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Why the U.S. will do nothing to protect the Hagia Sophia

By Edward G. Stafford
Jul 08 2020

The Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, is currently considering whether to reconvert the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, a status it held from the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 until 1931, the year in which Mustafa Kemal Atatürk closed it pending its re-opening in 1935 as a museum.

How will the decision affect U.S.-Turkey relations? Not greatly. Why not?

In a July 1 statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear that the United States would prefer that the Hagia Sophia remains a museum. The statement also noted that Turkey had administered the Hagia Sophia “in an outstanding manner for nearly a century”.

These are hardly the words of condemnation nor does it contain even a subtle threat of consequences. No, the statement indicates that if the Council of State rules that the Hagia Sophia becomes a mosque again, the U.S. will be disappointed, but that will be about as far as it goes.

There are several reasons for this.

First, while the statement emphasises the UNESCO World Heritage status of the museum and its capacity as such to serve as a bridge between peoples of “differing faith traditions and culture”, it implies that the decision of its status rests firmly with the Turkish government.

It focuses on the prestige Turkey has garnered in its administration of the site and heaps accolades on Turkey for the way it has managed its patrimony. It is the plea of a concerned friend, not the scolding of a nosey neighbour.

Second, though many Christians attach great importance to the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia as the former greatest church in the Christian world, most of President Trump’s Evangelical Christians do not.

While some Evangelical Christians would lament Hagia Sophia becoming a mosque again as further evidence of the attempts of Islamists to snuff out Christianity in the greater Middle East, many if not most U.S. Evangelicals reserve their political efforts for the protection of access to Christian sites in Israel and Palestine.

Read more at http://www.defenddemocracy.press/why-the-u-s-will-do-nothing-to-protect-the-hagia-sophia/