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Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey, must be turning in his grave, for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is successfully undoing his legacy. By converting Hagia Sophia from a museum back into a mosque—and Islamizing the country in general—the wannabe caliph has demonstrated to the world the power and influence of radical Islam.
Hagia Sophia was a Unesco heritage site; but Erdogan, like the Taliban who destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas, has no regard for heritage, culture, or the sensitivities of people of other faiths. The silence of global leaders—especially those from liberal democracies—world dignitaries, and public intellectuals to the jihadist outrage is as deafening as it is frightening.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have not reacted. Nor has US President Donald Trump, who can scarcely be slammed for being a Muslim appeaser. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, of course, was “disappointed” with Erdogan’s decision, but the disappointment didn’t translate into action.
Even Russia’s Vladimir Putin, always keen to present himself as a muscular, politician, didn’t express any anger against the outrage, despite Russians being Orthodox Christians.
A smaller nation, Greece, however, proved courageous. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s office said in a written statement: “Greece condemns in the most intense manner the decision of Turkey to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. This is a choice which offends all those who also recognize the monument as a World Heritage Site. And of course it does not only affect relations between Turkey and Greece, but its relations with the European Union.”
Even Pope Francis’ reaction was muted, and certainly cannot be called a denunciation of Turkey: “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained.”
Russian Patriarch Kirill, however, didn’t mince words, terming Erdogan’s act a “threat to the whole of Christian civilization.” Compare this with the anodyne statement the Kremlin issued: “Turning it into a mosque will not do anything for the Muslim world. It does not bring nations together, but on the contrary brings them into collision.”
The West’s timid response has been attributed to Erdogan’s blackmailing tactics: he can always unleash migrants in European countries. Now, political leaders like Merkel lack moral courage to say no to unwanted aliens, as also do thought leaders.
Worse, Left-leaning intellectuals often make case for open borders. They also condemn any move against Muslim fundamentalism, frequently threatening their adversaries with the accusations of Islamophobia and xenophobia. Erdogan knew that. He counted on the silence of politicians, and the silencing power of intellectuals; he knew that the latter would vilify anybody opposing the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil,” the great political philosopher and parliamentarian Edmund Burke said, “is for good men to do nothing.” Today, things are worse than that. Now, good men are forced to do nothing. Nobody wants to be called Islamophobe or racist. Such is the silencing power of intellectuals..