The state has no business deciding someone’s faith

Express by Saroop Ijaz

One of the most majestic and arresting structures of Europe is the Great Mosque of Cordova. Apart from exquisite architecture, the unique thing about the mosque is that it is not really a mosque. Built in the eighth century by the Umayyad Caliphate as one of the greatest mosques, it was converted into a cathedral in the 13th Century after the Christian reconquest of Spain. Today, it is a building with an identity crisis, a mosque with a cathedral erected in the middle. Yet, anyone who has been a tourist there would know that one has to ask for directions to the Mezquita (mosque) or the Mezquita-Catedral (Mosque Cathedral) as that is what the locals refer to it as even after more than seven centuries of it being a cathedral. It stands as a symbol of defiance to the impulses of conquest and rebranding of buildings and indeed history. The obsession with demolishing, branding and rebranding buildings has not been extinguished with the Crusades, the Babri Mosque fiasco being a representative example. More recently, a court in Lahore had a petition asking that an Ahmadi place of worship should have the dome and minaret demolished, lest it misleads the faithful into believing that it is a mosque.

Its action would have been stupid at all times, yet the idiocy and sinisterly nature is compounded by a couple of reasons. Firstly, the place of worship in question is one of the two where the biggest massacre in Lahore since partition took place and the perpetrators of the mass murder remain at large. Secondly, the court was approached one or two days after the second anniversary of the obnoxious and shameful murderous episode, which incidentally was very deliberately ignored by our free and independent media and by the public at large. The oversight cannot be completely attributed to apathy, but rather to a certain degree of maliciousness. Devotional architecture has never been a particular area of interest of mine, yet it is obvious that the Pakistani State and the courts make an extraordinarily grand claim for themselves when saying that they will decide what place of worship is fit for those wanting to pray to the Almighty.

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