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Though ostensibly dealing with a building, a recent report demonstrates how Turkey’s populace—once deemed the most secular and liberal in the Muslim world—is reverting to its Islamic heritage, complete with animosity for the infidel West and dreams of Islam’s glory days of jihad and conquest. According to Reuters:
Thousands of devout Muslims prayed outside Turkey’s historic Hagia Sophia museum on Saturday [May 23] to protest a 1934 law that bars religious services at the former church and mosque. Worshippers shouted, “Break the chains, let Hagia Sophia Mosque open,” and “God is great” [the notorious “Allahu Akbar”] before kneeling in prayer as tourists looked on. Turkey’s secular laws prevent Muslims and Christians from formal worship within the 6th-century monument, the world’s greatest cathedral for almost a millennium before invading Ottomans converted it into a mosque in the 15th century.
In fact, Hagia Sophia—Greek for “Holy Wisdom”—was Christendom’s greatest cathedral. Built in Constantinople, the heart of the Christian empire, it was also a stalwart symbol of defiance against an ever encroaching Islam from the east. After parrying centuries of jihadi thrusts, Constantinople was finally sacked by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Its crosses desecrated and icons defaced, Hagia Sophia—as well as thousands of other churches—was immediately converted into a mosque, the tall minarets of Islam surrounding it in triumph. Then, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, as part of several reforms, Ataturk transformed Hagia Sophia into a “neutral” museum in 1934—a gesture of goodwill to the then triumphant West from a then crestfallen Turkey.
Even though Hagia Sophia is a Christian center under Islamic domination, several Christian authorities are content seeing it remain a museum, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians: “We want it to remain a museum in line with the Republic of Turkey’s principles. If it were to become a mosque, Christians wouldn’t be able to pray there, and if it became a church it would be chaos.”
True enough; one need only recall how back in 2006, when Pope Benedict was scheduled to visit Hagia Sophia, Muslims were outraged. Then, Turkey’s independent paper Vatan wrote: “The risk is that Benedict will send Turkey’s Muslims and much of the Islamic world into paroxysms of fury if there is any perception that the Pope is trying to re-appropriate a Christian center that fell to Muslims.” Before the Pope’s visit, a gang of Turks stormed and occupied Hagia Sophia, screaming “Allahu Akbar!” and warning “Pope! Don’t make a mistake; don’t wear out our patience.” On the day of the Pope’s visit, another throng of Islamists waved banners saying “Pope get out of Turkey” while chanting Hagia Sophia “is Turkish and will remain Turkish.”
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