U.S. Jewish groups condemn Erdoğan’s ‘incendiary’ remarks on liberating Al-Aqsa

A Jewish umbrella group in the United States said on Tuesday that the Turkish president's remarks at a ceremony marking Hagia Sofia’s reopening as a mosque were incendiary and offensive.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to liberate Al-Aqsa mosque from Israel after converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque on Friday.

He said that “the resurrection of Hagia Sophia was the harbinger of the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and footsteps of Muslims’ will to leave hard days behind”.

“We are appalled by the incendiary and offensive statement made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan… implying that he seeks to take control of the holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, is a frequent flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Erdoğan has long championed the Palestinian cause and has gone on record to say protecting Jerusalem, a city at the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, is a red line for Turkey.

“This outrageous rhetoric regarding the Al-Aqsa Mosque can and has incited violence against Israel and its citizens — and will add to tensions in the region. We condemn it strongly and urge President Erdoğan to recant his inflammatory words and actions,” the umbrella group said.

The Hagia Sophia, originally built as a Byzantine cathedral in 537, was turned into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul on May 29, 1453, and then became a museum in 1935 under modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s presidency.