The day France forcibly turned the Ketchaoua mosque into a cathedral (Algeria)

Turkey’s recent sovereign decision to return Ayasofya to Islamic worship after it was turned into a museum by Mustafa Kemal in 1934 has sparked a protest in the West and in Russia. France, accustomed to lecturing other countries, immediately regretted this decision that “casts doubt on one of the most symbolic acts of modern and secular Turkey,” said Jean-Yves La Drian, European and Foreign Minister.

For the occasion, let us remind you that the decision of the Turkish judicial authorities is completely justified. Because after the conquest of Constantinople by the army of Mehmed II, he proposed to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople the purchase of the basilica; acquisition that would take place in its own name and with own resources. This amount of money was neither that of the Sultanate, nor that of the Bayt al-mâl (Public Treasury). The transfer contract was therefore concluded on a personal basis. This agreement is registered as a sales contract. Likewise, the price was paid in several installments, which is evidenced by receipts. After this takeover, the sultan established a Waqf (charity under Muslim law) and donated his new property to it. This transfer of ownership is also recorded in a notarial deed. When the cadastres were drawn up (Tâbû), this property was registered as the exclusive property of the Waqf of Mehmed II.

So when the file was examined, the investigation identified 27,000 historical documents. The researchers found in these files the original title deed (sanad talabu) specifying the building’s owner, which is none other than the Waqf set up by the sultan.

The State Council relied on these various historical documents to make its decision, after being appealed by a representative of the Waqf for the restitution of the property transformed by the Turkish state in 1934.

FROM THE KETCHAOUA MOSQUE TO THE CATHEDRAL OF SAINT-PHILIPPE

This transformation, which took place without violence and without offending the faith of the vanquished, contrasts with the treatment France reserved for its new colony it had just conquered in 1830. And one of the first actions of colonialist France was the 1832 transformation of the Ketchaoua Mosque (built in 1612 by the Ottomans[1]) of the Kasbah of Algiers as a cathedral to make it the first place of worship for Christians in Algeria. The altar was erected in just three days to celebrate Christmas, according to historians, and Abbé Colin (Apostolic Prefect of Algiers) came to bless the place. With the Singulari divinae bull of August 10, 1838, Pope Gregory XVI elevated the church to the rank of cathedral.

In 1844 it was destroyed on the orders of General Savary, despite opposition from the Algerians who had gathered en masse inside and in Ketchaoua Square. Some sources claim that this crackdown has claimed hundreds of lives. Two years later, the Saint-Philippe Cathedral was built instead. It remained in function until independence in 1962, when it was converted into a mosque. In 1992, it was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, along with the entire Kasbah of Algiers. In 2008 the mosque closed due to works.

In September 2013, following an agreement between Algeria and Turkey, a protocol for the restoration and strengthening of the Ketchaoua Mosque was signed between the Algerian Ministry of Habitats and the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Coordination (Tika). Under the terms of this agreement, the Tika took charge of all phases of the recovery operation, up to the delivery of the keys, with no financial contribution from the Algerian state. However, the Turkish office was behind schedule. The mosque’s reopening, scheduled for the end of 2016, was finally postponed to April 2018.

Thus, France has no finger to point to Turkey, which has only rightfully given Ayasofya back its previous function as a mosque. France is the most Islamophobic of the European countries and is also doing everything it can to spread its reprehensible ideology in the Islamic countries.


[1] Djamaâ Ketchaoua was built in 1436. At the end of the 18th century, the mosque was extensively redesigned by the government of Dey Hassan.