World

ISTANBUL – A Muezzin performed Azaan for the first time in 81 years in Hagia Sophia on Saturday, giving hope to Muslims around the world but also drawing criticism from Christian quarters who allege that the move is part of efforts to convert the now-historic cathedral, once the largest in the world, into a mosque once again.

The move came under fire from Athens, however, where Greece’s New Democracy opposition party called the prayers “provocative and incomprehensible.”

“The decision of Turkish authorities to schedule the Koran reading in Hagia Sophia for the next month has virtually transformed it into a mosque for the first time in 80 years.

In a joint statement the coordinator of Foreign Affairs and Defence of New Democracy, Dora Bakoyannis has said that it is a provocative and incomprehensible act and shows disrespect against Orthodox Christians across the world and is not in line with Turkey’s European course.”

While the Azaan has been played from Hagia Sophia’s minarets for the last four years, the Muezzin had chanted it from a prayer room, not from inside the historic landmark, which was turned into a church in 537.

The cathedral was changed into a mosque in 1453 when the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople. It was turned into a museum in 1935.

Hagia Sophia was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly ten centuries until the Seville Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral in Spain, was finished in 1520.

Earlier last month, Ankara allowed Hagia Sophia to be used for Islamic Ramadan prayers.