Hagia Sophia

01 Aug 2020


THIS is apropos your editorial ‘Hagia Sophia decision’ (July 12) in which you have regretted the decision of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to change the status of Hagia Sophia’s monumental structure from a museum to a mosque.

Let me state here that from the year 1453 to 1934, it remained a mosque for 481 years. And when now its status has been restored, instead of being delighted, you are regretting the all-welcome decision.

You believe Erdogan has courted a new controversy and this decision will not be without a consequence. The Christian world will not allow Muslims to build new mosques and restrict their religious freedom in their countries. The fact is that Islamophobia is ever present all over the world even in an insignificant country like Myanmar.

In reality, it was not Erdogan alone, but the top Turkish court that decided that the Istanbul landmark would once more become a mosque.

You contend that Mustafa Kemal wanted to secularise his country so he converted a mosque into a museum. By reading the biography of Kemal, Gray Wolf: The Life of Kemal Ataturk, by H.C. Armstrong, I have an impression that Kemal was agnostic, a religious skeptic and freethinker. So he could do such a dastardly thing as to convert a well-established, centuries’ old mosque into a museum.

On the contrary, Erdogan wants to rebuild the Ottoman Empire’s prestige and earnestly pushed for Hagia Sophia to once more become a mosque.

We must remember that before he came to power, the wives of Erdogan and Abdullah Gul, who served as president of Turkey from 2007 to 2014, were not invited to watch a military parade in Ankara by the guardian of Kemalist secularism only because they wore Hijab.

Also, we must remember the European Union’s profound bias for Turkey and Muslims. Despite all efforts by Turkey to join the EU, although geographically 3.5 per cent of Turkey is in Europe, Turkey was denied membership just because it is predominantly a Muslim country.

Israel and India are committing human rights violation in Palestine and in occupied Kashmir but the world’s conscience has turned a deaf ear to their untold misery, bloodshed and sufferings. In a nutshell, Erdogan has truly emerged as a dynamic, bold, audacious and a fearless leader.

Safir Siddiqui


Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2020