The conquest of the heart

The conquest of the heart

“Conquest 1453” is not a subject that brings me good luck. All the same it is a journalistic duty to revisit the theme, especially because last week (May 29) marked the 559th anniversary of the Conquest of Constantinople.

Sadly, there is fresh evidence to support my theory that in the overtly childish Muslim-Turkish thinking the only difference between a conquest and an occupation is the following: conquest is when “we” occupy foreign lands -- and it is good; occupation is when “foreigners” occupy the lands we had conquered earlier -- and it is bad. Even sixth grade students would find this pastime boring and silly.

Professor Mehmet Görmez, head of the General Directorate for Religious Affairs, is a man of wisdom -- often -- who, at least in words, promotes interfaith dialogue. Sadly, his commemorating remarks for Conquest 1453 echoed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sentimental attachment to the Muslim-Turkish supremacy theory.

“Conquest,” Professor Görmez declared, “is not the occupation of lands or the destroying of cities and castles. ‘The’ conquest is the conquest of hearts!” That’s why, the top Turkish cleric said, “In our history there has never been occupation.” (I must confess I almost fell off the cliff while reading this line.) Instead, Professor Görmez said, “In our history, there has always been conquest.” It’s so gracious that we Turks don’t occupy but conquer (hearts)!

According to Professor Görmez, one of the two pillars of conquest is to “open up minds to Islam and hearts to the Quran.” Therefore, Turkey’s top Muslim cleric reasoned, the Conquest of Constantinople was the conquest of hearts. That’s quite an interesting theory.

With their hearts already conquered by Muslim Turks in 1453, I do not see why the Orthodox Greeks fought for independence 368 years later. Did the “conquering” Turks ask the Byzantines if they consented to be “conquered by the heart?” How many Byzantine hearts were opened up to Islam and the Quran?

In this mindset, I can imagine a chapter in new generation schoolbooks devoted to the siege of Vienna as follows: In 1683, the Ottoman Turks came close to conquering the hearts of the Viennese but failed, for which the Austrians have repented ever since... Another chapter could read: In 1967, the Arabs failed to conquer the hearts of Israelis; but in the same year the Israelis occupied Jerusalem…

Strangely, the Ottomans conquered hearts in the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East and opened up the people’s minds to Islam, but the ungrateful Muslims in these lands told the Ottomans: Go away, we are already Muslims!

I do not understand why the Turks set out on the mission of opening up the minds of Muslim Arabs to Islam and the Quran. If it was not to “occupy,” why did the Turks bother to introduce Islam to already-Muslim lands? I do not understand, either, why these Muslim nations refused to be conquered by the heart. Why do they still grudgingly recall the Turkish reign?

By the way what does the supreme Turkish-Muslim elite politburo think about what happened in 2003? Is it: In 2003, the Christian allies conquered the hearts of Muslim Iraqis; or: In 2003, Christian allies occupied Iraq? If it is the latter, why did the AKP-controlled all Muslim Turkish parliament open up Turkish airspace to occupying Christian forces? And why did Parliament in October 2003 approve a resolution to send Turkish troops to Iraq? To conquer Iraqi hearts?

But more importantly, if the top ranks of the Turkish Ulama think that the conquest of Constantinople was a merry event that meant the conquest of hearts (of the conquered) and the opening up of minds (of the conquered) to Islam, perhaps they should tell us what other lucky destinations they plan to treat so generously in the near future.