Around the Ex-Saint Sophia Basilica

The ex-Saint Sophia Basilica, which recently has become a Mosque

The Islamic world has just celebrated the sacrificial festivities, which commemorates Abraham’s offering of the life of his son, Isaac, to God. The ritual stoning of idols and devil’s depictions took place in Mecca. In Istanbul, people prayed in the new Saint Sophia mosque, whose Catholic tradition has recently been set aside. This is not only an aspect of the Islamic world; it is the central one today. Western eyes do not easily grasp the importance of the present moment in the history of Mohammedan believers.

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the Great War was not just a political event or the birth of a new territorial order. In 1919 the sultanate ended, a form of theocracy that for more than a thousand years had represented God’s will on earth for Muslims. The westernization wanted by Ataturk was successful because it relied on the army, which had rejected the claims of the Europeans on the Anatolian peninsula. But the idea of separating Turkish nationalism from traditional religion seems to have been severely tested.

By what? By the feeling of millions of Muslims who are proud of belonging to a civilization different from the modern Christian one, to which the myths of material progress and innovation have very little relevance. In the twentieth century, Muslims saw their children emigrate to find work in Western countries and adopt habits opposite to the rigor of Islam. They felt the humiliation of colonization, of military and technological inferiority. They have suffered the pervasive presence of uncontrollable means of communication such as the internet, etc.

As always in these cases, the revaluation of the past has assumed great importance. Recently, the Turks celebrated the 567th anniversary of Mohammed II’s conquest of Constantinople, and during the commemoration held in Saint Sophia, an imam recited verses from the Koran.

The EU moderately joint in the chorus of protests. However, Turkey hosts NATO bases and holds back millions of migrants who would like to flock to Europe in search of better life conditions. It is not a courageous and dignified position, but it may happen that one could pay for the mistakes of the past, or has to face unprecedented problems, such as mass migration, for which there are no predefined recipes.

And that’s not all. The disputed border area between Azerbaijan, under Ankara’s protection, and Armenia, under Russian protection, is in turmoil. In the first ten days of August, Turkish – Azerbaijani military exercises were held after a failed meeting between Putin and Erdogan. Will blood still be poured in the Caucasus?