LIKE then, so now, some ‘out of the box’ thinking on resolving the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid tangle keep pouring in secularism’s fan mail box. The idea to build a hospital on the disputed site, which historian Ram Chandra Guha found highly original, in a recent television show, is actually a poor unpatented flick from pre-1992 days. Ad guru Prasoon Joshi advises to focus on ‘real’ things (which for him would mean water, electricity, roads, literacy), a suggestion that Zafaryab Jilani refuses to buy. Joshi’s profession as an ad man is to mythify ‘real’ things. If it is thanda matlab coca cola to him, to the contenders the disputed plot means Ram Mandir or Babri Masjid. The former by virtue of Ram Lala Birajman is functioning and hence the real thing.
The chairperson of a media conglomerate opined in an edit page article that an inter-faith dialogue centre should be built on the site. She, however, failed to cite any historical example of inter-faith dialogue between Hindus and Muslims. Akbar’s glorious attempt of Deen-e-Illahi (actually a ploy to promote Islam through the backdoor), she conceded, was baulked by obscurantist elements inside the court. Dara Shikoh she dare not mention, for he was not only executed on the advice of the Ulema, but has little following amongst Muslims. But she perhaps did not budget for the fact that inter-faith dialogue might lead to questioning of the concept of Jihad, Maal-e-Ghanimat, Kafir, etc. Would associating Islam with any other faith (especially idolatrous) not lead to advocating Shirq against Tawheed and hence obnoxious?
There is another ‘bright idea’ proposed most recognisably by Ishtiaq Ahmed, professor emeritus of political science, Stockholm University. Writing in Daily Times (October 5), Pakistan he envisages an Aya Sofia like solution. The 7th century cathedral of Hagia Sophia was converted into mosque of Aya Sofia by the Turks when they overran Constantinople in 1453. In 1935, Kemal Ataturk, when Turkey became a secular republic, converted it into a museum. This reminds one of Karl Inderfurth, US Assistant Secy of State, who spoke of a ‘Solomon like Solution’ for Kashmir. It refers to the story of real mother preferring the child be given way to false mother, rather than the child be cut to two, and Solomon judging the real mother by that act.
Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofia is an oft quoted example in conversion and re-conversion of religious places. What, however, the professor emeritus does not tell us is why 18 other neighbouring churches in Constantinople (Istanbul) converted to mosques alongside Hagia Sophia continue to be Muslim houses of worship. These include Arap Mosque (St. Paul & Dominic Catholic Church), Bodrum Mosque (Myrelaion), Chora Church, Eski Imaret Mosque (Christ Pantepoptes), Fenari Isa Mosque (St.Irene-St. John Churches), Gul Mosque, Hirami Ahmet Pasha Mosque (St. John the forerunner by-the-dome Church), Kefeli Mosque (Saint Nicholas Catholic Church), Little Hagia Sophia, Fethiye Mosque (Pammakaristos Church), Sancaktar Hayrettin Mosque (Monastery of Gastria), Vefa Kilise Mosque (St Theodore Church), Zeyrek Mosque (Christ Pantokrator).
There is already an attempt at highest echelons in Turkey to revert to the mosque-church status of Hagia Sophia. Mehmet Akif Ayd’n, an expert with the Presidency of Religious Affairs, which monitors religious sites in Turkey, including its 80,000 plus mosques says -“As a Muslim, I’d like it to become a mosque. But if Hagia Sofia were opened to Muslim worshippers on weekdays, it should also be opened to Christians on Sundays. It disturbs me that it’s become just a museum and tourist destination.” The statement actually indicates the direction Turkish politics is moving in.
It is another thing, however, that the residual population of Christians in Turkey is diminishing alarmingly. Islamic militants made several attacks on Christian clergies; in June last Bishop Luigi Padovese, president of Turkey’s Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference was killed. Aya Sofia would thus practically become a mosque alone.
Critics of the Lucknow bench verdict claim the judgment gave precedence to faith over reason. If it were really so, then, no archaeological excavation would have been ordered by the court.
When a strand of hair, believed to be of Prophet Mohammed disappeared from Hazratbal Shrine in Kashmir on December 26, 1963 it gravely outraged the Kashmiri Muslims. There were acts of incendiary and communal tension ensued. The Moe-e-Muqaddas (or the hair relic) was apparently brought to India by a Syed Abdullah, who claimed to be a descendant of Prophet Mohammed, and former chief keeper of Mosque in Medina, in 17th century. It was enshrined in Bagh-e-Sadiq, later called Hazratbal, by orders of Aurangzeb. Sheikh Abdullah, closely associated with the renovation of Hazratbal, once described the hair as “symbol of unity of Kashmiri Muslims”. The IB was pressed into service of retrieving the lost hair, and it was ‘recovered’ on February 4, 1964. Similarly, the Dargah of Syed Burhan-ud-Din, in Aurangabad (Maharashtra), is said to contain hairs from Prophet’s beard.
No ‘eminent’ historian asked Muslims to back up their beliefs about hair relic with forensic evidence. For this might prove dangerous for their physical safety. Faith, by itself, is protected by the Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. But upstart scribblers have asked for birth certificate of Sri Ram. What could be a greater evidence of Sri Ram’s existence that his name is most popular first or second name amongst Hindus across India? It cuts across linguistic and caste divisions. The British, in recognition to the sanctity of Haridwar, as per Hindu faith had forbidden any construction of mosque in that pilgrimage. The municipal laws of 1940, which laid down this principle explicitly, still hold good. It is ironic that holy sites of Hinduism viz. Ayodhya, Kashi, Mathura were saddled with acts of Islamic triumphantalism and Hindus will have to ask for ‘inter-faith’ dialogue. No ‘Secularist’ will brook my little mischief if I were to strike a small tent in his garden plot. I would be threatened with legal action for encroachment. Will he seek a compromise if I want to encroach upon his bedroom? Perhaps not if he is a vertebrate. But they want Hindus to initiate compromise, and share space, with forces that invaded sanctum sanctorum of Hindu faith, and outraged with its dignity. That is what you call fuzzy logic.