Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his counsellors have been recently propagandising the Islamic prayer that would officially mark the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Extensive preparations have been made for the first prayer, while leaders of Muslim states were also invited to the ceremony. Finally, the first prayer took actually place on the 24th of July but things did not go exactly as Erdoğan had planned; The people gathered outside Hagia Sophia did not even reach 350,000, as the “Sultan” claimed, while neither leaders of Muslim states nor the leaders of Azerbaijan and Qatar, which are close allies of the Turkish president, attended the ceremony.
In essence, by converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque, which is seen as a symbol of conquest, Erdoğan theoretically claims the leadership of Sunni Islam. He seems to be setting ambitious targets, especially, if one considers the absolute rejection of Saudi Arabia, Deutsche Welle estimates. Erdogan found himself in Hagia Sophia with only his ministers and his ally, Devlet Bahçeli, by his side, whose popularity was waning and his party base was moving towards another nationalist party leader, Meral Akşener.
Arab News about Erdoğan: Historic ignorance
Hussain Abdul-Hussain deems Erdoğan’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque as “incomprehensible” in an opinion article on the Arabic-language network Arab News.: “The Turkish president ignored the global calls, like that of Unesco, not to proceed with the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.”
“In any case, Erdoğan decision to invite Pope Francis to the conversion ceremony shows the historic ignorance of the Turkish president, who also ignores the delicate situation he created by assuming his role as a demagogue. Erdoğan was not only hoping that the Pope would attend an event, where he was presented as the Sultan and the Conqueror at one of the most famous churches in the world but also that he would attend an event, where Christian symbols are covered so as Muslims to be able to pray.”