Demanding respect without offering it


25 May 2009

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia

"We want people to show us respect", said Manal Mohamed, a Syrian Muslim in Greece, following Islamic riots in Athens after allegations that a Greek policeman tore up a Koran and stomped on it. Mohamed added "we want the officer or officers involved to be prosecuted, and the [Greek] government to issue an apology."

Greece was an ancient civilisation that suffered for centuries under Islamic colonialism. A small part of the Greek world, now known as Greece, gained freedom from Islamic rule in 1829 after its war of independence. The Greek heartland of Anatolia was ethnically cleansed and still remains under occupation. It is now called Turkey. The Islamic conquest of Anatolia was bloody, culminating in the capture of Constantinople in 1453. The holiest place of worship in the Greek world, the Church of Holy Wisdom, known as Hagia Sophia (Áγία Σοφία) was seized by the Islamic colonial ruler Mehmet and converted into a mosque. No apology was ever offered the Greeks for that insult. The secular Turkish republic removed the mosque from Hagia Sophia but, so far, has not returned the church to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The building is now a museum.

In spite of this, it would appear that Greece, at least, permits Korans and mosques inside its territory and tolerates its foreign guests, descendants of its former colonial masters, when they violently demonstrate against its government in its own capital city.

This is not the case in many Islamic countries where foreign guest workers are barred from possessing their holy books and religious icons and are not permitted to worship, even in the privacy of their own homes.

The Maldive government, for example, regularly confiscates Bibles, defiles, shreds and burns them. It seizes Buddha images and smashes them. Many invaluable, indigenous, Maldive Buddha images have been smashed into smithereens in recent times. The Maldive authorities impound copies of well-known magazines such as Time, if they contain images of the Pope. They rip crosses and crucifixes off the necks of Christian travellers, including nuns, passing in transit through Malé international airport. They censored the funeral of Mother Teresa, fearing that Maldivians would convert en masse to Christianity if they saw the little old nun’s last rites. They censored parts of the funeral service of Princess Diana for the same reason.

Labour laws passed after the recent change in government, ahead of Maldive application for membership of the International Labour Organisation explicitly violate religious rights of minorities and guest workers. Absolutely no one in the international community so much as raises an eye-brow at such flagrant acts of bigotry.

Like the aggrieved Muslims in Greece, expatriate Maldivians demand and receive respect and religious rights in non-Islamic countries in Asia and the West. The Golden Rule of treating others as you would expect others to treat you is a concept totally alien to them. For these supremacists the ethic of reciprocity is a one-way street- in their favour.

The Maldives still disrespects what is holy to others