Fri, 07/17/2020 – 02:00
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced the conversion of the Hagia Sophia from the museum to a mosque.
The temple, which was built in 537 and served as the greatest Christian orthodox cathedral for a thousand years, was turned into a mosque in 1453 at the fall of Constantinople, Byzantium’s capital. After four centuries in 1934 this mosque was turned into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who wanted to tout himself to the world as a modern ruler of secular Turkey. President Erdoğan’s announcement met with an enthusiastic applause of the Muslims, not only those residing in Turkey. Much of the Western press denounced the move as Erdoğan’s maneuver aimed at diverting the nation’s attention from the current economic problems. This explanation – Marxist through and through – does not take into consideration at least two factors: psychological (Muslim faith) and political (symbolic message to the world). A nation’s attention can be diverted in a wide variety of ways, so why should it be the conversion of a museum into a mosque?
Atheist, deist or agnostic Western analysts typically cannot grasp the phenomenon of religious faith, its palpable reality. In scientific terms faith can be viewed as a psychological phenomenon and psychological phenomena are to be reckoned with just as physical ones or – at times – even more. Man is constricted in his actions by these two: physical reality and his internal psychological automatic pilot, so to say. It is not true that faith can move mountains in the literal sense of the world, but it is not true either that everything is a matter of physical coercion. There are women who turn prostitutes although they have money to burn, and there are such who will never even consider selling themselves despite the fact that they suffer want.
Religious (read: psychological) factor is as strong as economic. Failure to understand it caused the Western liberals to import millions of Muslims to (post-)Christian countries. The liberals regarded religious faith as a mere facet of tradition, culture or heritage, which can be changed at will and which constitutes no serious impediment to liberal ideas. How wrong they were is plain to see today, when religious – mainly Muslim – minorities pose serious social problems. Turkey has a special Directorate of Religious Affairs (known as Diyanet for short) that operates also abroad, especially among Turks dispersed in many West European countries. There is nothing comparable to it in any of the Western countries. The Diyanet has a large budget at its disposal and the word religious in its name obviously equates with Muslim.
Western analysts also claim that President Erdoğan has broken with the secular tradition set down by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as the former was creating the modern Turkish state on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. They either genuinely fail to recognize that secularism is the same as faith or religion only with the minus sign assigned to it or they intentionally do it to present themselves as those who occupy moral high ground. Why should secularism be something better than religiousness? Being lukewarm Christians at best, the Western journalists are incapable of imagining how serious this psychological phenomenon known as religious faith can be. If they have this inability to place themselves in the shoes of genuine believers, they should at least learn something from psychology. If they could be bothered to do so, that is. Then they would have learnt that religion is anything that constitutes the highest value in a man’s psyche. Hence, it need not be Christianity or Islam alone; religion can take the form of communism, fascism, feminism or secularism for that matter. A few centuries earlier Europeans discovering, conquering and administering foreign territories would bring with themselves the Christian cross and Bible (one of Columbus’s ships was named the Santa Maria); today, Western powers display homosexual rainbow flags on foreign territory and enforce accepting homosexual rights the way they once forced indigenous people to accept Christianity.
Why should Turks refrain from re-converting a mosque-turned-museum into a mosque and be somehow ashamed of it when at almost the same time Americans and the British can be proud of flying homosexual flags from their Moscow embassies? Why should the former message be reprehensible while the latter not? The West treats its enshrined values with all seriousness, why should the East not treat theirs in an analogous way? Why should the allegedly high-minded principle of secularism stymie the expression of Muslim or Christian beliefs but not those of homosexuals?
It was in 1934 that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk signed an order that turned Istanbul’s historical mosque into a museum. At around that time – a few years earlier and a few years later – Soviet commissars would do the same in the vast territory of the Soviet Union: some churches and mosques – the lucky ones, we might say – would be converted into museums (of faith and atheism!), others into stables, depots, and similar facilities. Was the conversion of Istanbul’s landmark mosque – to use present-day political vernacular – not a slap in the face of the then Muslims and a violation of human rights to profess any religious faith? Is President Erdoğan’s act not a rectification of the past wrong? Whence this doublethink?
President Erdoğan has long been thinking about reconverting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. He has just delivered on his promise. Western mainstream media are now doing what they are accustomed to: they give the floor to westernized Turks, irreligious Turks living in the West or Turkish domestic dissidents – in a word all those who oppose Erdoğan’s move – and thus the media make the impression that the majority of Turks would so much rather their president ordered the Turkish embassy in Moscow to fly the homosexual flag instead of recovering the Hagia Sophia for Islam. That’s what these media habitually do. When president Putin wins an election or a referendum, when a right-wing candidate wins in an East European country, the BBC, Deutsche Welle and their ilk hasten to impress it on their viewers, listeners and readers that countries with such winning candidates have serious problems with democracy and human rights. That is to say demos (the people) electing a right-wing candidate is doing harm to democracy. In this case, too, selected residents of such countries are chosen to voice their criticism and express their fear at what is going on. The usual trick.
These considerations apart, Turkey’s president may also be testing the West’s fortitude. Not that there is much to be tested. Again and again the world could see the West’s total inability to act and incompetence to undertake anything. The 2015 influx of Third World people and the handling of it when President Erdoğan was paid billions to act as Europe’s bouncer spoke volumes. He might consider cashing in another billion for not converting the museum into a mosque, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Post-Christian Europe would rather pay him for not closing a mosque.
Pope Francis uttered the usual words of “concern” (all impotent politicians utter words of concern), but that’s about everything he can do. And why should President Erdoğan care? What does he think about the pope who in 2019 together with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar signed the Abu Dhabi Declaration, in which it is stated that “the pluralism and the diversity of religions are willed by God in His wisdom”?1)Why should such a pope care whether Hagia Sophia is Christian, secular or Muslim?
Mosques have been mushrooming in Western Europe and increasingly so in North America and Australia, whereas the Christian churches are empty, sold or converted into all kinds of facilities if not torn down. The fact that descendants of Christians do not care about the temples of their ancestors does not mean that believing Muslims ought to do the same. Muslims want their temples as places of worship. Europeans have discos in theirs.
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Author: Tyler Durden