• Short Summary

    The Church of St. Sophia, one of the historic architectural masterpieces of Istanbul, is the?

  • Description

    GV Church of St. Sophia (3 shots)

    CU St. Sophia signed structure of building (4 shots)

    GV PAN FROM Gates along wall

    GV PAN FROM Minaret TO tourists visiting St. Sophia (3 shots)

    GV & SV Tourists and traffic outside St. Sophia (6 shots)

    Mr. Aksoy is a member of the pro-Islamic National Salvation Party which has organised several demonstrations outside St. Sophia in support of the campaign for the church to be turned back into a mosque. Those leading the campaign see the demonstrations as a symbolic act, confirming the Moslem and Turkish possession of what was for almost four centuries a Moslem house of worship. In the words of the Director of the Department of Religious Affairs in Istanbul, Mr. Rifat Tandogan, "St. Sophia can be used as a mosque and a museum at the same time". The arguments are refuted by man Turks. They regard it as part of a wider movement for the return to the Arabic script and the revival of the Sultanate.

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    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: The Church of St. Sophia, one of the historic architectural masterpieces of Istanbul, is the centre of a heated controversy over a campaign to transform it into a mosque.

    SYNOPSIS: Right-wing politicians, student organisations and some newspapers are behind the campaign. The issue has divided the four party coalition government of Mr. Suleyman Demirel, and has provoked angry reaction form progressive circles. They see it as another attempt by Pro-Islamic groups to restore official religious order in Turkey.

    St. Sophia, a sixth century basilica built by the Emperor Justinian, was converted into a mosque when the Turks conquered Istanbul -- then called Constantinople -- in 1453. It remained a mosque -- surrounded by minarets which were added later -- for nearly four centuries. In 1935, the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, declared it a museum,. The impressive edifice has not been used for religious services since then and it has become a major attraction for visitors form all over the world.

    The campaign to turn the church back into a mosque was launched in May on the eve of the Islamic foreign ministers' conference in Istanbul. Minister of State, Mr. Hasan Aksoy, has formally asked the Hassan Aksoy, has formally asked the Prime Minister to decree the return of St. Sophia to the Moslem faith. meanwhile, the Turkish President, Admiral Fahri Koruturk, has stressed that religion cannot be the basis of modern Turkey.

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