The radical regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his latest decision to convert Hagia Sophia–a Greek Byzantine-era church into a mosque has invited severe and scathing criticism from Greece. According to a WION report, Church bells across Greece tolled mourning as the first Islamic prayers in nine decades were held at Hagia Sophia on Friday, marking the monument’s conversion into a mosque.
The monument, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was constructed in the sixth century during the reign of Justinian I, a Byzantine ruler, and was the main seat of the Greek Orthodox Church, and remained so until the conquest of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire by the Ottomans.
In 1453, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) was captured by the Ottoman ruler, Mehmed the Conqueror. And the Cathedral, Hagia Sophia located here was plundered and converted into a Mosque. Later in 1935, the secular founder of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk altered the building into a museum.
With such deep-rooted ancient astral connection to Hagia Sophia, Erdogan’s stomping on the monument’s history and identity has not gone down well with the Greeks.
The report further read that, at midday, churches around Greece flew their flags at half-mast in protest. Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Church of Greece called Turkey’s unilateral move as an “unholy act of defiling” the former cathedral.
“Hagia Sophia is a symbol of our faith and a universal monument of culture,” said Ieronymos.
Even the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not hold back and on Friday called Turkey a ‘troublemaker’, and the Hagia Sophia conversion an ‘affront to the civilization of the 21st century’.
Turkey by converting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque has inadvertently sent the message that it would not stop at anything to antagonize the West and in particular Greece by seeking political legitimacy for Islamic radicalism, which in its foundation seeks to celebrate the brutality of the Caliphate rule.
Erdogan thinks of himself as wannabe Khalifa who has the responsibility to usher the Muslims of the world into a bygone era.
Greece and Turkey, traditionally have not seen each other eye-to-eye but off late both nations are finding each other at loggerheads far more often than not–and it’s mostly Turkey’s misdoings.
Recently a declaration was signed by a combined bloc of Cyprus, Egypt, UAE, France, and last but not the least Greece to denounce Turkey’s illegal drilling efforts around Cyprus, its military intervention in Libya, and its maritime borders deal with the GNA.
Turkey and Erdogan have been repeatedly encroaching Greece’s maritime boundaries and being a NATO ally of America, the Trump administration also has had to jump in the fray.
America has warned Turkey to hold back its plans of conducting seismic research in Greece’s territorial waters and avoid steps that can escalate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The manner in which Turkey is threatening the security interests of Greece, a member of the US-led NATO is bound to rile the Trump administration. Relations between the US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have for long been strained and fragile.
Athens has time and again registered a strong protest against Turkey’s aggressive military posturing and the violation of Greek maritime sovereignty. The Greek military forces have stated that they have observed increased activity at Southern Turkey’s Aksaz naval base, after 15 vessels departed from the Turkish military facility.
Turkey, under President Erdogan, has emerged as an expansionist, rogue state which is imitating another such troublesome element of the East i.e. Xi Jinping.
It’s clear as chalk and cheese that Erdogan wants to make Hagia Sophia his latest battleground at both domestic and international levels and Europe, as well as the entire globe, needs to be wary of the rising Islamic extremism.
As such, symbols of interfaith camaraderie are being turned into Mosques, in what are ways for Erdogan to solidify his ambitions of becoming the Caliph of the Muslim world. As pointed out earlier by TFI, the evangelical Christian societies were going to turn reactionary and the actions of Greek churches prove likewise.
The Ottoman Empire had plundered and looted the Eastern Romans. Greece and Turkey don’t see eye-to-eye and such repeated instances of riling up Greece will not bode well for the entire region.