Factbox: Praying at Hagia Sophia, Erdogan crowns long campaign to revitalise Islam in Turkey

Factbox: Praying at Hagia Sophia, Erdogan crowns long campaign to revitalise Islam in Turkey

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan attended the first prayers at Turkey’s Hagia Sophia on Friday since declaring the ancient monument a mosque, crowning his long campaign to place Islam at the heart of public life in the once fiercely secular republic. [nL5N2EV23T]

In 17 years in power, Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party have changed the face of modern Turkey, lifting a ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public, championing religious education and building thousands of mosques across the country.

While retaining Turkey’s secular constitution, forged by the republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Erdogan has transformed the country which Ataturk led nearly a century ago.


Turkey lifted a ban on women wearing the Islamic headscarf in state institutions in 2013, a generations-old restriction which supporters saw as an important symbol of the separation of state and religion.

“A regulation that has hurt many young people and has caused great suffering to their parents, a dark period, is coming to an end,” then-prime minister Erdogan said.


Erdogan, who said one of his goals was to forge a “pious generation” of Turks, has revived Imam Hatip schools, where religious education lessons account for around a quarter to a third of the curriculum.

Funding for the Imam Hatips has been expanded, with scores of new schools built and hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to them, a Reuters investigation found here.

The curriculum in regular schools has also changed. Three years ago the government announced that high schools would stop teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution, deeming it controversial and difficult to understand.


Turkey has built 13,000 mosques since Erdogan took power, according data from the Directorate of Religious Affairs, bringing the total to 89,259 last year. Lees meer