Hagia Sophia Koran Readings Spark Greek, Turkish Spat

Tourists pack the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople

Greece and Turkey are trading shots over readings of the Koran in the ancient Haghia Sophia in Constantinople.

Turkey, accused of repressing Christianity, is allowing the readings and Muslim prayer in the venerable Greek Orthodox Church that was seized by the Ottomans in 1453 and is now a museum attracting tourists from around the world.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry had blistered Turkey for the decision, calling it “regressive” and showing a “lack of respect.”

It added: “Obsessions, verging on bigotry, with Muslim rituals in a monument of world cultural heritage are incomprehensible and reveal a lack of respect for and connection with reality,” the statement said, noting that “such actions are not compatible with modern, democratic and secular societies.”

Turkey responded by telling the Greek government to butt out and said Greece has not respected Muslims living there and had suppressed their rights.

“Greece has not given permission for the construction of a mosque in its capital for years, permanently intervenes in the freedoms of religion of the Turkish minority of Western Thrace and mistakes being against Islam for being modern,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. “We invite Greece to use common sense in its rhetoric and statements,” the statement added.

A Greek Foreign Ministry source told Kathimerini that Turkey’s claims were “groundless,” adding that, “If Turkey has not yet realized or is not making an effort to respect its commitments to protect monuments of global cultural heritage then it has not entered the 21st Century”.