For eight decades, the iconic Hagia Sofia museum in Istanbul has stood as a symbol of Turkey's commitment to a secular society. Now that tradition is under siege by growing calls to convert the historic structure back into a practicing mosque, the USA Today website reports today (February 25, 2017).
The 1,500-year-old structure originally was built as a Greek Orthodox Christian Cathedral. It was turned into a mosque in the 15th century after the Ottoman Turks defeated the Greek emperor in Constantinople and renamed the city Istanbul.
In the 1930s, the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, turned it into a museum in his drive to create a secular republic on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
Now that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- who favors a theocratic society -- is promoting a more prominent role for Islam in Turkey, whose citizens are overwhelmingly Muslim, the idea of turning the popular tourist attraction into a house of worship again has become more appealing.