I am from the city which was originally founded as Constantinapolis and now more than a thousand years later called Istanbul. And in between those two, the city had more than two dozen names. This is the city which has faced almost two dozen besieges, two pandemics of plague, around ten giant earthquakes, has survived innumerable wars, fights, intrigues, struggles , has watched hundreds of kings come. rule and go,and has welcome several languages, religions, monuments… And for me, a native of the Polis, as the Greeks called it, there is one indisputable symbol of the uniqueness and wisdom of the City, St Sophia. A monument, as imposing and unique, at least for me, as the Egyptian pyramids.
I have often wondered how fairly Byzance was treated in Europe’s search for its historical roots. Constantinopolis was Roman and Greek and Christian and more… This is where The Mediterranian met the Black Sea, twelve thousand year old Asia Minor cultures met Thrace and Greek peninsula,, Persia and ‘‘the East‘‘ met the West… But a two day walk around todays Istanbul will reveal that the Ottomans treatment of Byzance, from whom they learned and assimilated a lot, was far from fair. Palaces in ruin, churches converted into mosques, a thousand years of Byzance ,to a large extent, not allowed to shadow the following glory oft he Ottoman era…
The reconversion of St Sophia back into a mosque, is definitely intented as a slap in the face of those who still believe that Turkey is a secular country. The state induced secular system of Kemalism, maybe laicite is a better word as Turkey followed the Fench model rather than Anglo Saxon secularism, one of the handful trials in whole the Islamic world, has been declared invalid. Although majority of Turkish public see this reconversion as a political maneouvre to divert attention from the economic crisis, the oppositionary parties , especially CHP as the flag holder of Kemalism, has been rather mild in ist objections, or in fact silent, and ion one or two cases, downright approving.Noone dares to offend the religious feelings of the masses, although noone has asked the masses if they are actually wanting such a reconversion.
Judging from Erdogan’s own statements, Kemalists and Kemalism are not the only ones to be taught a lesson. By defining the reconversion as ‘‘a final touch of a conquest‘‘, he is proudly announcing himself as the follower of Mehmed the Conquerer, and other Ottoman kings. ‘‘Conquest‘‘ is as a term belongs tot he terminology, or ideology of a bygone era, in which the winner could occupy and annihilate the defeated with no moral concerns. The destruction or conversion of the temples of the defeated was a common practice of the past. Erdogan regime is stating that from now on, Ottoma Empire will be the new role model of contemporary Turkey. This regime will no longer burden itself with the moral values , attributed to West or contemporary society, or in a broader sense concepts of modernity.of‚‘‘the West‘‘, and it certainly will not allow such trifles as law or democracy etc to hinder its major ‘‘ conquest‘‘… Conquest of absolute power.