Are Turkey and Pakistan becoming hell for non-Muslims?
The two separate incidents, one in Pakistan and another in Turkey, have raised a question mark over these two Islamic nations. In Pakistan, it is related to a Hindu temple, and in Turkey, it is related to Orthodox Christian Church.
Recently, Turkey has decided to convert Hagia Sophia, originally Greek Orthodox Christian Church, from a museum into a mosque again. The current structure of Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian-1 who ruled from 527 to 565. It became a mosque only after Constantinople ( now known as Istanbul) and the Byzantine Empire fell to Ottoman king Sultan Mehmed in 1453. The Ottomans renamed the city Istanbul. In 1934, Kemel Ataturk cabinet, the founder of modern Turkey, decided to convert it into a museum seeing the relevance of the structure or the faith of Christian community in it. But now, after 86 years, the Turkish Supreme Court has overruled the cabinet’s decision. Within hours, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree handing over Hagia Sophia to Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency.
“I underline that we will open Hagia Sophia to worship as a mosque. It is Turkey’s sovereign right to decide for which purpose Hagia Sofia will be used,,” Erdogan said in a televised address to the nation. Here, it would be worth mentioning that Christianity is still half per cent of total population in the country. It’s not that there are no Christians in the country.
This decision of Erdogan has irked many Christian nations. According to RT report, Metropolitan Hilarion, the Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations in Russia, has said that for Orthodox Christians, Hagia Sophia is the same as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is for Catholics. The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a slap in the face that the Turkish leadership has inflicted on the Orthodox Church, with the whole Christian world.
Condemning Turkey’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque, Greece says it will be imposing sanctions against Turkey for its decision. “Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.
Speaking exclusively over the issue of Hagia Sophia, Dr Waiel Awwad, a senior international journalist, says: “This move by Erdogan’s government means to putting an end to a century of trying to join European Union and giving new birth of Islamic Turkey under the aegis of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, in which he is taking a lead ever since the so called Arab Spring, where we witnessed resurgence of extremism and terrorism with jihadist Takfiri groups supported by President Erdogan himself . This is a new twist to secular Turkey and in fact the end of secularism under the current president. The timing will help Israel in changing the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where Israel is trying to demolish it. This move will definitely have a backlash from secular forces in Turkey and European capitals and UNESCO with only personal gaining is president Erdogan with his MB activists.”
“It is a historical fact that Turkey destroyed the eastern churches in Syria’s northern parts and annexed İskenderun province (Antalya ) and he (president) is playing a dangerous game against Eastern church and creating a fight with Greece and Russia in particular. It is sad to watch Turkey descending to a new low and not strengthening regional reach by achieving his dream of reviving the old Ottoman Empire by fighting in Libya and expanding to Maghreb Al Araby to control the Mediterranean Sea. This will lead to an anti Turkey alliance, led by Europe, where their interest in northern African countries is at stake and if a war breaks out Erdogan will use his army of mercenaries to fight his war from Arab countries under Turkish umbrella. The gamble Erdogan is playing will backfire and he is not worth trusting. The suffering in the Arab countries was mainly because of Turkey’s occupation under the Ottoman Empire. Turkey’s NATO membership is also an issue to understand the USA support to Erdogan policy in the region against any country threatening US’ dollar dominance,” he further added.
In Pakistan, construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad has been halted by radical Islamists forces in the country. The newly constructed wall of the Shri Krishna temple was forcibly demolished. It is important to mention that the previous government of Pakistan had allotted land for the temple in 2018. And recently, the Pakistan government approved a grant of Rs100 million for the construction of the temple. The total population of Hindus in Pakistan is estimated at almost 4 million, less than 2 per cent of total population in Pakistan.
According to the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (PHRM) survey, only 20 Hindu temples out of the 428 places of worship are currently remaining in the country. And 408 places have been converted into toy stores, restaurants, government offices and schools.
“In Islamabad, the Raam Kunde Complex of Temple at Saidpur Model village is now a ‘picnic site’. A second temple at Rawal Dam, Islamabad, has been shut down. In Punjab, a Hindu temple was demolished and reconstructed as a community centre in Rawalpindi, while in Chakwal, ten famous temples, collectively known as Bhuwan, are being used by the local Muslim community for commercial purposes, despite being handed over to the Hindus,” the survey reveals.
It is believed that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque because of domestic pressure. Radical Islamist groups wanted to convert this museum into a mosque. Same is the case in Pakistan also. Owing to Islamists’ pressure, no government in the country is able to take any welfare measures for its minorities. In Pakistan, Hindu and Sikh minorities are being marginalised day by day.
Now coming to the point: Why are Islamists going against religious minorities in these countries? Are Islamic countries deliberately trying to manufacture their own history, eliminating their minorities? Or are they unable to explain the history before their people, so they are destroying or converting the existing historical places related to non-Muslims?
For instance, along with destroying non-Muslims religious places, Pakistan has re-written its history books, which are against India and Hindus. In Pakistan, it is taught that their country came into existence when Muhammad bin Qasim occupied Sindh and Multan. However, it is very difficult for Pakistan to erase its history as it cannot destroy the Indus Valley sites, which are much older than Islam. This is also a truth that Pakistan has manipulated so much of its history that even the common Pakistanis are confused about their origin. The same thing is being done in Turkey. Majority of the Muslims in the world don’t know that Hagia Sophia was once an Orthodox Christian Church, which was forcibly occupied and converted into a mosque by Mehmed.
As far as Afghanistan is concerned, it is still a war torn country and democracy is still maturing here. So, the intention of the government cannot be judged. There are still few Hindus and Sikhs left in Afghanistan. Evidence of Hinduism (Idol of Hindu gods) in Afghanistan is found from time to time at different places in the country. However, it is true that Islamists have always tried to wipe out the community and their religious places from the country. And they have even succeeded by converting these people to Islam. Here, it would be noteworthy to mention the demolition of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban.
Jason Burke in his book, ‘THE 9/11 WARS’ has written that when Bamiyan was under Taliban’s control, the question of Bamiyan Buddhas was raised. A meeting of senior ministers was convened to decide their fate. It was not the first time that demolishing the Buddhas of Bamiyan had been envisaged. The ‘destruction of icons’ in Afghanistan had been discussed for many decades in the conservative Islamic circle, from which the Taliban drew their religious inspiration.
“The destruction of Buddhas was also an act, by which they would be doing God’s work. The order to demolish, Mullah Omar told some interlocutors, had come to him in a dream. ‘If on judgement day I stand before Allah, I will see those two statues floating before me, and I know that Allah will ask me why, when I had the power I did not destroy them,’ he told one visitor,” writes Jason Burke
It is evident that fundamental Islamists have problems with everything related to non-Muslims. They are not able to digest that Hinduism is thousands of year older and it still exists. Since the beginning, fundamental Islamists have tried their best to harm non-Muslims. If one looks at the history, one would find that when Islamist invaders came to India, they destroyed many temples and turned them into mosques. They did so to abolish and distort the Indian history and culture. And the same is being practised by both Turkey and Pakistan. Even fundamental Islamists have problems with other sects in Muslim community itself. And the war in West Asia is an example of this.
Having said this, both Turkey and Pakistan are deliberately manipulating history to appease fundamentalist Islamists. If Europe doesn’t unite against this growing fundamentalist ideology of Turkey, this would harm Europe badly like Pakistan’s fundamentalist ideology has become a threat to the entire South Asia.
By Ravi Mishra