The abhorrent events at two mosques in the city of Christchurch New Zealand earlier on Friday have reasonably caused international concern. The perpetrator of the attacks disseminated in social media at an earlier stage a religious manifesto incorporating several excerpts of hateful anti-Islamic rhetoric.
Among other subjects, the manifesto also touched upon Turkey’s role in Islamic religion. The manifesto warned that Christians are planning to return in the future in Istanbul, and reconstitute the city under its longstanding name, Constantinople. Further, the manifesto argued that Christians will eventually restore Hagia Sophia back to an emblematic Byzantine Church.
Even though these statements were made before the terrorist attack took place and while the world remains shocked from the abhorrent event, a parallel albeit disturbing war of words took place. A war of words has broken out in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks between Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan and the son of Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Yair Netanyahu. These developments underscore the destabilising impact that heinous acts of religious violence may exert to all states, even at a rhetorics level.
Mr. Yair Netanyahu, earlier tweeted a message that Istanbul ‘is actually a city called Constantinople! The capital of the Byzantine empire and centre of orthodox Christianity for more than a thousand years before Turkish occupation!’
In a response to these allegations, the Turkish President angrily declared before an election rally that:
‘My brothers, he [referring to the terrorist] called Istanbul Constantinople! He threatened to turn Hagia Sophia into a church. As long as the Turkish people exist, this spirit exists, we would not allow this development to happen.’
Then President Erdogan also retaliated against the Israeli Prime Minister’s son framing him as immoral and proclaiming that the Jews ‘occupied the whole of Palestine! If the world is looking for a country that oppresses, it is Israel. If they are searching for a terror state that too is Israel.’
President Erdogan furious comments only add unnecessary fuel to the fire of religious adversity, prolonging the vicious cycle of incomprehensible, asymmetric, brutal violence.