The decision of the Supreme Court in Turkey, to clear the way to reconvert the Basilica of Hagia Sophia into a Mosque, has caused in the Christian world a gasp of surprise… I have absolutely no idea why that is, for it was not a surprise to me. Indeed I expected exactly this outcome.
Islamic expansionism ambitions have been rising steadily for many, many years, in the same proportion Christianity has been buckling for just as many years. It goes back all the way to the 1960’s when in the course of the discussions during Council Vatican II, Jewish historian Jules Isaac persuaded his friend Pope John XXIII to request Cardinal Augustin Bea to drop the charge of deicide made against the Jews. This sent a wave of protest and disquiet across the Islamic world, prompting Roman Catholic Bishops in Arab nations to demand the Holy See made a few positive statements about Islam in Vatican II Church documents (see Vatican II documents Lumen Gentium 16 and Nostra Aetate 3).
Worrying signs of Islamic ambitions were there too, when Turkish assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca shot dead a left-wing Western journalist in 1979 and after being allowed to escape from prison in Turkey, travelled to Rome to shoot Pope John Paul II on the 13th of May 1981. Pope John Paul II’s popularity posed a threat to Islamic dreams, by making Christianity popular once again and that was a problem that required prompt elimination of the Holy Father. How Mehmet Ali Ağca managed to escape from prison and obtain a passport is a mystery to me, but it reeks of State sponsorship in “moderate” Turkey. Just saying…
The rest is History. Events dating back to 9/11 have shown a path, a pattern, a motive and the willpower to see it through.
Christian West in turn, speaks of Peace and Dialogue, points out that Christians, Jews and Muslims all adore exactly the same God. Concurring with this naïve narrative, supposedly distinguished Western philosophers and theologians, such as the liberal Anglican Giles Fraser, throw in the bin the most basic tenets of Christian Faith, to declare that “Christians should be delighted if Hagia Sophia reverts to being a mosque because Muslims are our brothers and sisters with whom we share a faith in the living God”. How much of a donkey must anyone be, to forget the Basilica of Hagia Sophia is a Christian Byzantine Cathedral, dedicated by Emperor Justinian the Great in the year 537AD, is a mystery to me. And it remained so until 1453, when the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople and turned the Basilica into a Mosque.
Unfortunately though, this irresponsible narrative gets a lot worse. Mr Giles Fraser wipes clean Christianity’s most sacred tenets of Faith, by omitting in his assessment, that Islam explicitly negates the Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, claims the Crucifixion is a lie and never happened, and therefore by extension, it denies the Resurrection of Jesus. Since Jesus’s Divinity is denied, the Holy Trinity goes down the drain as well. I pointed out this very issue in an article I penned recently, where I criticised the Armenian Patriarch Sahak II Mashalian for suggesting Christians and Muslims share Hagia Sophia as a place of worship, presumaly because, as the theory goes around in the minds of these shameful liars and cowards, we all share the same God. We do not!
The issues causing an incompatibility between Christian and Muslim theologies are pertinent; they have been known for 1400 years! They have been declared, explained at length by theologians, saints and Church Fathers… At length and comprehensively! But then came Council Vatican II in the 1960’s, and 1400 years of sound and safe Theology went out of the window.
Worse even, Sam Solomon, a born-Muslim and Sharia Law Scholar for 15 years, who then converted to Christianity, goes further when he notes that several passages from the Arabic text of the Qur’an, portray all the notable Quranic figures – Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jesus – explicitly as Muslims, not Jews. In the Qur’an “All the prophets were Muslims”, says Sam Solomon. Thus, the Qur’an disproves the theory that Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same God. Among other examples, Sam Solomon points out:
“Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining towards truth, a Muslim”(Qur’an 3:67)
“And Moses said, “O my people, if you have believed in Allah,then rely upon Him, if you should be Muslims”
When Jesus asked his disciples: “Who are my supporters for Allah?” The disciples said, “We are supporters for Allah. We have believed in Allah and testify that we are Muslims”
“The Jews say, ‘Ezra is the son of Allah’ and the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is the son of Allah.’That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved.May Allah destroy them [Jews and Christians]; how are they deluded?”
Among several other citations, the above together with the citations denying the Soul and Divinity of Jesus, negating the Crucifixion and the Resurrection and the Holy Trinity, are the fundamentals whereby Christianity and Islam are not compatible.
Recent photo report showing thousands upon thousands of Muslims in Istanbul, praying for the reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a Mosque of course, none of this signifies carte-blanche to then go about vilifying Muslims left, right and centre. We can’t, we mustn’t and really, we shouldn’t. Essentially, moderate Muslims are able to live in relative harmony with Christians and Jews. But these rules of civility must not obfuscate the dangers and risks of an existential threat to Christianity by radical Islam on one hand, and on the other hand, ambitious forms of Islam, which though not radical, are nevertheless assertive in their willingness to assert Islamic culture against perceived interests of Christianity and the Western World.
But at the same time, the Western World at large and Christianity more specifically, must not be afraid to assert its values, accepting in the process that compatibility has severe limitations and therefore we must make the best and most of it. We must encourage mutual respect, observe civility and good relations as much as possible, but without concessions which carry a potential for placing ourselves in trouble.
What is happening with the reconversion of Hagia Sophia Basilica into a Mosque is a shouting example, a critical event which must be a warning to Christians in Europe and beyond, as well as to Western Leaders and Heads of Government. The case with Hagia Sophia Basilica stands loud and tall as evidence that Islamic assertiveness does take a variety of forms, some are plainly violent, others are more subtle, but in all of its forms and flavours, is expansionist and ambitious.
Hagia Sophia is the latest best example to show Islam would not stop in the face of cultural considerations. The evidence shows that there is no reason to believe what has been done to Hagia Sophia Basilica would never be done to any other Christian place of worship, anywhere in Europe and beyond if the opportunity ever arises. It would be done! No question about it!
Abu Dhabi Declaration, 2019, signed by Pope Francis and Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb.Islamic expansionism ambitions will stop at nothing and will respect absolutely nothing. The Abu Dhabi Declaration, the so-called Human Fraternity Pact signed by Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayyeb in February 2019 explicitly agreed on “the protection of places of worship — synagogues, churches and mosques” as “a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws and international agreements”. The reconversion of Hagia Sophia Basilica into a Mosque flies in the face of an agreement which, in practical terms, has no more value than a boiled egg, in the ambitious and expansionist minds of Islamic rulers. Today, this was accomplished by President Erdogan of Turkey, a moderate radical Muslim. Tomorrow?… Something else?… Somewhere else?…
As always, Christian good-faith and Western dialogue do not find a match on equal terms. The theme repeats across other areas. Muslims living and working in Christian regions around the World are generally safe, free to worship, free to dress according to their Customs. Rightly so! I am in favour! Unreservedly in favour! But the same cannot be said of Christians living and working in Muslim areas around the World.
On average, as many as 11 Christians are persecuted, imprisoned, killed whilst under Police custody, or simply assassinated, every day, in Arab regions and Muslim countries. Statistics and data collected in the Middle-East alone, do not offer easier reading. A report ordered by the British Foreign Office in May 2019, accounted for persecution and elimination of Christians as “coming close to Genocide”, declared The Guardian on Thursday 2nd of May 2019. The report proceeds as follows:
“Millions of Christians in the region have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against, the report finds. It also highlights discrimination across south-east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and in east Asia – often driven by state authoritarianism (…) “In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage. In Saudi Arabia there are strict limitations on all forms of expression of Christianity including public acts of worship. There have been regular crackdowns on private Christian services. The Arab-Israeli conflict has caused the majority of Palestinian Christians to leave their homeland. The population of Palestinian Christians has dropped from 15% to 2%.”
The reconversion of Hagia Sofia Basilica is just one of the many forms of pressure on Christianity. Demoralising and humiliating Christians geographically out of reach is just as effective as killing them at home, it all serves the higher purpose of making the entire World submissive to Islam. Tolerance is a term missing in Arabic, presumably. Protest appears to be missing both in Arabic and a number of other languages, including English and Latin. The Muslim Council of Britain appears never to have anything to say in regards to the slaughter of Christians and the Holy See almost never has anything to say about it either.
Thus, I cannot but wonder why then, does the West send soldiers to Afghanistan to fight Muslim extremism and Islamic Terrorism in the form of destructive and murderous Taliban, when at home Christian Leadership and cultural opinion-makers fall silent. The message for them has got to be “Your Silence is deafening”!… “Cowards! Shame on You!”… Hundreds of these soldiers came back… In coffins!!!!!…
The assertive institutional Muslim radicalism of Turkish President Erdogan will pay off. The Basilica of Hagia Sophia will be a Mosque.
The result will be minor and of no consequence. In the West, after a couple of days in the news, the matter will pass, until next time. Among Clergy in the West, very few if any, will say anything useful from their pulpits. Roman Curia Cardinals will be too busy spooning in their sleep with their young and usually very good looking “nephews”. Pope Francis will be disappointed and probably lonely in his quest for a balancing act which will never happen, as far as Islam is concerned. The Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople will be weeping, childishly stomping his feet in his golden Salon, shouting apoplectically “I want half of Hagia Sophia, NOW!”. And the Archbishop of Canterbury – poor Soul! – is too busy counting white-looking Jesus Crucifixes to notice anything smaller than an elephant.
And I?!… Just the same as at the beginning of this article… Unsurprised by it all. Christian West is turning into a huge box jam-packed with scared chickens. I am just glad I am old enough, so hopefully I won’t be around when the chickens are finally forced to taste the gravy.
- Greece, Ekathimerini News: Foreign Minister declares Turkish move a “Provocation”
- Washigton Post: Hagia Sophia in a Fight against Time
- Balkans Insight: Turkey’s Plans strain relations with Greece
- Christianity Today: Can Hagia Sophia Become a Mosque?
- Reuters News Agency: Greek culture minister says Hagia Sophia verdict a ‘provocation’
- Greece, Ekathimerini News: US State Dep’t ‘disappointed’ in Turkish decision on Hagia Sophia
- The Guardian: Hagia Sophia: the mosque-turned-museum at the heart of an ideological battle
- The Deccan Herald: EU says Hagia Sophia mosque decision ‘regrettable’
- Reuters News Agency: Turkey’s Erdogan signs decree converting Hagia Sophia into mosque
- Reuters News Agency: Erdogan says first prayers in Hagia Sophia on July 24
- National Geographic: Hagia Sophia stripped of museum status, paving its return to a mosque
- The Guardian: Pope Francis ‘very distressed’ over Hagia Sophia mosque move
- Al Jazeera Channel: Hagia Sophia: A matter of sovereignty or political narrow-mindedness?
- The Guardian: Hagia Sophia is too complex for Erdoğan’s cleansing