A clean sweep of the past
‘Let us make a clean sweep of the past’ has been the watchword of every totalitarian ruler who aims to eradicate all traces of history. By deciding to transform the former Byzantine structure of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque, the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president has sent a clear signal to the world: Islam is on the march, nothing will stop it.
To justify the Islamization of Hagia Sophia, Erdogan attacks those who do not flinch at Islamophobia in their own countries. But, if that is true, why are there more and more Muslims in the West and fewer and fewer Christians in the East? An impartial assessment of the fate of the mosques in Christian-majority countries and those of the churches in the Islamist countries would reveal the truth.
In the past, it has often happened that churches became mosques and vice versa. The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, one of the wonders of the world, is a mosque built by Muslims when they ruled Spain. It rose on the site of a Christian basilica which was built on a Roman temple, before being converted into a cathedral in the wake of the Reconquista, after the Catholic kings had regained control of the country.
But the affair of the Hagia Sophia, erected in the 4th century, then enlarged in the 6th under the Byzantine emperor Justinian, and later transformed into a museum in 1934 is a building that symbolizes Turkey’s Christian past right from the first century AD until its invasion by the Ottoman Turks from the Asian steppes. The Ottomans were originally nomadic warriors related to the Mongols, who, like Attila, had the reputation of crushing everything in their path.
After bringing down Constantinople in 1453, the Turks then made two attempts to subjugate Vienna, capital of the Holy Roman Empire, which they laid siege to in 1459, then in 1683, during what is called the ‘great Turkish war’. Taking up the expansionist tradition of his Ottoman predecessors, Erdogan, who is called the ‘sultan’ in his own country, now takes position in Syria and in Libya with support from the Islamists, including those of the ISIS, who have long been his allies. It would be interesting to note that the new head of ISIS is no longer an Arab, but a Turkish national.
In his Memoirs from Beyond the Grave, the French writer, diplomat and historian Chateaubriand expressed worries that Turkey would introduce ‘barbarism in the West’. To quote from his Memoirs would be anathema in times like these. Chateaubriand writes: ‘………to pretend to civilize Turkey by giving her steamboats and railways, by disciplining her armies, by teaching her to work her fleets, is not to extend civilization to the East, but to introduce barbarism into the West. ……..I must remark that I was the only one, with Benjamin Constant, to point out the improvidence of the Christian governments: a people whose social order is based upon slavery and polygamy is a people that must be sent back to the steppes of the Mongols.’
We do not approve of what Chateaubriand said. But we do think that Turkey deserves better than Erdogan!