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Re-conquest of Constantinople

Re-conquest of Constantinople

Vehbi Kara is just another Islamist columnist who would not surprise you. He writes for this columnist’s favourite Islamist daily, Yeni Şafak.

His column on January 11th did not offer readers a revolutionary view –nor was it expected to– but was useful in trying to decipher the “conquest fetish” among conservative Muslims.

Mr Kara wrote: “Devout people (Muslims) view Hagia Sophia as a symbol of Islam’s domination in these lands … It (as it is officially a museum and closed to Muslim prayers) is a bleeding wound … Its reopening to (Muslim) prayers will be the re-conquest of Istanbul. As long as it remains (a museum) it means the crusaders’ occupation remains.”

Ignorance is bliss, but more so among jihadists with a pen, not necessarily an automatic rifle. All the same it is always fascinating to observe simple plants that can read and write.

The Hagia Sophia Church in Trabzon province in Turkey’s Black Sea coast (originally, Trapezounta), built by Manuel I between 1238 and 1263, was converted into a mosque after Sultan Mehmed II conquered the city in 1461. Its frescos were covered in whitewash. In 1964, the church-mosque was turned into a museum to be converted into a mosque once again in 2013.

The Muslim congregation complained that “Muslims are being forced to pray ‘in a mosque in front of Christian icons and a fresco.’” Muslims, therefore, demanded the lifting of restrictions on the destruction of such historical objects at their “mosque.” No one asked why there were Christian objects at a mosque in the first place.

The Hagia Sophia “Mosque’s” namesake in Istanbul was built in 537, and served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and Seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (except between 1204 and 1261 when it was converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire).

In 1453, Mehmed II the “Conqueror” ordered the cathedral to be converted into a mosque. The bells, altars, iconostasis, sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed from the holy building. Mosaics depicting Jesus, Mother Mary and Christian saints and angels were removed or plastered over; and Islamic features were added to the Orthodox-Roman Catholic-and now Muslim prayer house. In 1935, the Orthodox-Roman Catholic-Muslim prayer house was turned into a museum.

Since then, Turkey’s pious Muslims have launched numerous campaigns to open the unfortunate “Orthodox-Catholic-then Orthodox again-Muslim prayer house-and now museum” to Muslim prayers again.

Why would Turkey’s devout Muslims, who enjoy the comfort of a larger number of mosques per 1,000 people than “sharia state” Iran, insist on praying at what was built as a church nearly 15 centuries ago?

Listen, conquistadores, and wake up: Eppur si muove! You may think the world is flat. Same as you may think the Hagia Sophia was built as a mosque; and so it should remain a mosque.

The Hagia Sophia Church was built more than a century before the birth of Islam. In other words: It was built when Islam did not exist. Just like Jerusalem was the capital of Jewish Kingdom more than 16 centuries before the birth of Islam (1000 BC). You now claim that Jerusalem is a holy Muslim city. The Chinese are lucky you don’t claim Beijing, too, is a holy Muslim city. Or maybe you are lucky not to claim it is and fight for it.’

And it’s more than funny you feel offended when someone calls your holy Istanbul with its original Greek name, Konstantinopolis. It’s a Turkish city and cannot be called with its Greek name. Right? Right. Where does the “Turkish” name Istanbul come from? Sorry to remind you: Istanbul is a cognate of the Greek “Eis tin Polin,” meaning “to the city.”

And sorry to remind you, again: Your capital city Ankara is also a cognate of the Greek “aggyra,” pronounced “angyra” and meaning “anchor.” You probably would not like to learn which city is your beloved president from. Rize? Well, Rhizios. After so much hint you can guess what language that name is.

About The Author

Burak Bekdil

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based Turkish political columnist who wrote for Hurriyet Daily News [formerly Turkish Daily News] for 29 years. He has covered Turkey for the U.S. weekly Defense News since 1997. Previously, Bekdil worked as Ankara Bureau Chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He contributes to annual national defense sector reviews for anti-corruption institutions like Transparency International and Global Integrity. Bekdil is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Middle East Quarterly. He also contributes to Perspectives, a journal of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv.James Cuno, art historian and President of the J. Paul Getty Trust, describes Bekdil as "a frequent critic of Prime Minister [now president] Recep Tayyip Erdogan." In 2001, a Heavy Crimes Court in Ankara sentenced Bekdil to a suspended, 20-month prison sentence for his column in which he satirized corruption in the judiciary.Bekdil's comments, quotes and articles have been published in international media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, The Commentator, New York Times, Kathimerini, National Review Online, Algemeiner, NPR, Washington Times, Die Presse, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Toronto Star, Financial Times, Al-Monitor, Le Figaro, ABC, El Pais, Stern, Al-Arabiya, Helsingin Sanomat, Racjonalista, Defence Greece, Moyen-Orient, Courier International, ISN Security Watch and Coloquio (of Congreso Judio Latinoamerico) and the Jewish Chronicle (London).(Born: Ankara, 1966; Undergraduate: Department of Economics, Middle East Technical University, Ankara; Post-graduate: Department of Economics, University of Surrey, United Kingdom)

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