Western countries plagued by Islamophobia have no right to protest Turkey's decision to revert Hagia Sophia to its historic status as a mosque, a leading Malaysian politician said Sunday.
"These countries remained silent while Israel was planning to demolish the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Now they are protesting Hagia Sophia functioning as a mosque," said Abdul Hadi Awang, Malaysia's special envoy to the Middle East and leader of the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).
Palestinians have long said Israeli excavation work around the flashpoint site points to their plans to demolish the mosque and rebuild the Third Temple there.
In a written statement, Hadi said Hagia Sophia served as the city's main mosque for nearly 500 years after the conquest of Istanbul.
Abdul Hadi said that other distinguished Istanbul mosques such as the Blue Mosque, Şehzade, Süleymaniye, and Rüstem Paşa mosques were also inspired by Hagia Sophia.
On July 10, a top Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree which turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, restoring its status as a mosque after an 85-year hiatus.
The architectural marvel in the heart of Istanbul was built as a church in the Byzantine era. It was converted into a mosque in 1453 after the Ottoman conquest of the city.