Hagia Sophia's chief imam resigns amid warnings from gov't officials

Hagia Sophia's chief imam Prof. Mehmet Boynukalın resigned from his post on April 8, a little over eight months after he was assigned to his post. The site's conversion into a mosque in July 2020 prompted outrage both domestically and internationally, as the ancient Byzantine structure is considered a part of the world's cultural heritage.

Duvar English

Prof. Mehmet Boynukalın, the chief imam of Hagia Sophia, resigned from his post on April 8, less than nine months after he was assigned to his post. 

The imam said in a tweet that he was resigning to prevent "deliriums like 'the imam of Hagia Sophia is talking about it, why shouldn't we?,'" he said, possibly referring to comments made by main opposition member Muharrem İnce.

Former presidential candidate from main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Muharrem İnce said in a tweet on April 4 that it was perfectly normal for retired military admirals to comment on the Montreux Convention, defying the government's stance on the issue.

"Is the imam of Hagia Sophia supposed to comment on that as well?" İnce had said.

Boynukalın will return to teaching theology at Marmara University, as he had been before his appointment as the chief imam of Hagia Sophia, he noted in his statement. 

Istanbul's Hagia Sophia was opened for Muslim worship in July 2020 amid domestic and international outrage, as the ancient structure is considered part of the world's collective cultural heritage. 

The imam was at the heart of controversy recently in Turkey, after he made a public statement saying "the man is the head of the family."

Boynukalın had also said that "combatting fans of interest rates is an order of God" and that the founding principle of secularism should be removed from the constitution of the Turkish Republic. 

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Group Deputy Chair Bülent Turan had warned the imam following his comments about interest rates, and said that his involvement in numerous scandalous public debates was "upsetting everyone who paid a price for the conversion of Hagia Sophia."

Possibly the most controversial conflict employed by the former imam was a brawl with AKP deputy Özlem Zengin. 

Boynukalın had chimed in on a debate about the plague of femicides in the country, saying that "there is no gender to murder" and that "the emphasis on the murder of women is a rhetoric targeted at pitting women against men."

Zengin had responded to the imam by saying that the "weight on politics is heavy enough" and that "everyone should do their own job."