Today, centuries later, the question for Turkey is what aspect of this complex Ottoman heritage is really more valuable.
For the religious conservatives who have rallied behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past two decades, the main answer seems to be imperial glory embodied in an absolute ruler.
For other Turks, however, the greatness of the Ottomans lies in their pluralism, rooted at the very heart of Islam, and it would inspire different moves today — perhaps opening Hagia Sophia to both Muslim and Christian worship, as I have advised for years. Another would be reopening the Halki Seminary, a Christian school of theology that opened in 1844 under Ottoman auspices, went victim to secular nationalism in 1971, but is still closed despite all the calls from advocates for religious freedom.
For the broader Muslim world, Hagia Sophia is a reminder that our tradition includes both our everlasting faith and values, as well as a legacy of imperialism. The latter is a bitter fact of history, like Christian imperialism or nationalism, which have targeted our mosques and even lives as well — from Cordoba to Srebrenica. But today, we should try to heal such wounds of the past, not open new ones.