Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs President Ali Erbas was filmed holding an Ottoman sword while climbing up the staircase of the minbar [pulpit] in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, on Friday, during the first prayers held since its reconversion into a mosque.
The move was a nod to an Ottoman era custom, with Erbas telling local media afterwards that it was «a tradition in mosques that are the symbol of conquests.»
Earlier in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated in the prayer, reading from the Quran at one point.
On July 10, Turkey's Council of State ruled that the museum had to be turned back into a place of worship, overturning a 1934 decree.
UNESCO expressed concerns about the impact it may have on the universal value of the site, while the EU has called on Erdogan to reverse the decision.