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Is new imam answered prayer or impending doom for Hagia Sophia?

While many Turks applaud the appointment of an imam inside the Hagia Sophia, others worry President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is claiming the national and historical treasure to build his case for an imperial presidency.
Local and foreign visitors, with the Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia in the background, stroll at Sultanahmet square in Istanbul August 23, 2013. The number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey grew at its slowest pace for eight months in July, as the impact of anti-government protests and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan took their toll, data showed on Friday. Foreign arrivals rose 0.48 percent year-on-year last month to 4.59 million people, according to the Tourism Ministry figures, the lowest

Onder Soy, the new imam of the Hunkar Kasri, part of the Hagia Sophia complex, recently led the first Friday prayers there in 80 years, sparking enormous joy and excitement among many Muslims. It also spawned concern among people who worry about potential loss of tourism revenue and frustration among those who fear this could be the first step toward completely converting the site into a mosque.

The situation is complicated.

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