Turkish magazine calls for founding Islamic caliphate after Hagia Sophia conversion

A Turkish magazine called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate on Monday following the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

The latest cover of the magazine “Gercek-Hayat,” translated as “True Life” in English, reads “Now Hagia Sophia and Turkey are independent…Get together for Caliphate.”

“If not now, when? If not you, who?” it goes on to say, in both Turkish, English, and Arabic. Some have interpreted this as a call for Erdogan to establish Islamic rule that transcends Turkey’s borders.

The cover displays the Arabic words of the Islamic declaration of faith known as the shahada.

Earlier this month Erdogan announced the conversion of the ancient Hagia Sophia – originally built as a church in the sixth century – from a museum into a mosque.

It officially opened as a mosque on Friday with Erdogan in attendance for prayers and Turkey’s top government imam delivering a sermon holding an Ottoman sword.

Erdogan as ‘caliph’

Turkish journalist Abdurrahman Dilipak, who shared the magazine cover on his Twitter account, said last year that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has earned the title of “Caliph.”

“The Caliphate now rests with President Erdogan,” Dilipak said during an interview last March, according to Ahval news outlet.

Erdogan has styled himself to be a global Islamic leader in line with Turkey’s Ottoman history, whose rulers used the title caliphs to perpetuate a claim that they are the true rulers of the Islamic world.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting Hagia Sophia monument in Istanbul, on July 19, 2020. (AFP)

The term caliph has been used by terrorist organizations like ISIS to symbolize their desire to control the Muslim world and bring it under an extremist Islamic rule.

Magazine links to the Turkish government

Gercek Hayat is an Islamist weekly magazine that has links to the Turkish government, according to former Turkish parliament member Aykan Erdemir.

The publishers of Gercek Hayat own one of the leading pro-Erdogan daily newspapers in Turkey, which has received “significant economic support from government and pro-government entities over the years,” said Erdemir who is now senior director of the Turkey Program at the US thinktank Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The magazine has a history of making comments against religious minorities in Turkey including Christians and Jewish people, according to Erdemir.

A youth gestures as he waits at the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, outside the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia on July 24, 2020. (AP)

In May, religious minorities in Turkey condemned the magazine for linking three religious minority leaders – the Chief Rabbi, the Armenian patriarch, and the Greek Orthodox ecumenical patriarch – to terrorism.

The anti-Christian and anti-Semitic incitement in Gercek Hayat is “in-part government-funded and hence government-sanctioned,” according to Erdemir.

“If Erdogan’s government was truly concerned about Gercek Hayat’s targeting of religious minorities, they could have stopped providing economic support to its publishers,” he said.

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