Can Muslims pray in Cordoba Masjid?
Religion is one thing, practitioners the other.
There was a great example set by Caliph Omar. When Jerusalem was captured by Muslims in the 7th century, the priest offered Omar that he could pray in the Church if he so desires. Omar declined the request and said, if he were to pray there, some Muslim in the future may stake a claim that it is a holy site of worship and that Muslims should have it. That was one of the greatest examples of honoring the un-written values of co-existence, especially because he was in power.
The Pact of Medina is perhaps one of earliest examples of acknowledging, honoring and offering full rights to the weaker sections of the society. In that declaration Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had sought every participant’s (Jews, Christians and others) written consent, guaranteeing, honoring and protecting each others way of life and worship practices. It was done to set an example that when you are powerful, be humble and recognize every one’s rights.
A decade ago, in Ankara, Turkey, the City went to the other extreme and banned the recitation of Islamic verses prior to inauguration of an event, which is another good example of honoring the sentiments of others though it was not necessary. Thanks God, when we put together the first Unity Day USA program to commemorate 9/11, we allotted equal time to every faith and arranged them in an alphabetical sequence. Although it was a Muslim initiative, we believed in fairness and are grateful to Dr. Imam Zia Kavakci for encouraging us to do the right thing.
Spain Cathedral Shuns Muslim Plea
Spain’s Islamic Board had written to the Pope, asking that Muslims be allowed to perform Muslim prayers in the Cordoba cathedral – a former mosque seized and converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral during the Spanish Inquisition. They asked that the cathedral become an ecumenical temple where believers from all faiths could worship. Cordoba’s Bishop Juan Jose Asenjo denied the Muslims’ request. In a published statement, he asserted that such a move would not contribute to the peaceful co-existence between people of different religions, and that the joint use of temples and places of worship would only generate confusion amongst the faithful. ( “Spain Cathedral Shuns Muslim Plea”, BBC News, December 28, 2006 – on line at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6213665.stm).
Response to Bishop’s decline.
Maintaining the equilibrium of society and the Universe is the most important value. Indeed, that may have been the un-stated, esoteric purpose of religion. We can look at the issue from two perspectives:
1) Allowing Muslims to pray in the Church that was Masjid before:
The Bishop’s decision may be based on bias or fear, he may be wrong, but the decision is right. Muslims have not prayed there for several centuries, and Christians have instead converted it into a cathedral and have prayed there since.
Muslims should not even harbor the desire to pray there. The desire will eventually lead into a conflict. If it was argued and fought at the time of conversion it would have made sense, but not now. There is no need to upset the system now.
Conflicts that did not exist before will take birth.
The other issues will be management and coordination of prayers. I don’t think it the balance will last even for one year. Then type of worship becomes another conflict. The Ritual Hindu worship will be different than Muslim which is different than Christian. Set up will be different. The more you think of it, the more problems are going to generate. If it cannot be applied across the board, then it will not last. Let’s not mess the future for our short term ‘desire’ to pray. Prayer should not be tied down to a place.
If we allow one, then hundreds of such request will pour in creating chaos. The Sophia Mosque was a Church, Cordoba Church was a Mosque; a few Mosques were temples, a few temples of one faith were converted to the temples of others. There is absolutely no need to turn things upside down. Let things remain as accepted.
2) Grand fathering every thing. Leaving everything as is.
If a mosque is a church now or vice-versa, let the status quo prevail. The denial of request of Spanish Muslims to pray in Cordoba Mosque is the right thing to do.
All problems and conflicts have a singular root: Words. The words we choose can mess up or turn things around. The relationship between spouses, families, nations and governments hinge on Words. The words of the Pope, words of our President or words of Ahmedinejad can be revised and re-written to mitigate the conflict and emotions.
It has nothing to do with Islam, it is human behavior.
The City you live in has excellent traffic rules in place for peaceful and safe commuting. Don’t people violate them all the times? It is always some one else’s fault, isn’t it? That is why we have the traffic signals, their manufacturers, the installers and the police to monitor and write tickets, lawyers to defend and the judges to make sure all of it happens in accordance to the law. There is a whole industry created just because a few of us do not obey the traffic laws. All of this can go away if we follow the rules. Religion is no different.
Opening the Pandora’s box.
No religion sanctions destruction of other people’s way of life or their places of worship. Humans do. Religion is beautiful and yet we violate the rules all the times, don’t we?
In the name of religion we have destroyed the Native Indian cultures and cultures of the aborigines and the weaker communities, we the butchers called them heathens. In the name of religion we tried to destroy the whole Jewish people through holocaust and other horrible pogroms; In the name of religion we implemented the inquisitions to burn the Jews and Muslims or convert them to Christianity; in the name of religion we want to wipe out the Jewish people from the face of the earth; in the name of religion we forced Hindus to become Muslims or Christians, in the name of religion we butchered Muslims in Bosnia, Gujarat, Chechnya and elsewhere; in the name of religion Muslims destroyed Hindu Temples, in the name of religion Hindus annihilated Buddhism, in the garb of Religion Hindus and Buddhists are killing each other in Sri Lanka, Shia’s and Sunnis are killing each other in Iraq, the Catholics and Protestants were doing it in Ireland. Every one is guilty.
Yet, no religion will ever approve any of the above despicable acts. No consolation to any one of us, but the evil doers still make less than 1% of its group. Take any group: religious, national, ethnic, linguistic or any stick we find less than 1% extremists in each classification.
So the 99% of the people are Chickens letting the 1% terrorize them. Just like the class room bully we let us be harassed. We ought to be responsible for the evil since we do not check the evil doers, or find the cause of such evil and working on removing the cause.
Who is capable of casting the first stone?
Einstein, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and all the spiritual leaders have reminded us, the problems is not so much with the evil doers, it is more so with the people who let bad things happen. We have to speak up. Both you and I.
People do evil things and not religion. We ought to laser bark at the ones who are responsible and not go after shooting the whole universe. That is the reason we cannot solve the problems. If Tom delay is the problem, you take him out and not the whole congress. If Osama is the reason, you go after him and not the universe.
Rulers and kings have plundered the places of worship in the past and have converted them to Mosques, Churches, Temples and what have you. Yet, no religion authorized them to do it, those bad Kinds and Rulers did the looting for their personal treasuries and not religion.
Maintaining the equilibrium of the society is important, indeed, that may have been the un-stated, esoteric purpose of religion.
Let’s seek the balance.
Speak up, silent no more