Turkey’s Role in Spread of Islam

“Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to ‘liberate al-Aqsa mosque’ from Israel after ‘resurrecting Hagia Sophia’ as a mosque on Friday. The decision to change the status of the ancient Hagia Sophia church, which had been transformed into a mosque in 1453 and then into a museum in 1934, was made controversially last week. It follows an increasingly religious authoritarian agenda from Ankara that has made Turkey the world’s largest jailer of journalists, seen dissidents imprisoned for ‘terrorism’ and witnessed increasing military invasions of neighboring countries by Turkey. The resurrection of Hagia Sophia heralds the liberation of the al-Aqsa mosque, the Turkish Presidency website says. In Arabic the speech says that turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque is part of the ‘return of freedom to al-Aqsa,’ essentially meaning Israel should be ejected from controlling Jerusalem’s Old City where al-Aqsa is located. Turkey’s president linked the decision to reviving Islam from Bukhara in Uzbekistan to Andalusia in Spain. This terminology, linking al-Aqsa in Jerusalem to Hagia Sophia and Spain, is a kind of coded terminology for a wider religious agenda. In the Turkish translation, the same reference to Spain does not appear to be included as in the Arabic. Linking the major change at Hagia Sophia to Jerusalem illustrates that Ankara’s ambitions are far larger than just reasserting Islamic prayers at the historic mosque and church in Istanbul; it is part of a larger Islamic agenda for the region.”

“Turkey vows to ‘liberate Al-Aqsa,’” The Jerusalem Post, July 11, 2020