The Telegraph has run a sympathetic piece on the Muslims of Spain that is riddled with historical distortions and inaccuracies. In the middle of it is a section on how this embattled community is being denied its rights to an element of its glorious history:
For those such as Isabel Romero, the head of an Islamic community group and one of Spain’s 20,000 converts to Islam, the answer is to be open. She has asked for permission from the Vatican to pray in Cordoba Cathedral, which is built on the site of what was once one of Islam’s greatest mosques.
“Although the council cannot make the decision it will hopefully be a step for the mosque’s universal character to be recognised,” she said. “This is not about claiming anything and much less about re-conquering. It does not make sense that when a Muslim goes to pray there they are told to get up.”
The petition is supported by the ruling Socialist Party, but a Church spokesman flatly rejected the proposition. “The cathedral is Christian and has been for some time”, he said.
All this gives the impression of a despised minority being denied basic rights, but there is, of course, much more involved than The Telegraph suggests. For one thing, how about a little reciprocity? If Spain must recognize the “universal character” of the Cordoba Cathedral, why don’t these Spanish Muslims contact the government of Turkey and request that, as a gesture of good will, the “universal character” of the Aya Sofya mosque in Istanbul be recognized as well?
The Aya Sofya mosque was until May 29, 1453 the Hagia Sophia cathedral, which until the building of St. Peter’s in Rome was the most magnificent church in Christendom and the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It was made into a mosque by the Muslim conquerers of the Byzantine Empire. Now it is a museum, although Muslims still pray there “” since according to Islamic law, a building that has once been a mosque cannot legitimately stop being a mosque.
That means, of course, that if Muslim prayers are allowed again in the Cordoba Cathedral, eventually there will be calls to eliminate the Christian presence there “” for they will be an affront to the dignity of the mosque. But in any case, I will support Muslim prayers in the Cordoba Cathedral as soon as the iconostasis and altar of the Hagia Sophia are restored, and the Patriarch of Constantinople is allowed once again to celebrate the Divine Liturgy there. That would be an excellent way for Muslims worldwide to demonstrate that they are really what they claim to be: tolerant and interested in peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims as equals.