Erdoğan attempts to stoke the tensions that Atatürk relieved – opinion

The conversion of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a part of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamist ambitions for Turkey and the region, Newsweek magazine said on Wednesday.

"For that pursuit, Hagia Sophia's symbolic importance is almost without comparison," Johnnie Moore and Tuğba Tanyeri-Erdemir said in their article penned for Newsweek.

Erdoğan declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia a mosque on June 10, after a top court annulled the 6th-century historical site’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The president’s decree constituted a major step for his party in fulfilling a long-standing demand by its core Islamist voter base.

Atatürk brilliantly defused interfaith tensions by protecting it the Hagia Sophia as humanity's common heritage but Erdoğan is attempting to "stoke the tensions that Atatürk relieved," the analysts said.

The analysts noted that Erdoğan's remarks following the conversion of the monument when he said that “the resurrection of Hagia Sophia was the harbinger of the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and footsteps of Muslims’ will to leave hard days behind”.

The Turkish president has been supporting Muslim Brotherhood efforts in the Middle East and North Africa, and he has recruited jihadists in Syria and in Libya who were granted impunity to persecute vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, Moore and Tanyeri-Erdemir said.

"In stark contrast to Atatürk's vision of building a secular democratic state in a Muslim-majority country, Erdoğan offers a majoritarian model, which will deepen supremacist impulses across the region."