Cancel Culture: Muslim Style

The Muslim practice of taking over churches and either eliminating their Christian features, or letting them go to ruin, is a particularly cynical practice, which is not only an act of religious triumphalism, but it has robbed the world of some of the most beautiful works of art.   

A major act of cancel culture is happening right now and most of the people involved in the movement that is toppling statues across America and Britain and defacing them in Australia have not noticed or cared.  And those that have are probably cheering from the side lines, since it strikes a blow against Christianity.

Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th Century as the Cathedral of Constantinople, which stood as the world’s largest cathedral for a thousand years, is about to be ‘cancelled’ yet again by the Muslim powers that converted it into a mosque in the 15th Century.  At that time, its extensive and beautiful mosaics depicting the Christian holy family and the saints were plastered over when they were not entirely destroyed, and the iconostasis, the altar and bells were removed.  Islamic features such as the minarets were added and large black rondelles with verses from the Koran were hung from upper beams and cornices into the space.

In the early 20thC when Kamal Ataturk led the country in a secularising revolution, which demoted the theocratic rulers and separated church and state, Hagia Sophia re-emerged from neglect and the space was turned into a museum, a tourist attraction for Christian and Muslim visitors alike, and everyone else with an interest in history, religion and art.  By decree, it would no longer serve as a sanctuary for Muslim prayer, which allowed some of the mosaics to be uncovered. Ataturk was hailed in the Western world as a man who acted with the wisdom of Solomon, or more accurately, Sophia, the Greek word for wisdom, after which the Church was named.

 

Six years ago, when I attended an Interfaith Summit in Istanbul, I visited Hagia Sophia, anxious to see the building that housed some of the most important early Byzantine religious art. I was sadly disappointed with what I saw as large areas of the building were off limits and under scaffolding, which I was told by an archaeological professor who specialised in the building, had been there for years.  No progress was made on the mosaics, and she observed that the ban on Muslim prayer at the tourist site was increasingly broken.  She told me then that it was only a matter of time before President Erdogan re-opened it as a mosque.  Now that Turkey’s ruling party has revoked the building's museum status and announced it open for Friday prayers, what that will mean for the “offending” Christian mosaics is anybody’s guess.

Of course, the site of an earlier Muslim act of cancelling religious culture and history, is the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  In the first centuries of Islam's territorial conquest, the Umyyad Caliphate in the 8th Century built the al Aqsa mosque, and beginning in the late 7th Century the Dome of the Rock, on the Jewish people's holiest site, where the first and second Jewish temples stood, dating back to 835 BCE.   Muslim rulers appropriated the Temple Mount for the exclusive use of Muslims, and after Israel became a state in 1948, the Waqf, the Jordanian body that manages the site, removed all references to Solomon's Temple in its guide books.  Today, Jews are not allowed to visit the Temple Mount for any religious purposes, and Palestinians frequently deny there ever was a temple on the Temple Mount.

Even visiting Christians are perplexed by this denial of the Jewish Temple's existence since one of the important moments in the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life is the (Passover) pilgrimage with his family and his discussion among the elders at the Temple.

Why is there so little outcry about the denial and destruction of Jewish and Christian sacred sites such as these?  It must be because the 'woke warriors' are too busy agitating for more important issues, like renaming "Aunt Jamima's Pancake Syrup" and "Uncle Ben's Rice."