Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, vowed to liberate al-Aqsa mosque from Israel after converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque on Friday. Last week, a court in Turkey gave controversial judgment to convert ancient Hagia Sophia church into a mosque. The UNESCO World Heritage site was converted into a mosque for the first time in 1453. In 1934, it was transformed into a museum.
The Turkish Presidency website issued a statement saying, “The resurrection of Hagia Sophia is the footsteps of the will of Muslims across the world to come… the resurrection of Hagia Sophia is the reignition of the fire of hope of Muslims and all oppressed, wrong, downtrodden and exploited.”
The Arabic and English translation of the statement was different from the one that was published in Turkish. It is believed that the difference in the translation was an attempt to hide full views of Ankara on how it has connected transformation of Hagia Sophia to a bigger agenda.
Palestinian support with Erdogan
In Arabic, it described the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque as a part of “return to freedom to al-Aska,” which means Israel should be removed from Jerusalem’s Old City where al-Aqsa is located. Turkey’s president has linked the decision to reviving Islam to Bukhara in Uzbekistan and Andalusia in Spain. By linking al-Aqsa in Jerusalem to Hagia Sophia and Spain, he has shown the coded terminology of a wider agenda on religious lines.
Erdogan has drawn huge admiration among Palestinians for being a critic of Israel. Turkey had attempted to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza by sending Gaza flotilla that led to 10 Turkish citizens’ death as Israel forces raided the Mavi Marmara ship on learning about the attempt.
An attempt to become determiner of “Islamic” practices
AK Party of Turkey has deep roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is a close ally of Hamas in Gaza. Turkey’s strategy is believed to be an attempt to seek more influence across the region among like-minded countries and groups, including Libya and Qatar. Turkey has been trying to replace countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan to become the main determiner of what is “Islamic.” Ankara seems to believe that the change in the status of Hagia Sophia is only a small part of the broader religious militarist agenda in the Middle East. The speech associated with Hagia Sophia has indicated that Turkey’s future agenda may eye on Jerusalem as well.