Turkey rejects Greek criticism of Hagia Sophia prayers
The Turkish Foreign Ministry reacted harshly statement critical of Greek Foreign Ministry on a Quran recital and call to prayer held at the Ayasofya.
Turkey on Friday condemned a Greek Foreign Ministry statement critical of a Quran recital and call to prayer held at the Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) in Istanbul earlier this week.
"The Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Greece, instead of extending its congratulations to the Turkish people on the holy month of Ramadan and the 'Night of Power' (Kadir Gecesi), opted for distorting the recital of Quran and call for prayer in Hagia Sophia," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
Kadir Gecesi, also known as Laylat ul-Qadr, is one of the most important dates in the Muslim religious calendar. It marks the night when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed in 610 AD.
"The record of Greece in the field of freedom of religion, which is among the fundamental human rights, is well-known," it added.
Hagia Sophia served as a Christian church until it was converted into a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453. It was turned into a museum in 1935 upon the orders of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Republic of Turkey.
A Greek statement on Thursday read: "Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO world heritage site. The attempt to convert it into a mosque -- through reading of the Koran [sic], holding of prayers, and a number of other actions -- is an affront to the international community, which needs to be duly mobilized and to react."
However, Ankara rejected the criticism, accusing Athens of failing to uphold the rights of its Muslim minority.
It said elected imams from the Turkish Muslim community had faced lawsuits. It also said the Greek authorities had rejected requests for Muslims in the northern city of Thessaloniki to use a historic mosque for Ramadan prayers.
"Therefore, one can question what Greece, which still does not have a mosque open for worshipping in its capital either, understands from the interfaith dialogue that it has referred to in [Thursday's] statement," the ministry added.