Nationalist group prays at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia amid Jerusalem tension

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(Photo: T24)

Amid tension due to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Dec. 6, members of the Alperen Ocakları, an offshoot of Turkish nationalist movement the Grey Wolves (Ülkü Ocakları), on Sunday prayed at Hagia Sophia in İstanbul, T24 reported.

According to the report the nationalist group recited the adhan and prayed together while tourists were visiting Hagia Sophia. The members of the group were released after being taken to the police station.

The prayer came three days after ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Şamil Tayyar proposed the reconversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, in retaliation against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“If you say that, let Hagia Sophia be opened to prayers. We should start holding Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia,” Tayyar tweeted on Dec. 6.

Built in 537 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian, whose rule stretched from Spain to the Middle East, Hagia Sophia — meaning “Divine Wisdom” in Greek — was unrivaled in the Christian world until Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered the city in 1453 and turned it into a mosque. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, decreed it a museum in 1934.

In June Greece criticized an Islamic religious ceremony held at Hagia Sophia that was broadcast on television and attended by government officials.

On May 13 a large group of people from the pro-government Anatolia Youth Association (AGD) and National Youth Organization (MGV) gathered in front of Hagia Sophia for morning prayer and demanded that the museum be turned into a mosque again.

On May 20 the Sözcü daily claimed the Hagia Sophia museum would be converted into a mosque and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and officials from the AKP would perform Friday prayers there.

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