History is the account of past events that people have decided to agree upon. History in its entirety is rarely biased. But with our current politics and priorities, we cannot accept an honest version. If Muslim rulers alone are not depicted as looters or destroyers of heritage, then it would not sit right with the version of past events we have agreed upon.
In 1204 CE, Constantinople suffered the most brutal attack by the western Christian army of the fourth crusade. A war essentially between the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Church. When the city fell, countless religious artefacts, relics, and artworks of the eastern orthodox sect were lost. Hagia Sophia was repurposed into a Roman Catholic church. The damage to the strength of Constantinople was so intense and deeply rooted that even after the victory of Byzantine forces in 1261, it could never reclaim its former glory and status.
So when the top Turkish court annulled the 1934 cabinet decision of turning the Hagia Sophia mosque into a museum, the world went up in flames. Liberals marched with their flags held high demanding justice for the Eastern Orthodox Church. Mehmet II was sentenced, a tyrannical ruler, a destroyer of culture as he was the ‘second person’ to repurpose Hagia Sophia.
In court, representatives of the association, the Permanent Foundations, and Service to Historical Artefacts and the Environment argued that the building was endowed as a mosque under Mehmed II, the conqueror of Istanbul who owned the property. Article 70 of the Constitution guaranteed not only freedom of conscience but also right to property. Article 74 explicitly laid down that no one shall be dispossessed of their property except in public interest and on payment of the actual value of the expropriated property. (Article 35 of the current Turkish constitution also guarantees the right to property.)
The Council of State’s 10th circle said in the judgment that the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II registered Hagia Sophia as an endowment that could be only used as a mosque. “The property belongs to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Foundation. The charter of the foundation presents the building as a mosque for the public use and it has been registered as a mosque in the land registry,” the judgment said. “The state has the responsibility to ensure the use of the endowment as the donor wishes.” The charters also make it impossible to utilize the building other than a mosque. Therefore, the cabinet decision isn’t consistent with the rule of law and it is unanimously cancelled.
President Erdogan said “deciding the building’s purpose is Turkey’s sovereign right: Like all our other mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be open to all locals, foreigners, Muslims, and non-Muslims. Hagia Sophia will continue to embrace everyone in a most sincere, unique way, with its new status.”
Criticism and debate are the pillars upon which we build our just society and ensure a wary approach to all aspects of our life. This agreement among men only retains its value when our arguments and critique is honest and impartial. Words lose their gravitas when they reek of pure hypocrisy.
The outrage received after Hagia Sophia reconversion was plainly unprecedented and appalling at many levels. The sheer hypocrisy of the ones questioning this decision is quite evident. From Pope Francis claiming to have been pained due to this decision to the ever-outraging liberals, to the Indian right-wing hilariously justifying the demolition of Babri Masjid in the wake of the above decision, everything is completely hypocritical and shameless to the core. People claiming ‘great grief and ‘dull heartaches’ should answer if they remember the mosques unapologetically turned to cathedrals and churches or perhaps they should also feel the grief on the behalf of our 260 million eastern orthodox brethren when 155 Serbian orthodox churches were destroyed by Ustaša and people were forcibly converted.
The onus lies on the Muslims only to be good little boys to amicably solve every contention. Their first obligation is to defend the secular values at cost of their rights. Then, liberal Muslims sweep in and dub this desperation for survival and acceptance as ‘Divine Islamic morals’.
They are the ones who want to see practicing Muslims as subservient and meek. For them, practicing Muslims standing up for themselves and their cause and being unapologetic is something they shiver due to. They will justify and eulogize mass murderers in the most sophisticated language possible but will come after Erdogan because he is the one they think is being authoritarian and undemocratic. Though had the 2016 coup been successful they would be completely fine with it, as they did in case of Egypt; the “savage races” do not deserve democracy and they are the ones who can only be kept in check by a dictator.
The only thing that liberals love is to sermonize the weaker ones. Their opposition to any government or state depends upon the fact whether they are being nice to them or not. I believe, standing up for justice is not something one could ever expect from a liberal Muslim.
Putting it succinctly in the words of economist and political commentator V. Ramanan: “Liberals are discourse police. They allow the debate to happen only in the narrow range. They’ll smear you if you propose even a slightly uncompromising stance. They are establishment lovers. Liberals act clever by making things like emancipation synonymous with liberalism. They exploit the word ‘liberal’ to make it look like everyone opposed to it is illiberal.”
The opposition does not have any logical or relevant argument to question the decision of the Turkish court on Hagia Sophia. Two mighty empires fought over Constantinople for 59 days in 1453, Byzantine vs Ottomans. Constantine XI vs Mehmed II. Ottomans won. Hagia Sophia was acquired legitimately under the universal rules of conquest that existed at the time. And most people of Turkey who built and maintained the Hagia Sophia themselves converted to Islam so they converted their building to for their purpose. It remained a mosque until 1934 when Ataturk turned it into a museum.
Now the question should be asked why it was converted into a museum. Remember, wars between empires overpower and control can’t be undone now by applying modern-day liberal and democratic logic.
It is hilarious when they decide to call upon the conscience of practicing Muslims, claiming the decision to be un-Islamic and morally indictable. According to them, the encumbrance of being morally and ethically superior and taking care of liberal values is on only Muslims. Anything that rebutts their agenda becomes un-Islamic instantly and when a verse loosely translates into what they are saying, suddenly every practicing Muslim is called towards the religion with unparalleled passion.
We as practicing Muslims do not have any problem when someone reminds us about Islam and its teachings but we fail to grasp their intentions; the condescending attitude with which they look down upon practicing Muslims is deplorable to the core. From wearing a hijab to any non-modern practice in their faith, liberals want practicing Muslims denouncing these “regressive” customs and are made to feel remorseful about their beliefs, about everything that they take pride in.
Nathaniel Hawthrone said, “No man for any considerable period can wear one face for himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” Practicing Muslims should rise above deceptions and see the short-sightedness of the liberal Muslim agenda. This habit of trading soul and faith for just living another day, is not sustainable. The price gets higher every time.