You Are A Hypocrite If You Condemn Babri Mosque Demolition But Celebrate Hagia Sophia Conversion
The reversion of the Hagia Sophia museum, a longstanding symbol of Turkey’s secular status, into a mosque has received mixed reactions from the world.
UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, deeply regretted the decision taken by the Turkish authorities. “It is important to avoid any implementing measure, without prior discussion with UNESCO, that would affect physical access to the site, the structure of the buildings, the site’s movable property, or the site’s management,” the agency said in its official letter to officials in Turkey.
While the decision was condemned by many Western countries, it was widely celebrated across the Muslim World, specifically Pakistan.
Not only was it well received by the masses, many politicians also supported the conversion, stating that it was Turkey’s due right to enforce the decision made by the country’s highest court.
Following the announcement of Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque, Shahbaz Sharif expressed his support for the decision in a tweet: “Every country has its own laws and system of judiciary. Turkey is well within its rights to implement the court judgment to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. In the Muslim world, Turkey is a great example of religious tolerance and champion of interfaith harmony and dialogue.”
The same people who seemed to be celebrating and welcoming the move, had ironically opposed and condemned Indian Supreme Court’s ruling to build a temple at the site of Babri Masjid, which was demolished by Hindu zealots in 1992.
This points to a disturbing trend in our society, which regularly laments rise of Hindu nationalism in our neighborhood, but continues to condone similar acts of conversions and extremism happening around the Muslim world.
How is it that we widely condemned the conversion of a mosque in India but celebrate a similar conversion of a celebrated Christian site in Turkey?
Just as rise of Hindu Nationalism and repression of Muslim identity is unacceptable to us, the changed status of Hagia Sophia museum should not be a cause of celebration for us. The recent controversy over the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad, was perhaps the ugliest display of that hypocrisy.
Many fatwas were issued against the announcement. Countless number of hateful social media posts also called for halting its construction. One even featured a young boy making death threats to anyone who allowed the construction of the Hindu temple.
Such selective application and celebration of pluralism and co-existence cannot happen. We can either aspire to achieve religious freedom for each and every one, or drop the idea altogether.
It is important to understand that promoting any ideology — religious or otherwise — at the expanse of another is problematic.
Be it India’s Modi or Turkey’s Erdogan, regardless of their religious background, they all go down the similar political path: orchestrating hate and engendering religious fanaticism.
They keep bringing up issues of religious divide to appease their political base – all in the name of protecting their religious and national identities.
It reminds me of a popular saying by Martin Luther King Jr., “No one is free until we are all free.”