OPINION: Will Hagia Sophia Mosque gimmick endanger Muslim minorities outside Turkey?


by Zahack Tanvir

These are pure political gimmicks to keep the show running and satiating the thirst for power…

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday, a court’s decision to annul the Hagia Sophia’s museum status, which will pave way to restore it as a mosque.

Hagia Sophia was originally a Greek church (Santa Sophia), which was made as a mosque in 1453 by Ottoman rulers. However, in 1934 after Turkey got international recognition it was made as a museum.

Now, Turkish court has paved a way to restore it as a mosque, but this decision has provoked Christian majority countries like Greece, and it may pose danger to Muslims living as minorities in Christian-dominant countries like that of Spain.

Muslims in Spain’s Córdoba have been struggling for years to get permission to pray in their former mosques. Sometimes they send requests to Vatican to help them get permission. Moreover, the far-right Christian groups in Spain object the proposals, citing the condition of Christian communities living in Muslim countries.

Don’t you think Turkey’s latest move will provoke Christians against Muslim minorities?

Interestingly, if you ask these people who support this move, if it’s permissible in Islam to convert any worship place into mosque? The obvious response will be “NO”. And they will come up with a lot of narrations from Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and his companions about the prohibition of the act.

In fact, the famous incident of second caliph of Islam Umar al-Khattab is cited. When he conquered Jerusalem. He jumped out of a church when informed about the place, and prayed outside. When asked why he did that, he replied that he was afraid that future generations would make that as a practice to convert non-Muslim places of worship into mosques.

More interestingly, all of these rejoicers will cite how peaceful Islam is, and how it doesn’t allow converting other places of worship into mosques. And the logical reasons will be given that this will provoke the other communities to attack Muslims living in minorities.

Unfortunately, they fall for the Erdogan’s political gimmick. The way India’s ruling party used the Ayodhya’s disputed land case that is Ram Temple vs. Babri Mosque to appease the majority and grab the Hindu-vote bank, in order to hide the raising questions on demonetization, mob-lynching, and the run-away business typhoons. Majority of the people were on cloud nine with the court’s decision to restore Ram temple at the disputed place.

You would observe that Erdogan and his party following the same pattern to sell the Hagia Sophia case in 2023 elections to gain sympathy and appeasement of the Muslims, while brushing off the failures of falling Lira, deteriorating health care and education system, and Erdogan’s foreign policies.

Superficially, the conversion of Hagia Sophia to mosque will appeal and attract a lot of Muslims worldwide, who may see Erdogan as a future Muslim leader, but they fail to see and realize the ulterior motives Erdogan pose as a danger to the Muslim countries especially the Arab nations, which are trying to regain from the aftermath of the so-called “Arab Spring”.

These are pure political tactics to exude shallow machoism with the thirst for power, while jeopardizing the status of Muslims living as minorities outside Turkey.

Zahack Tanvir is a Computer Engineer based in Saudi Arabia. He holds Diploma in Journalism from London School of Journalism. He regularly writes for MilliChronicle on socio-political issues. He tweets under @ZahackTanvir.

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