectively, Dr Sauca urged the Turkish President Recep Erdogan to reconsider the decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque in a letter, "By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey's openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division."
Dr Sauca added that the conversion to a mosque will put religious tolerance at risk in a statement, "The decision to convert such an emblematic place as Hagia Sophia from a museum back to a mosque will inevitably create uncertainties, suspicions, and mistrust, undermining all our efforts to bring people of different faiths together at the table of dialogue and cooperation."
Director of the Muslim Foundation de I'Entre Connaissance in Geneva, Hafid Ouardiri, supported Dr Sauca's assertion by also writing to the World Council of Churches.
"As a Muslim, like many others around the world, we pray that Hagia Sofia, in Turkey we love with all our heart, remains what she has always been since 1934, namely a crossroads of knowledge, of light, wisdom and peace for all humanity,"
Hagia Sophia was initially built as a Christian Cathedral under Constantinople of the Roman Empire before it was claimed as a Roman Catholic Cathedral and then an Ottoman mosque in 1453 when the Ottomans conquered the city, Constantinople, which they renamed as Istanbul. Hagia Sophia endured as a mosque until it became a museum in 1935 under the decree of the founder of the Republic of Turkey and also secularist, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. On July 10, 2020, the Turkish court annulled a 1934 presidential decree that made it a museum and soon after, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ordered the Hagia Sophia to be converted back into a mosque and announced the opening of Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia on July 24 in a televised speech.