The Hagia Sophia and the global battle of symbols

Sallie Anderson

In Fact, I do not care if the Hagia Sophia is a mosque, a museum or a church.

As a Byzantinist, I am especially thinking about the structure as a Byzantine work of art and as a location of 1,500 years ofhistory In addition, the brand-new mosque visitors will no doubt not alter an inch of the interior.

As a matter of truth, they barely altered anything when it was a mosque from 1453 to1934 Honestly, as long as we can check out the structure in all its magnificence, it does not matter which services are being held inside.

Yet the Turkish decision to reboot Islamic praise services considering that Friday (July 24) is not innocent.

It is above all a symbolic decision, an identitarian decision, one to injure others. “It pains me,” stated Pope Francis. That is certainly the intent.

A Turkish Facebook pal composed to me that this decision certainly symbolised the capture of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet II and hence the success over Christianity. Highlighting this now is continuing an old battle in the kind of a sign battle.

Turkey and its president are not the just ones tossing themselves into an identity war ofsymbols


When I checked out Cordoba’s popular Mosque/Cathedral (understood in Spanish as the ‘Mequita/Catedral’) a couple of years back, the tickets and nameplates ended up to have actually altered. The word Mezquita had actually vanished. From now on the former mosque no longer existed and the structure was just a cathedral.

The priests who walked in this cathedral, surrounded by a lovely mosque, likewise appeared to act like happy members of the historical Reconquista [Reconquest] duration.

And this remains in Cordoba, when the capital of Islamic al-Andalus in Spain, and in the year 1,000 the biggest city in the western hemisphere.

A battle of symbols likewise raves in the eastern hemisphere. An example is the notorious Yasukuni shrine, where Japanese soldiers succumbed to the nation are buried.

A Number Of of them are war bad guys, not least in the eyes of China and (South) Korea. The truth that a number of Japanese prime ministers checked out the shrine to show their regard to the so-called Japanese war heroes was time and once again a slap in the face of the Chinese and Koreans.

Unneeded and unpleasant, however symbolic and identitarian.

Waving flags

The greatest growing share in the around the world battle of symbols, nevertheless, needs to be flags – which have actually made a major return.

In Egypt, considering that president Abdel Fattah Sisi took power, children at school need to salute the flag every early morning, even if they remain in an international school. School inspectors in Egypt are more interested in monitoring the salute to the flag than the quality of education.

It is likewise intriguing to see that – a minimum of in the Middle East – the size of flags increases as liberty and democracy decrease.

The symbolic worth of flags, on the other hand, appears to end up being more unfavorable.

In the United States, there has actually been a real flag battle for a number of years in between the official flag of the United States (the stars spangled banner) and the Confederate flag. The latter was the flag of the South in the American Civil War and generally symbolises slavery and bigotry.

The truth that a number of official structures in the south of the United States still just hang the Confederate flag is generally a symbolic middle-finger to the black population there.

Flags likewise appear to be acquiring significance in Europe. In Belgium for instance, recently, the mayor of the Walloon town of Trois-Pont had a Flemish Lion flag at a youth camp gotten rid of by the cops to”avoid provocation”


To the remorse of some, the Flemish Lion flag has actually obtained a significantly unfavorable undertone over the last few years (or years). That’s not the case at all for most other flags. No one is troubled by the flag of West Flanders.

It shows that a sign that ends up being part of an ideological battle loses its universally-unitingforce


However let’s return to HagiaSophia How should we handle this now?

We in fact have an easy option: go along in this symbolic battle, or choose to do the opposite and make a symbolic reconciliation gesture rather.

Why not choose to turn that other crucial sign in between West and East, in between Islam and Christianity, the sign of the Reconquista, the Mosque/Cathedral of Cordoba into a museum now?

A more powerful signal is nearly difficult. In any case, it would send out the signal to the Turkish president: you might attempt to collect the hatchet in Istanbul, however we will bury it once again in Cordoba.

It would be a symbolic gesture stating that the battle in between Islam and Christianity is one of a remote past, both in the Middle East and in Europe. As a gesture, it would not just be symbolic, however a reflection of everyday reality.

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