ANKARA (AA) – A spokesman for Turkey's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday described recent criticism by Greece of Quran recitals in Istanbul’s Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) as “unacceptable”.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Tanju Bilgic invited Greece to show “good sense”, accusing the neighboring country of forbidding the construction of a mosque in its own capital and of interfering in the religious freedoms of the West Thrace Turkish minority.
His remarks come two days after the Greek Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded statement saying Athens condemned readings from the Quran being performed in the former Christian cathedral over Ramadan.
Monday’s statement from the Greek ministry described the practice as "verging on bigotry".
The statement read: "Obsessions, verging on bigotry, with Muslim rituals in a monument of world cultural heritage are incomprehensible and reveal a lack of respect for and connection with reality. Moreover, such actions are not compatible with modern, democratic and secular societies."
However, Bilgic said: "We also want to remember that there is respect for other religions and prayers among the values of contemporary, democratic and secular societies."
Hagia Sophia served as a Christian church until the Ottoman Empire converted it into a mosque when they conquered the city 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.