Hat tip the Gates of Vienna:
Although Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has, somewhat surprisingly*, decided not to pursue the "re-mosqueifying" of Hagia Sophia, calls to end the landmark's status of a museum and return it back to its place it had under the Ottomans have not ended.
* Erdogan desperately wants to obtain EU membership for Turkey, with all of its benefits of free immigration so that yet more Turks can reside in Western Europe. This may be his reason for dropping the idea; he may want to avoid anything that could rile or worry Europeans.
"ANSAmed) - ANKARA - Conservative Muslims in Turkey have launched another campaign to transform the Hagia Sophia basilica, a jewel of Byzantine architecture that is a symbol of Greek Orthodox Christianity, into a mosque. Formerly a Greek Orthodox basilica from the date of its construction in 537 AD, it later became an imperial mosque, and is now a museum in Istanbul. After Islamic nationalist Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan put an apparent stop to the debate over whether to change Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, the imam of the Sultan Ahmed or Blue Mosque, Mustafa Akgul, has taken up the gauntlet once more.
''See, Sultan Ahmed mosque is packed, while Hagia Sophia is deprived of morning prayers'', the imam told a full house during a sermon for Eid al-Adha, or the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice.
In May, Erdogan told MPs from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to ''leave Hagia Sophia alone and focus on filling Sultan Ahmed, which is next door''.
Hagia Sophia ''should be allowed to operate as a mosque. I call on the government to do so in the name of you all'', the imam told the crowd, echoing demands being made by Islamic conservatives from the Anadolu Genc organization, whose members are conducting sit-ins at the Byzantine basilica every Friday. A petition has been submitted to Parliament. The basilica has already been a mosque for half a century, beginning with the May 29, 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II......."
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 and 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 (In the eyes of iconophobic Muslims) horrendous Byzantine art."
The Hagia Sophia of Trebizond, on the strip of Black Sea coast on the eastern side of Turkey, which was one of the last Byzantine states to fall to the Turks, was converted back to Mosque status earlier this year.
"The Hagia Sophia Museum, one of only a few dozen Byzantine sites still extant in Turkey, is a former Greek Orthodox church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon. Dating back to the 13th century, when Trabzon was the capital of the empire of Trebizond, the Hagia Sophia constitutes one of the most important monuments of late Byzantine architecture.
After the Ottoman Empire took control of the city, it was converted into a mosque and its frescos were covered in whitewash. In 1964 it was restored and put into use as a museum until Turkey's religious and nationalist right decided to convert it into a mosque again.
In 2012, vice-prime minister Bülent Arınç announced that Trabzon's Hagia Sophia would be opened for prayer as a mosque. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, he said, had "occupied" the building for five years without the permission of the General Directorate of Foundations (the government body responsible for antiquities) and the Hagia Sophia could not be used as anything other than as a place of worship.........
An imam has been hired, the Christian frescoes have been covered with curtains and the bell dome has been turned into a minaret from where the azan is called by the muezzin.
"To destroy the properties of a museum like Hagia Sophia, which could be a candidate for world cultural heritage, is a crime against universal culture and humanity", said the Association of Archeologists in Turkey......"