Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > impact on women / resistance > Grand Mufti of Egypt opposes Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque

Grand Mufti of Egypt opposes Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque

Tuesday 21 July 2020, by siawi3


Grand Mufti of Egypt opposes Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque

Shawky Allam, Grand Mufti, said that the conversion was impermissible in Islam


20 Jul 2020

Reacting to the decision of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia being converted into a mosque, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam on Saturday said that conversion was impermissible in Islam, Ahval News reported.

During an interview with Nathrah on Sada al-Balad TV, Grand Mufti Shawky Allam said, “We [as Muslims] are commanded to preserve churches [...] Prophet Mohammed (peace and Blessings be upon him) was always recommending in wars not to destroy temples or kill monks.”

Ahval News added that the Grand Mufti said that churches and mosques around the world must be preserved as was done during the course of Egypt’s history, while referring to a fatwa by Laith bin Saad Fakih of Egypt who ruled churches to be a part of the earth’s architecture in Islam.

Professor Saad el-Din Helaly of the Al-Azhar University too said that the announcement by the “Muslim Brotherhood government of Turkey” was an “escalation against human civilization” and harmed Muslims and Islam, reported Cleveland Jewish News. He added that the decision was the nature of political Islam, saying that Hagia Sophia should remain a museum and calling for honorable Muslims to boycott the Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia out of respect for the property of others and property of the people.

Greece too has joined the global outrage against the decision saying that the move is provocative and a grave historic mistake, VOA News reported. Greek leaders think that the decision is an affront to Christianity and the country is now trying to rally international support to impose sanctions on Erdogan and his government.

It must be noted that Erdogan’s decision is in line with his right-wing political ideology and a part of a previous plan. The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque was on Erdogan’s mind as a part of his election manifesto last year.

The move does nothing for the people and only deepens the divide between Turkey’s nationalist and secular groups. In fact, it only pushes Erdogan’s nationalist agenda and will be lauded by his religious voter base for which the push was in fact made.

The current scenario in Turkey is reminiscent and close to what is happening in India. The Amnesty International on June 30, 2020 had reported that Amnesty International Turkey’s honorary chair Taner Kilic was in the dock together with the German human rights trainer Peter Steudtner, the former director of Amnesty International Turkey Idil Eser and eight other human rights defenders even while Turkey was wooing German tourists to visit. NBC News too reported how the Turkish government was disinclined to criticism and was launching investigations in Opposition leaders, sacking elected mayors and imprisoning journalists even though there was a bill passed to release inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

Erdogan’s response to the May 2013 Gezi park protests against the conservative government which brought liberals, Kurds, women, etc. to the streets was to respond with water cannons and tear gas. Erdogan had then described the protestors as ‘terrorists’ and launched a crackdown on artists and academic intellectuals. While some were put behind bars, some managed to leave the country and move away, forming stark comparisons to the current treatment of dissenters in India.

Outlook reported that Turkey, since 2015 has been bombing the homes of ethnic minorities’ Kurdish villages in northern Iraq, northeast Syria and carrying out military operations in the Kurdish stronghold of southeast Turkey, where thousands have died.

Erdogan’s decision of converting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque is seen as a last resort, to evoke ‘Muslim pride’ and a form of vindication to the oppression they suffer throughout the world. This ‘restroying’ of religious monuments paint parallels of what is happening in India and Turkey and only portray how secularism has only dwindled as the democratic age of the two countries has increased.

Thus, it is imperative that dissenting voices against the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque be brought to the fore, to counter extremist ideas of religion to make hold in democratic civilizations today.