After many years of waiting, Turkey’s Muslims rejoiced at the opportunity to perform their Friday and Eid prayers at the Hagia Sophia. That joy, to nobody’s surprise, went hand in hand with a war of words between Turkish politicians. Critics speculated that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration intended to “restore the caliphate,” claiming that Turkey’s top imam had “cursed” Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the republic’s founder, in his Friday sermon.
Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque sparked a debate over President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political agenda. Some observers believe that the administration has a to-do list yet to be completed. That claim boils down to the idea of Turkey’s gradual Islamization. Western media outlets, too, amplified that message by speculating that Erdoğan undid Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s legacy and revived the Ottoman Empire to bring back the caliphate. Others, out of excitement or sorrow over Hagia Sophia’s reopening, jumped on that bandwagon.
The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque's reopening, an embodiment of Turkey’s free will, could not have been possible without Erdoğan’s leadership and the Turkish people’s confidence in him. Hagia Sophia’s "resurrection" has become a symbol of Turkey’s efforts to become a prominent player in the international arena. A missing piece of our national identity has thus been put back in place. No politician would ever dare to reverse this decision as long as Turkey remains a democracy.
Shortly after the Council of State annulled a 1934 decree that converted Hagia Sophia into a museum, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday issued a decree to open the facility to worshippers. After decades of calls "to break the chains and open Hagia Sophia," the people finally got what they wanted.
The Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) opponents suffer from a common condition: failing to understand the nature of power, no matter how hard they try. They cannot grasp the practice of seizing and preserving political power with an eye on internal and external factors. For a long time, I attributed that shortcoming to the opposition’s prolonged lack of proximity to power. I imagined that they simply had no experience with the difficulty of striking a healthy balance between the development and implementation of policy and the generation of legitimacy needed to maintain one’s power. I was obviously aware that their commitment to neo-nationalist, Kemalist and leftists ideologies effectively blinded them, perpetuating their weakness.