August 19, 2008, LA Times:
Praying in Istanbul's Blue Mosque on Friday, I witnessed firsthand Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's international publicity coup...Via JihadWatch
I've long been fond of the Blue Mosque because it is where, many years ago, I attended my first Friday prayers. Last Friday, though, I felt uncomfortable in the prayer hall, where I found myself in front of God but next to Ahmadinejad, who turned the ritual into a political show.
Departing from established practice of having visiting Muslim heads of state pray in a smaller mosque in Istanbul, the government allowed Ahmadinejad to pray in the Blue Mosque, Turkey's symbol of tolerant Ottoman Islam. With permission from Turkish authorities, he also allowed Iranian television to videotape him during the entire prayer, in violation of Islamic tradition, which requires quiet and intimate communion between God and the faithful. There was so much commotion around Ahmadinejad that the imam had to chide the congregants. Then, as he left the mosque, Ahmadinejad got out of his car to encourage a crowd of about 300 to chant, "Death to Israel! Death to America!"
Even without this behavior, any visit from a leader representing an authoritarian, anti-Western autocracy would have created controversy in Turkey just a few years ago. Not today. The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government not only opened the Blue Mosque to Ahmadinejad but accommodated his refusal to pay respects at the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey -- a major violation of protocol for an official visit...
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan asked the Turkish public to ignore the snub and instead "focus on the big picture." It is the "big picture," though, that is most disconcerting. By extending an invitation to Ahmadinejad, the first such move by any NATO or European Union member country, Turkey has broken ranks with the West. The West can no longer take Turkey for granted as a staunch ally against Tehran.