The chief imam of the Hagia Sophia, which was converted into a mosque from a museum last summer, has said the principle of secularism should be eliminated in a new constitution to be drafted by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and that Islam should be set as the religion of Turkey.
The controversial remarks were made by Professor Mehmet Boynukalın on Twitter on Wednesday.
“In the constitution of 1921 and 1924, the religion of the state was Islam and there was no [reference to] secularism. Let the republic return to its factory settings. May Islam be in the [new] Constitution,” tweeted Boynukalın.
Turkey’s current constitution, drafted in the aftermath of a military coup in 1980, asserts that Turkey is supposed to be a secular and democratic republic, deriving its sovereignty from the people. Secularism is among the first three articles of the constitution, defined as the founding principles of the republic. The fourth article of the constitution declares the immovability the founding principles of the republic defined in the first three articles.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently announced that he wants to press ahead with the drafting of a new constitution for Turkey to replace the coup-era charter.
Erdoğan’s AKP, which has roots in political Islam, has faced accusations from the country’s secular population about its plans to do away with secularism.
Despite international outrage, Erdoğan realized a long dream of his in July, opening Hagia Sophia to Muslim prayer.
Hagia Sophia served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of İstanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 – nearly half a millennium.
On July 10, 2020 a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after an 86-year hiatus.