- The world-famous Hagia Sophia museum(Church of the Holy Wisdom or Church of the Divine Wisdom) in Istanbul – originally founded as a cathedral – has been turned back into a mosque.
- In a decision the court removed the status of museum and called it a mosque.
- Hagia Sophia was built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral about 1,500 years ago.
- It was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453. 5.In 1934 it became a museum and is now a Unesco World Heritage site.
Will be a mosque, open for all
- Islamists in Turkey had been demanding for it to be converted to a mosque but secular opposition members opposed the move.
- The proposal prompted criticism from religious and political leaders worldwide.
- Defending the decision, President Erdogan stressed that the country had exercised its sovereign right in converting it back to a mosque.
- He told a press conference the first Muslim prayers would be held inside the building on 24 July.
- “Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.
Christian emblems will not be removed
- Turkish officials say Christian emblems, including mosaics of the Virgin Mary which adorn its soaring golden dome, will not be removed.
- This change of Hagia Sophia is profoundly symbolic.
- It was Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, who decreed that it should be a museum.
- President Erdogan is now taking one more step to dismantle Ataturk’s secular legacy, and remould Turkey according to his vision.
- The Turkish leader – who presents himself as a modern day conqueror – is making no apologies for the change.
- He says anyone who doesn’t like it – and plenty abroad don’t – is attacking Turkey’s sovereignty.
Is it to distract?
- Critics say he’s using the issue to distract attention from the economic damage done here by the Covid19 pandemic.
- Shortly after the announcement, the first call to prayer was recited at Hagia Sophia and was broadcast on all of Turkey’s main news channels.
- The cultural site’s social media channels have now been taken down.
What has the reaction been?
- Unesco has said it “deeply regrets” the decision to turn the museum into a mosque and called on the Turkish authorities to “open a dialogue without delay.“
- The organisation had urged Turkey not to change its status without discussion.
- The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church has condemned the move.
2. Reform with caution: On criminal laws reform
- Criminal law reforms should not be made by quick-fire means or without wide consultations.
- The formation of a ‘Committee for the Reform of Criminal Laws’ by the Union Home Ministry with an apparently short time frame and limited scope for public consultation has caused considerable disquiet among jurists, lawyers and those concerned with the state of criminal justice in the country.
- Few would disagree with the idea that the current laws governing crime, investigation and trial require meaningful reform.
Right attempt: wrong time
- There have been several attempts in recent decades to overhaul the body of criminal law, comprising the Indian Penal Code of 1860 vintage, the Code of Criminal Procedure that was rewritten in 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act that dates back to 1872.
- However, comprehensive legal reform is something that requires careful consideration and a good deal of deliberation.
- One criticism against the latest Committee is that it has begun its work in the midst of a pandemic.
- This may not be the ideal time for wide consultations.
A genuine attempt required
- The Justice Verma panel came up with a comprehensive and progressive report on reforms needed in laws concerning crimes against women in 2013 in barely one month, but its speed was probably due to the limited mandate it had.
- If at all criminal law is to be reformed, there should be a genuine attempt to reach a wide consensus on ways to speed up trials, protect witnesses, address the travails of victims, improve investigative mechanisms and, most importantly, eliminate torture.
- Reform is best achieved through a cautious and inclusive approach.