The Hagia Sophia, once the seat of Eastern Christianity in Istanbul, is a mosque. Turkey has just decided to convert once again to Islam what was the world’s largest church for 900 years, a museum since 1934.
In 324, the Roman emperor Constantine, after converting to Christianity and decreeing freedom of worship, moved the capital of the Caesars to Byzantium, on the banks of the Bosphorus. Six years later, on the model of the Pantheon in Rome, he built a basilica and called it Hagia Sophia, the “Temple of Divine Wisdom”. A century later Justinian undertook the erection of the largest place of worship “that ever existed.”
On May 29, 1453 the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. And the first visit of Mehmed II was to the altar of the basilica, in front of which he prayed to Allah and converted it into a mosque.
The Turkish decision made international headlines. UNESCO, the UN’s agency for culture and science, asked Erdogan to rethink his decision.
Can it be the very same UNESCO which decided that Hevron’s Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb are “Muslim mosques”, although the first contains the famous Tomb of the Biblical Patriarchs and the second is unanimously revered as the burial site of one of the Bible’s great women, the wife of Jacob, the Jewish blessed mother? Is it really the same UNESCO that passed resolutions denying the Jewish history of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, referring to it only with Arabic names?
For years, the Western community has ignored the Islamic erasing of Jewish history, in Jerusalem, in Hevron, in Shechem, as in Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus.They thought that collaborating with Islam would spare their own history. But the Islamists cannot be appeased easily and they now have taken over Hagia Sophia.
From Erdogan’s page: “The rebirth of Hagia Sophia is a sign towards the return of freedom in the Al Aqsa mosque. The resurrection of Hagia Sophia is a greeting from our hearts to all the cities that symbolize our civilization. From Bukhara to the Andalusia”.
They dream of returning to Spain, from which they were driven out a few years after their Caliph took Hagia Sophia.
I remain convinced that they will never be able to replace Israel’s narrative, despite the collusion of UNESCO and other international bodies in denying Jewish history. Once I would have said that a return to Europe was too much for Islam to aspire to, but judging from Western silence on Hagia Sophia and the quanity of entropy that abounds in our environs, I seek to qualify those statements – they just might manage it.