PHOTO: Turkey’s megalomaniacal Islamist leader is already seen as a hero to many in the Muslim world, including Palestinian Arabs.
The saga of the Hagia Sophia goes like this in a nutshell: Centuries ago, Turkish Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror forcibly converted one of Christendom’s grandest churches into a mosque. But when secularism later triumphed during the era of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, this forced conversion was partially reversed, and Hagia Sophia became a museum. But now Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has evoked the legacy of Mehmed by again converting one of Christianity’s most recognizable shrines into a mosque.
This is the same Erdogan who sought to pressure the West by sending thousands upon thousands of refugees from Muslim countries into Europe. He sees the pitiful Muslim masses as a powerful weapon in his quest to ultimately bring the Christian West under the dominion of Islam.
Erdogan’s controversial decision to again convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque must be seen in light of his larger agenda of restoring the glory of the Ottoman Empire. And part of that is seeking revenge against “Christian” Europe for resisting Ottoman expansion for so long and ultimately bringing the empire to an end in World War I.
Not allowing any of the Syrian refugees to stay in Turkey, but rather sending them all on to Europe was one step in this scheme of revenge. Another is the Islamization of the Hagia Sophia. In so doing, Erdogan is telling the Christian West that Turkey will do what it sees fit in service to its own agenda, and that it will tolerate no external interference. He needs to take such a hardline position to convince a new generation of supporters that Turkey truly can restore its past glory and play a central role on the world stage.
Ending the Treaty of Lausanne
In all of his speeches, Erdogan has been promoting his intention to “expire” the Treaty of Lausanne on its 100th anniversary, in 2023.
The Treaty of Lausanne consisted of 143 articles related to organizing Turkey’s new international status following the end of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The winners in that war drew the political geography of modern Turkey and set its borders with Greece and Bulgaria, as well as forcing Turkey to abandon any political and financial claims in the Levant, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Cyprus. It also enshrined in international law the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is the head of all Eastern Orthodox Churches.
By threatening to end this treaty, Erdogan is signaling that he intends to take Turkey down a very different path, and away from the vision of Ataturk to transform Turkey into a modern European society. The sudden conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque demonstrates that Erdogan very much intends to follow through on what he’s been telling the people for the past several years.
A dangerous megalomaniac
Erdogan is clearly an unstable person with megalomaniacal tendencies. He is fully dedicated to restoring the great Ottoman state and conquering the world. But this should come as no surprise considering his ties to known Islamists, most especially his mentor, Necmettin Erbakan, a former Turkish prime minister who was forced by the military to step down after he tried to transform Turkey into an Islamic republic.
Erdogan has also expressed great interest in the teachings of Said Al-Nursi, a 20th century Muslim theologian who sought to strengthen the influence of Islam in modern Turkey and to confront the “Christian” West. Legend has it that Al-Nursi once met with the imam of the famous Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Sheikh Bakhit, who asked what he though of Europe. Al-Nursi replied: “Europe is pregnant with Islam and will give birth to it one day.” The sheikh then asked Al-Nursi what he thought of the Ottoman Empire (this was before its fall in World War I), and he answered: “The Ottoman Empire is pregnant with Europe and will give birth to it one day.”
This is Erdogan’s model. To help Europe move toward the “birth” of Islam that Al-Nursi foresaw by feeding it more Muslim refugees until countries like Germany and France boast a Muslim majority. The end goal is to form an Islamic union with these countries, which will all share an Islamic currency, and thereby form a united front against the Christian West and the “global” threat of Zionism.
The coming years are sure to see intense competition in Turkey between the Islamists lead by Erdogan and the secularists who continue to cling to Ataturk’s vision. But following what we have seen in recent years, and days, it is entirely possible that Turkey will completely change in the near future and come into direct confrontation with the European Union, Russia and others.