Hagia Sophia: An Islamic gauntlet has been thrown down

Thanks to the machinations of Turkey’s Islamist president, Recep Erodgan, Turkey will be reconverting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. There was no need for this, except to assert an Islamic supremacism to his voter base.

The construction of the Hagia Sophia – the name means Holy Wisdom -  started in 360 A.D. A fire destroyed it in the sixth century, but a re-construction soon started, which was completed in 537 A.D.  For the next nine centuries, the Hagia Sofia was a church, arguably the greatest in the world.

It shifted hands between Catholics and Orthodox – and in the 8th century, icons were destroyed by iconclasts - but it always remained in Christian hands.

In 1453, with the fall of Constantinople, the Hagia Sofia fell into the hands of Muslims. For over nine centuries (not counting the first church which was burnt down) it had been a central point of Christian worship. But the Muslims set about turning it into a mosque. Still, even to this day, the Hagia Sofia had been a place of Christian worship for twice as long as it had been a mosque.

After the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was defeated. Kemel Attaturk took over Turkey, and tried to reform it, to produce a kinder, gentler, secular Islam. In 1935, the Hagia was de-Islamicized and turned into a secular museum. One of the greatest museums in the world. 

Click here to see PBS documentary.

The Hagia Sofia is truly a World Heritage Site, in every sense of the word.

But to an Islamist, like Erdogan, the Hagia Sofia had to re-Islamified. On July 10th, after the approval of a Turkish Court, Erdogan signed a decree reinstating the Hagia Sofia as a mosque. He promises that  Islamic services will begin on July 24.

What a monstrous decision this is, but it is all too typical of Islam. Islam loves to steal the religious sites of others. I am not of a Greek Orthodox background, and have some differences with their theology, but the outrage still festers. Islam never surrenders what it has stolen.

To get an idea of what was lost – and giving a hat tip to The American Conservative for finding this video – click to hear what Christian chanting in the Hagia must have sounded like – thanks to computer simulation.

Or check out this video (Click here). Such glorious echoes would not be possible in Western, angular church structures. The Reformation rightly re-invigorated hymnistry, with its emphasis on worship in song in the local languages, but I doubt the Reformation has come near the Orthodox emphasis on structural acoustics, especially given the Reformation’s preference for simplicity in buildings, order of worship, theology, and its disdain for tradition. Oh, well! To each its own.

In India, in the 16th century, the Ayodhya religious site was taken over by Muslims to construct the Babri Mosque. In 1992, Indian Hindus liberated the mosque, but only recently, in 2019, has the Indian Supreme Court allowed the Indians to continue with construction of a Hindu temple.

According to The Guardian

[The Indian supreme court] ruled that a mosque that had stood on the site since the 16th century, and was the basis of the Muslim claim to Ayodhya, was “not built on vacant land” and that the Hindu belief could not be disputed.

The judges declared that a separate “prominent” five-acre piece of land would be allocated to the Muslim community to build a mosque near the contested site. 

By allocating five acres to the Muslims, India was more generous than I suspect Islam would have been to the Hindus.

Wikipedia has a list of non-Islamic buildings converted to mosques. (Click here). Much of these structures were forcibly converted.

Many have remained under Muslim control, some sporting the name of Great Mosque or Grand Mosque. What should be obvious is that many of the now-so-called mosques shown to tourists were not Islamic to begin with. Many were cathedrals – which should disabuse some of the claims of Islamic genius in architecture.

The list would be even longer, except that some buildings were liberated back from the Muslims. (such as in Spain, Hungary, and Greece).

Of course, the greatest theft is the Islamic occupation of the Temple Mount. Any competent historian can show that its origins were Jewish.

The only good thing to come out of this Hagia Sophia mosquification is that the Orthodox Christian world is furious, and Turkey may get a lot of diplomatic blowback, even from some of its so-called friends. Greece and Russia, both Orthodox Christian nations, are furious over this. Much of Eastern Europe will be outraged as well.

What the West should do is inform Turkey that since a precedent has been set, the West will not complain if the Jews retake their patrimony. If Islam can re-Islamify the Hagia, let the Jews re-Judaize the Temple Mount.

There is a critical difference though. Islam is re-taking a structure that was never theirs to begin with, but the Jews – unlike the Muslims – would be re-taking what was theirs all along.

Now is the time for the West to take advantage of Eastern Orthodox anger to put an end to Islamic predations in Israel. We can use this window of opportunity to allow the Jews to act, and this time we might have a lot of support from nations who have hitherto been neutral. A message should be sent to Islam.


Image credit: Pexels public domain, processed with FotoSketcher

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