Adeela Hameed

Babri Masjid and Hagia Sophia: An Incomparable Comparison?

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Two developments have been witnessed recently by the global population that have shaken the very basis of the concept of secularism. One, laying foundation stone of Ram Mandir at the site of Babri Masjid. Two, converting Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque.

Now that the construction of Ram Mandir has started at the site of erstwhile Babri Masjid, Muslims of India have once again behaved responsibly respecting the court verdict. But one thing is there that will keep the minority Muslims haunted for times to come. And that is no collective regretted by the majority community on the demolition of Babri Masjid. Islam never promulgates misconduct or debauchery as opposed to what most misinformed individuals relentlessly argue. Islam propagates to be rational than reactionary and that is how Muslims of India have behaved.

India was not handicapped by communal hatred before independence. Whether Hindu or Muslim or from any other religion, people lived in harmony. For instance, boycott of foreign goods was a campaign put forth by Mahatma Gandhi to prevent the British from flourishing in India, and history is witness that no boundaries were cast between factions. Everything and everyone was categorized either a Hindustani or a Firangi. This brotherhood and unity paved way for ousting the colonists.

What was also observed was that Indians, from all religions, had been living in peace, carrying on rituals and customs without bothering neighbours, celebrating Eid or Dusshera, and inviting each other to occasions of importance. Hardly had there been a period in ancient history when religious practices of a community sabotaged customs of the other. It was normal for a Muslim family to carry out sacrifices on Bakr-Eid like it was acceptable of Hindus to celebrate Holi amidst loud music and crowded processions. But now, continuously criticizing each other’s integrity and faith has destroyed that idea of secularism. And with the political scenario having been changed to favour only one narrative, issues like sacrificing animals, earlier considered part of the nation’s rituals, are now being blown out of proportion all over. What is worse, people are lynched to death over it.

Many argue that Hagia Sophia is an issue similar to Babri Majid. In a way it is, yes. While Turkey is a secular nation, allowing multiple religions to flourish, just like the erstwhile Hindustan, the decision to convert a world heritage site, a museum to a masjid, was indeed not laic. It’s purpose lacked integrity. You don’t go and convert a heritage museum into a mosque, and not weigh consequences Muslims living in other countries, dominated by people from various other religions, have to bear! To make sure Turkey did what needed to be done to bring back respect and awe for Muslims, the governor of this nation proceeded with this conversion. But, to be honest, it did and will continue to have a negative impact on Muslims worldwide, defeating their image of being peace keepers.

Let’s look at India, for example. The Hindu majority will continue to believe that if Muslims in Muslim-dominated countries can act like that, thoughtlessly converting an old, albeit controversial museum to a religious place, why can’t they do the same in their country? Thus, they get an unintended support to propagate their idea of HINDUstan, which in reality is just an excuse, for many radicals would move ahead with their self-formed decision anyway. Yet, events like Hagia Sophia help these unreasonable advocates provoke the unaware, neutral population who otherwise would not have interfered.

Illustrating disloyalty to the association of Islam and depicting how not secular Turkey actually is, the world might not forgive this conversion very soon. After all responsible people recognize these unethical decisions, about any or every religion, are bent upon segregating the global society.

A country is recognized by its people and people by their unity. It is the citizens, as a whole soulful mix, that help carve a niche for their nation in the global competition for progressive economies. India had been crowned an empire of varied cultures, rituals, traditions, religions, and ethnicities. And Turkey was an example of modest secularism. But now, each of their positions is plunging rapidly towards annihilation.

Maybe a decade or more later, when the dust will have settled around issues that divided a country, people would recognize right from wrong. Unfortunately, it will be too late to fix anything then.

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