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BOCA RATON, FL – The Middle East is a tinderbox. And the guy waving the match is Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan. The striker he’s using to scratch the match on is Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia edifice, that stood proudly as a museum and symbol of Turkish tolerance for the past 86 years. It was built in Constantinople, now Istanbul, back in 537 as the central cathedral for Christians. When the rampaging Muslims captured this city in 1453, the building was turned into a mosque and remained so until 1934 when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first president of modern Turkey declared Hagia Sophia would become a secular museum. UNESCO even declared it to be a World Heritage Site. It was the most visited attraction for foreign tourists to Turkey. This move will hurt Turkey’s tourism and in its already empty pocketbook.
But what does this conversion of a building really mean in terms of world conflict, Israel and even to our own country? Turkey, under Erdogan, is attempting to replace Saudi Arabia as leader of the world’s Sunni population. It has already aligned itself with America hating Iran who also sees Arabia as an obstacle to its conquest of the Middle East and its oil fields. A joining of these two now volatile and aggressive Islamist nations is troubling to Israel as well. The Jewish State has now semi-friendly relations with Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and sort of with Jordan. Turkey’s move with the Hagia Sophia has signaled its continuing religious alignment with the enemy of the new “Israeli bloc” and the U.S. That’s a bad move and a warning sign of its dark intent.
And Turkey’s move to eradicate its history by removing its past emulates what’s occurring in our own country today with the toppling of statues and symbols of our nation’s legacy. The statues of Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, Gen. Robert E. Lee, George Washington and Frederick Douglas among others, have been torn down by rioters. It’s comparable to book burning and mob rule. All of us were shocked when ISIS, in Iraq, destroyed the ancient city of Hatra. Recall when the Taliban blew up the statues of Bhudda built in the 4th Century? Now it’s happening right here and in dictator-ruled Turkey. The great Roman philosopher, Marcus Cicero wrote over 2,000 years ago: “History is life’s teacher. Its monuments and museums should not be destroyed or canceled, especially in an effort to to dominate the present. They have a right to speak to us – and be heard.” But who is listening now? That’s scary.