Hat tip to JihadWatch.
The Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church has spoken out about the proposals of formerly secular Turkey to return Hagia Sophia to Mosque status. To protect their flock from violence and other acts of oppression, those who have held this office traditionally held their tongues to avoid stoking the anger of Muslims. During one of the periods when Greeks fought for independence from the Ottomans, a Patriarch was hung on Easter as punishment for the acts of the freedom fighters.
Quoted in Jihad Watch:
"Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has staked out his opposition to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Once the patriarchal basilica of Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque when Muslims conquered the city. In 1935, Turkey’s government made the building a museum, as part of the secularizing campaign under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk. But today Turkey’s government, while professing the same secular principles, has supported a campaign to build new mosques and convert some historic buildings into mosques. A proposal to make the Hagia Sophia a mosque is now under consideration in the Turkish parliament. ''We want Santa Sofia to remain a museum,” said Patriarch Bartholomew. The Orthodox prelate said that if the museum is converted to any religious use, it should become a Christian church, since it was built for that purpose."
Picked clean of its gold, silver, people, and anything else of value to the Ottomans, the Icons, statuary, and anything that depicted a living creature were either removed and plastered over (after being severely scored to ensure a good bond for the plaster). The Church of the Holy Wisdom was now a Mosque. The building was to take on the look with which we are familiar - the four minarets surrounding it from which the the sound the American president referred to as "The sweetest sound in the world" would be heard until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the nation of Turkey by Kemal Ataturk. Graciously, seemingly almost as an act of charity (sincere or not) the shell of Hagia Sophia became a museum.
The policies of Islamist Turkish Prime Minister's Tayyip Erdogan's party (And man! I was raised on how 'Western" and secular Turkey was - was of course being the operative word), like the Arab Spring praised by the left, are now also bearing fruit. Hagia Sophia is to again be a mosque.
Not that the West did not have its chances; the nations of Western Europe did pretty much all that they could to ensure the survival of the Ottoman state. Far from the Muslim victimisation-type claims (the old story of Europe ganging up on the poor declining Sultanate), Europe's far-sighted rulers happily encouraged them to attack other Christian nations like France did with Austria during the 1683 siege of Vienna. The British even brought the French into the Crimean War because, well, we can't have the Russians gaining full control of the Black Sea or taking Constantinople, that would give them an unfair advantage in the "Great Game". Catherine the Great had high hopes for John Paul Jones when the naturalized American was given a Rear Admiral's command - "He will get to Constantinople". But Russian selfishness iand intrigue among top officers caused him to be withdrawn from the Black Sea.
And today, we see more of the results of the Islamist resurgence that has pushed the secular Turkish army commanders aside. Muslims tend to be quite gleeful about taking over Christian houses of worship. In this case, Erdogan's boys get to act in the manner of "Well, you know that it was a great shame that Kemal remove so much of Islamic culture from our country, especially taking away our crowning achievement of the Aya Sofia (Hagia Sophia) Mosque. We will right that wrong and reestablish our rightful place as leaders in the Muslim world"
This time I would be surprised if the icons and other representations that did survive through the years and may have been brought back to public view (Lots of plaster would have had to be removed) during the museum period are not going to removed completely. If, to Erdogan, the Mosques are their barracks, then he is more than likely planning to ensure that the greatest of Turkey's barracks is not defiled by all of that horrendous Byzantine art.*