Hagia Sophia – Should we dig up dirt or stand on higher moral ground?

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by Mike Ghouse

Some of us are justifying Erdogan’s action to convert Hagia Sophia into a Mosque and countering it with a list of hundreds of Mosques that were converted into Churches in Spain, Europe, and elsewhere. 

That was wrong, clearly wrong. Do we need to get even? If we do, would that be an incentive to others get back at us, where does it end? 

It was a different world 100 years ago; most of the nations were run by dictators or kings who usurped the lands, looted, and desecrated whatever belonged to others. They were not accountable to anyone, and each one lived in fear of being run over by the next-door king. The kings spent their whole lives fighting instead of living their lives. That was the case with all kings wearing different religious masks.

Here comes Prophet Muhammad – who wanted to set the people on the right path. After winning a war, his associates asked him what is next? The epitome of mercy, Prophet Muhammad said – we have to struggle with the temptations to mistreat, humiliate or subjugate the losers, the weak and the poor. Instead, we should treat them as equals with dignity. That is the real Jihad, and that is our next frontier.  Islam prohibits war unless it is in self-defense. Some of the Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims and others violate the guidance from their own religions, it’s them, not their religions.

I urge my friends not to forget hundreds of mosques that were converted to churches, bars, and other places but fight the urge to get even. Let’s protect other sites where God’s name is recited. That is the Sunna we need to follow. 

Let’s not forget the most significant example set by Hazrat Umar when he conquered Jerusalem. More at https://centerforpluralism.com/turkey-hagia-sophia-should-not-be-converted-to-a-mosque/  

After 9/11, human weakness flourished; the desire to manufacture an enemy came into full swing in the public square. Muslims in every corner of the world bore the harassment. 

Thanks to the visionaries around the world, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Atheists, and others who took concrete steps to restore the trust and the relationships. Among these are ISNA, Muslims Together*, your organization, and you. We dedicated ourselves, and together we have restored the relations. There is a lot more that needs to be done to be fully integrated with society. When our language refers to fellow Americans as “us” and not them. We become one nation with our attitudes, and that offers a full sense of security. 

Let the past be the past; most of us consciously chose not to dig up the old graves. We cannot correct the past, but we should not be obsessed with it either.  I am sure that is the take of ISNA – as I see criticism of ISNA for not speaking about the converted Mosques.

Erdogan may be legally right, and his action most certainly pleases those who wanted to get even for what was done to the Mosques. In one sweep, he damaged what was cultivated over the last twenty years.  

We are Muslims, and our role is to create peace on earth. Prophet came as a mercy to mankind. As his followers, we need to stand on the higher moral grounds to bring peace to fellow humans; that is what Islam means. 

I appeal to my fellow Muslims to call on Erdogan to create a quiet space within the bounds of Hagia Sophia for Christian, Jews, and people of other faiths to pray. Let everyone feel that it is a sanctuary where God’s name is recited in every which way. 

Look at our nation; even though we have a Christian majority, we were thoughtful enough to facilitate a place of worship for Muslims and others in Airports, Schools, Hospitals, public areas, and also at the Capitol Hill, the seat of the US Government.  

Among the Muslim majority nations, Turkey and Pakistan can take the lead and set the tone for future relationships among people of faith. We hope they become the model nations and earn goodwill from the community of nations. It is nice to see the Krishna Temple being built in Lahore and would welcome a worship chapel in Hagia Sophia.

God bless humanity and God bless Muslims to do the right thing.

 Dr. Mike Ghouse is the founder and president of the Center for Pluralism. He is a speaker, thinker, author, community consultant, pluralist, activist, newsmaker, and an interfaith wedding officiant. Mike is deeply committed to Free speech, Human Rights, and Pluralism in Religion, Politics, Societies, and the workplace. His latest book, The American Muslim Agenda, is available on Amazon, Kindle, and the bookstores. He has dedicated his life to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions to the media and the policymakers. More about him at www.TheGhousediary.com

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