Eid prayers in Hagia Sophia after 87 years: Top imam gives sermon while holding sword

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Muslims performed Eid prayers, a special congregational prayer on the morning of Eid al-Fitr, at the Hagia Sophia mosque after an 87-year hiatus on Thursday as the head of the Diyanet, Turkey’s top religious authority, gave a sermon holding a sword, repeating a controversial move that drew the ire of secular Turks during the first prayers in July 2020.

Despite international outrage, Hagia Sophia, which served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of İstanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 -– nearly half a millennium -– was converted into a mosque from a museum in July 2020 after a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned it into a museum.

After the conversion, on July 24, 2020, the Friday service was conducted by Ali Erbaş, head of the Diyanet, who gave sermons holding a sword, symbolizing that the building was conquered by Muslims, referring to the conquest of İstanbul by the Ottomans in 1453.

Erbaş again appeared at the pulpit with a sword, giving a sermon denouncing “Israel’s aggression toward Aqsa mosque,” referring to the conduct of Israeli police during the violent clashes in the country.

For many observers, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque was an attempt to consolidate his power among Islamists.

The Turkish government has long been accused by its secular opponents of forcing Islamic values on the predominantly Muslim but strictly secular country.

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