In early July, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that on July 24—the day marking the fourth anniversary the pseudo-coup attempt in 2016 (which many hold he staged in order to crack down on pro-democracy activists)—the Church of Hagia Sophia (or Holy Wisdom) would once again become a mosque.
For 1,400 years, it was one of Christendom’s most storied and significant churches. It was turned into a mosque in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks when they conquered Constantinople. It was later converted into a museum in 1934 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey, as part of his efforts to modernize the country and encourage it to compete with European powers.
Atatürk had in 1924 abolished the 1,300-year-old caliphate—an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islamic steward with the title of caliph, a person considered a politico-religious successor to the Prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire community—effectively leaving the political lineage of the Prophet of Islam unclaimed and consequently ending a centralized and universal Islamic body politic.
In an article titled “Turkey’s New Mosque a Monument to Western Decline”, Bruce Thornton alluded to this. He wrote:
Turkey had been a poster-boy for the dubious globalist consensus that liberal democracy and free-market capitalism are the destiny of all humanity, including Muslims…. But over the years it took the military to maintain this modernizing, secular program in the face of the more traditional and conservative Muslim masses and their discontent. Starting as mayor of Istanbul in 1994, Erdoğan became their champion, and as president has abandoned Atatürk’s democratic, secular program: He has jailed more journalists than any other country and built 17,000 new mosques.
The defiant act of the want-to-be caliph Erdoğan is reflective of the times. No matter how much the Western-led international community (excluding the Islamic world) laments the turning of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the West has given Islamists such as Erdoğan more than enough leeway to reassert their jihadist campaign of Islamizing society. This is because it believes that both democracy and political Islam can co-exist; but it is also a consequence of the self-created moral vacuum that has left Western society completely defenseless.
A Failure to Recognize a Threat
In June 2015, in an apparent attempt to downplay the incompatibility of a Western and Islamic approach to state affairs, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stated:
I am not afraid to say that political Islam should be part of the picture. Religion plays a role in politics—not always for good, not always for bad. Religion can be part of the process. What makes the difference is whether the process is democratic or not …. The fear of the other can only lead us to new conflicts.
The term “political Islam” (or today’s more simple ‘Islamism’) was coined after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 to describe an apparent new phenomenon of political moments. It calls for an application of Islam as a governmental system in which strict sharia law must be enforced. It was advocated by educated Muslims who argued for a ‘re-Islamization’ of Muslim-majority countries that had, in their view, ceased to uphold Islamic values. Hence, the problem of blending Islam with the state—as it has been known historically—is that sharia (Islamic) law refuses to allow any sort of equity or social development within the political field.
This type of political and social stagnation is what Atatürk fought against; and it is what he changed after the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923). He maintained (publicly) that Islam was “a theology of an immoral Arab”, and while “it might have suited tribes of nomads in the desert”, it was counterproductive for a modern and developing state. This is the primary reason why he got rid of the caliphate—something that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is subtly rehashing.
Ataturk’s foresight cannot be altogether dismissed. According to IslamicMarkets.com—the leading financial intelligence platform covering the global Islamic financial markets—although nations such as Saudi Arabia possess enormous natural resources, at present most Muslims living in Islamic countries live in poverty. Barring few exceptions, most Islamic states remain underdeveloped; their education system is equally dismal.
At the time, Mogherini’s words suggesting some kind of co-existence with ‘political Islam’ were meant as an instrument to construct ‘harmony’ between Muslim countries and those of the European Union. Yet even then, Mogherini’s proposal was far-fetched, if not hypocritical.
At the time, she asserted that “[r]eligion plays a role in [European] politics,” which was blatantly wrong. There is nothing within the EU Constitution—despite over 70% percent of Europeans being Christians—that even hints that its member-states should refer to its Christian roots.
Many in the Islamic world tend to blame the globalized West for their misfortunes. While there may be some truth to this, according to Dr. Azeem Ibrahim, a fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford University, “the true reasons for the state [of poverty] in which the Muslim world finds itself today are rather closer to home: the venal, corrupt leaders, but also, our indolent, passive societies.”
The root of this passiveness is the sharia mentality, which prevents any type of autonomous or independent studies necessary for innovation. This is why Shah Reza Pahlavi sought to secularize Iran, allowing his fellow Persians (with Western aid) to make advances in the fields of education, medicine, and the like, and producing generations of sophisticated, urbane citizens.
The West’s Moral Vacuum
Today the Western body politic—including the world’s multilateral organizations, like the United Nations and the European Union—has created a moral vacuum in our societies. They have produced an environment that favors individualism and which is characterized by selfishness, disguised as human rights. It does this most blatantly in its promotion and fostering of the pro-abortion movement, and in a more politically predominant manner by the global LGBT campaign. This, too, has created an opening for Islam.
While both natural and human rights are nearly synonymous, the former are based on nature—i.e., they are inherent to the human person—while the latter do not necessarily have to be. For example, the state may recognize the right of a woman to abort the infant in her womb or may concede two persons of the same sex the faculty to contract a marriage.
Church leaders, too, because of their pluralist approach to morality and doctrine have facilitated the recognition of such antisocial behavior as rights. As the Catholic Archbishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said: “Whereas Christ tolerated sinners but did not tolerate sin—always calling on sinners to ‘repent’—today most Western Christians believe they must tolerate (or ‘celebrate’) both sinner and sin. The latter, thanks to entrenched moral and cultural relativism, no longer even seems to exist.”
Consequential to all this is the firm foothold Islam has gained in Western society. Muslims have collectively reacted to the fundamental national, religious, cultural, and even gender identities that are being denied or relativized. As a community, in a complete paradox to the West, Muslims tend to uphold natural law principles by refuting abortion: holding that the fetus possesses a spiritual right and that the parents are obligated to observe these rights for the safety of the fetus before, during and, after pregnancy.
Despite the fact that sharia discourages any proper development of human rights—such as freedom of speech and of religion—and that it fails to recognize the equality between man and woman, Western statesmen (and Church leaders) remain reluctant to criticize it. They willingly refuse to publicly admit that it not only justifies the illegitimate use of force but requires that all human beings subjugate themselves to it. This is something that is even stipulated in Article 24 of the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights: “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia.”
We should, therefore, not be surprised that Erdoğan is now converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque. What is disturbing—as per the anarchist movements like Black Lives Matter and Antifa in the U.S. (and, to some extent, in Western Europe), with the toppling of historical monuments and white people voluntarily kneeling down and asking for forgiveness—is that the West has shown once again shown its fragility and an inability to defend itself. This is just what the Islamic world needs from us in order to take over.