A large rally in Istanbul demanded the government change the historic Hagia Sophia church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, into a mosque. The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) led the rally through the Sultanahmet district.
Many people carried signs that said, “Hagia Sophia needs to be reopened as a mosque” and “Let our lives be sacrificed for Islam.”
The idea to change the church into a mosque begun to gain momentum in April after Pope Francis recognized the slaying of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. Liam Deacon at Breitbart London chronicled the history of Hagia Sophia. The Ottoman Empire did convert the church into a mosque in 1453. After the empire fell, the new Turkish government transformed it into a secular museum.
“Frankly, I believe that the Pope’s remarks will only accelerate the process for Hagia Sophia to be reopened for [Muslim] worship,” Professor Hizli, a senior government cleric, said in a written statement on April 15th.
He decried the Pope’s comments as a “modern reflection of the crusader wars launched in these lands for centuries,” and suggested that Turkey’s role as a “standard bearer” for the Muslim world provoked criticism from non-Muslims.
The latest blow was using the church to celebrate Islam during Easter holy week.
“The historic Istanbul cathedral and museum, Hagia Sophia, witnessed its first Quran recitation under its roof after 85 years Saturday,” reported the Anatolian News Agency of Turkey. “The Religious Affairs Directorate launched the exhibition ‘Love of Prophet,’ as part of commemorations of the birth of Islamic Prophet Muhammad.”
The Christian population of Turkey is evaporating rapidly. The nation, a NATO member since 1952, experienced a reduction in its Christian population from 20 percent 100 years ago to only 0.2 percent today.
Istanbul, once known as Constantinople, was founded by Roman Emperor Constantine in 324. He made it the capital of Rome before it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. They made it their capital until the empire collapsed after World War I. Modern-day Turkey officially renamed it Istanbul in 1923.
Turkey changed the name, and current officials have clearly indicated a desire to return to the Islamist state established under the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish Council of Ministers, for example, formed the Istanbul Conquest Society to help organize a yearly event to celebrate the conquest of Constantinople.
As columnist Constantine Tzanos asks, “Why would anyone want to celebrate the conquest which not only by itself was a great human catastrophe, but it was also the precursor to many such catastrophes up to the very recent past?”
The Ottomans terrorized the Balkans, killing anyone who did not convert to Islam. Historian H. Gandev believes “that 2608 Bulgarian villages disappeared,” while the “rural population decreased by a total of 112,144 households (or approximately 560,000 people).” The post-Ottoman Turkish government repeated their predecessor’s history with the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian genocides in Asia Minor, which led to the deaths of over three million people.