Shehbaz Defends Turkey Over Conversion Of Hagia Sophia Into Mosque

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif has defended the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his government's controversial decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

"Every country has its own laws and system of judiciary. Turkey is well within its rights to implement the court judgment to convert Hagia Sophia into a Mosque. In the Muslim world, Turkey is a great example of religious tolerance and champion of interfaith harmony & dialogue," the National Assembly opposition leader tweeted in Erdogan's support.

After a court ruling that declared a cabinet decision of conversion of the mosque into a museum in 1934, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the building a mosque and said the first prayers would be held there within two weeks.

Hagia Sophia, a major tourist attraction, has been the scene of Islam-linked activities in recent years. In 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited a verse from Qur'an at the building.

Erdogan, who said the first Muslim prayers in Hagia Sophia would begin on July 24, has insisted the building will be open to all, including non-Muslims.

The sixth-century Istanbul landmark’s museum status — in place since 1934 — was revoked on Friday and control was handed to the religious authority, Diyanet.

The decision sparked condemnation from Western governments, Russia and Christian leaders — Pope Francis saying he was very distressed. Hagia Sophia spent almost 1,000 years as a cathedral before being converted into a mosque in 1453 and later a museum.