Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rebuked Western countries for ‘Islamophobia’ in response to growing criticism of his decision to turn Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque. “Those who do not take a step against Islamophobia in their own countries … attack Turkey’s will to use its sovereign rights,” Erdogan said on Saturday.

The remarks came in response to European and Western criticism over the conversion of the 1,500-year-old Christian church into a Muslim place of worship. Friday’s announcement was met with cries of ‘Allahu akbar’ by a crowd of Erdogan supporters outside Hagia Sophia, media reports said.

The decision was slammed by the European Union and the United States. Switzerland-based World Council of Churches expressed its “grief and dismay” over turning of one of the Christianity’s first cathedral into a mosque. Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos, who represents most of the Orthodox Christianity, called it an attack on civilization.

French broadcaster France24 reported Erdogan’s remarks:

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday rejected worldwide condemnation over Turkey’s decision to convert the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, saying it represented his country’s will to use its “sovereign rights”. (…)

“Those who do not take a step against Islamophobia in their own countries … attack Turkey’s will to use its sovereign rights,” Erdogan said during a ceremony he attended via video-conference. (…)

Erdogan’s announcement came after the cancellation by a top court of a 1934 cabinet decision under modern Turkey’s secularising founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.

“We made this decision not looking at what others say but looking what our right is and what our nation wants, just like what we have done in Syria, in Libya and elsewhere,” the Turkish leader said Saturday.

The Turkish president has chosen to respond to this growing criticism by playing the ‘Islamophobia’ card. This not the first time he has resorted to this. Erdogan not only funds a massive network of mosques across Europe, he also finances the narrative of Islamophobia on the continent.

Every year, Turkey’s state-funded SETA foundation publishes a so-called “European Islamophobia Report.” The report apparently seeks to smear the European critics of Islam and paint Europe as a hostile place for Muslims. “The existence of Islamophobia in Europe can now no longer be denied,” the authors of the report declared in 2016.

This Turkey-sponsored Islamophobia reports blacklists European newspapers, writers, and politicians for the crime of spreading ‘Islamophobic’ views. The 2018 edition of the report named UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson among the “central figures in Britain’s Islamophobia network.” The European Union is actively backing Erdogan in these efforts by financing SETA’s “Islamophobia” research.

While admonishing the West for its ‘Islamophobic’ intolerance, Erdogan on Friday vowed to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa,’ the mosque built on top of the Temple Mount. The “resurrection” of Hagia Sophia is the first step towards “the liberation of the Al-Aqsa mosque,” Erdogan declared in his Friday speech. The Turkish leader has given similar calls for jihad against Israel in the past.

(Cover image via YouTube)


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