With the transformation of the Christian basilica into a mosque, "Erdogan, this 21st century Caliph, has secured the support of a religious and fundamentalist electorate nostalgic of the Ottoman era". "A clear new message from political Islam to the West: dominate and subjugate, always and at all times!". The western world does not seem to understand provocation. A system of lighting and veils to hide Christian mosaics and frescoes. "Whenever Islamism comes to power in a democratic and secular state, it declares war on civilizations, cultures and other religions."
Paris (AsiaNews) - The Hagia Sophia (some to ironically call it Lalla [[i]] Safia [[ii]]) has a historical path marked by war and peace, hatred and cohabitation. From basilica, testimony of the Christianity of Constantinople, to mosque in Muslim domination; then as a museum during the establishment of secularism in Turkey, before returning to being a mosque in the era of Erdogan, self-proclaimed Emir of believers, the Caliph, as Al Qaradawi, the Islamist guru and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood calls him.
During Kamel Mustapha Atatürk's rule, Hagia Sophia enjoyed the status of museum, a place where different cultures and religions encountered each other; a highly popular historic site visited by people from all over the planet and from different religions.
In other words, before 11 July 2020 - another date that marks the history of this temple - Hagia Sophia was a place where the possibility of coexistence between religions, as well as the tolerance of Islam was manifest – an Islam separate from politics.
As Ioan Sauca, a member of the Romanian Orthodox Church, wrote to Erdogan: "It was a good test of Turkey's attachment to secularism and its desire to leave past conflicts behind," and I would add: to establish the universality of human values.
The move to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque has an internal and external political dimension. Internal: having lost Istanbul - passed to the opposition in the last municipal elections - and having in mind the 2023 elections, Erdogan, this 21st century Caliph, is securing the support of a religious and fundamentalist electorate, nostalgic of the Ottoman era.
External: symbolically, the Hagia Sophia affair is a new clear message from political Islam to the West: to dominate and subjugate, always and at all times! In other words: Erdogan wants to test how far he can go in provocation and push borders! Silence in the face of these maneuvers is a form of abdication, "to say in front of everyone that he is free to do what he likes and when he likes".
The western world does not seem to grasp the fundamentals of this decision. The newspaper "Le Monde", naively comments: Transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque: "... a reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will not prevent tourists of all religions from visiting it - there are many who visit the nearby Blue Mosque every day!". As if Hagia Sofia was in history only a simple museum, and as if Erdogan's fundamentalism stopped there!
The Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" [[iii]] reported that the "Sultan" asked the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Presidency of Religious Affairs to prepare the basilica for the first prayer which will take place on Friday 24 July. In the parts of the mosque dedicated to prayer, a system of lights will be placed on the ground to hide the Christian mosaics and frescoes. On the agenda there is also a project for mosaics and frescoes to be covered with a curtain mechanism during the hours of prayer.
This measure returns to highlight the dangerous aspect of the exploitation of religion which, in one way or another, creates tensions and prepares the ground for new clashes of cultures that could be avoided. In other words: in the context in which political Islam dominates, peace disappears and with it fraternity and respect for other religions.
Ibrahim Negm, of the Council of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, considers the Turkish president's decision "a dangerous political game" [[iv]]. Furthermore, this measure gives a bad image of Islam and Muslims - already quite degraded - and [confirms that] every time Islamism comes to power in a democratic and secular state, it declares war on civilizations, cultures and other religions.
Taking his time, with pauses for silence between one word and another, Pope Francis told those gathered for the Angelus of July 12 that "My thought goes to Istanbul, I think of Hagia Sophia and I am very saddened". French newspapers have translated "saddened" to "afflicted" (Afp); "Struck" (IMedia); "Marked by paint" (Le Parisien); "Upset" (France24). All these translations contains hades that might seem euphemistic. But they are part of the lexical field of pain, of "sadness, of sorrow mixed with indignation". It is a sentiment that I share in all sincerity: such decisions, in this perfidious game of assault on religion, peace is aborted between the believers of the different religions in this world.
[i] Lalla is an honorary title, a sign of distinction given to important women of the great families among the Berbers in North Africa.
[ii] Safiya bint Houyay (صفية بنت حيي), born around 610 in Yathrib (later to become Medina), died between 661 and 670. Converted to Islam, she was the 11th wife of Muhammad in the year 7 of 'hegira.