Erdogan is sure his strategy of politics cloaked by religion will consolidate his power. We shall see

Turkey’s leader is picking and choosing his way through his country’s history for the gaudiest bits to discard or embellish, writes Robert Fisk

Thursday 30 July 2020 18:02
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre, and invited guests attend Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre, and invited guests attend Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia

If Bashar al-Assad was the only figure able to take advantage of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “reconversion” of Saint Sophia into a mosque after a mere 85 years as a museum, something must be very wrong with the world’s reaction to the Turkish president’s latest political shenanigans.

After Erdogan restored the almost 1,500-year old structure – designed by its Christian builders to recreate the Temple of Solomon – to the status of a fully prayed-in, fully functioning, fully muezzined place of worship for Turkey’s Muslim majority, the Americans expressed their “disappointment”, the EU and Unesco their “regret” and the Pope his “deep sadness”.

Inevitably, only the Orthodox church rumbled on about this “threat to the whole of Christian civilisation” – though it has been tolling its misery about the loss of the church ever since the Muslims conquered Byzantium in the 15th century. In the Middle East, history lasts a long time.

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