Built as a Christian cathedral in 532, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman’s annexation of Constantinople (Istanbul). In 1923, when Khilafat-e-Osmania was abolished by Britishers and Greece and Turkey were separated, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. The treaty provided for the independence of the Republic of Turkey and for the protection of the Greek Orthodox Christian minority in Turkey and the Muslim minority in Greece.
In 1935, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum as a symbol of Secularism by Kamal Ataturk. The structure which is a victim of profane politics was again converted into a Mosque by the decree of Top Administrative court which annulled Hagia Sophia’s museum status. The conversion, in my opinion, is a major setback to the country’s secular values and the move comes at a time when President Erdogan is facing a challenging time. The move has received criticism from all over the world by the secular intellectual lobby.
But before concluding everything, we must consider some other facts which were totally ignored by most of our secular intellectual lobby in the world.
At present, there are around 14 active churches in Istanbul where Hagia Sophia is located and more than 20 in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. But not a single active mosque in Athens— the capital city of Greece.
Weeks ago, Greece ordered one of the oldest Muslim prayer halls in the Athens metropolitan area to shut down. In fact, Athens is the only capital in Europe without an official mosque. Greece’s Muslim population cannot exercise their right to choose their own Muftis and Administrators of Muslim Pious endowments (waqfs).
As far as the issue of conversion of the structure is considered, it is without any doubt a wound on the secular fabric of Turkey and an example of religious fundamentalism, but Turkey, being a Muslim-majority state, becomes the soft target for the world to criticise as it usually happens with all other Muslim-majority states while all secular intellectual critic lobby has remained silent over the conditions of the Muslim minority in Greece. The Muslim secular intellectuals, on the other hand, have reacted more like bhakts of President Erdogan and less like a secular being.
Featured Image credits: WION