During the 8th century Islamic conquest of Spain, Emir Abd ar-Rahman converted the beautiful Visigothic Church of Saint Vincent into the Great Aljama Mosque of Córdoba. Also during the 8th and 9th centuries, Muslim conquerors in Egypt converted Coptic Christian churches and Jewish synagogues into mosques, and Muslim invaders in Palermo, Sicily, transformed the Church of Saint Mary of the Assumption into the Great Mosque of Bal'harm.
In 1387, Turkish Muslims conquered the Greek city of Thessaloniki (the city of the 1st century church of the Thessalonians) and converted the Katholikon Monastery and the Church of Aghia Sophia into mosques. In 1453, Muslim armies under Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople and converted a beautiful Byzantine church, the Hagia Sophia, into the Ayasofya Mosque. The church's brilliant gold mosaic tiles were painted white and covered with verses from the Quran. A similar fate befell Saint Clement's Macedonian Orthodox Monastery in the Balkans, the Toulon Cathedral in France, the Church of Saint John the Forerunner in Constantinople, and several cathedrals in Cyprus.
In 1923, Muslims drove Greek Christians out of Turkey and turned their Orthodox churches into mosques. Half a century later, in 1974, Turkish Muslims invaded the island of Cyprus and again converted Greek Orthodox churches into mosques.
After the Al-Qaeda terror attacks of September 11, 2001, a Muslim group called the Córdoba Initiative (named for Córdoba, Spain, the site of an early Islamic conquest) purchased a building which had been damaged by debris from the attacks, proposing to convert that building near Ground Zero into a 13-story, $100 million mosque and Islamic cultural center. To anyone who understands the history of Jihad, the so-called Park51 center (known to its opponents as the "Ground Zero Mosque") is but the latest in a long succession of mosques used as symbols of Islamic conquest.
And what of the recent uprisings in Egypt and throughout the Arab world? Are these events connected to Islamic conquests of the past? Are they connected to activities in the U.S., at the "Ground Zero Mosque" and elsewhere?
We will explore these questions in Part 2.