It’s nearly twice the size of the currently controversial Hagia Sofia in Istanbul almost 3000km to the east but not quite as old: what’s two centuries among friends?
This competition can be seen as what business ethicist Professor Robert Phillips describes as “the movement of social power across time”: “the oldest of the large elaborate buildings are religious in nature … the second oldest of the large elaborate buildings are governmental (and) the newest of the large elaborate buildings are corporate headquarters and facilities.”*
Occupying someone else’s elaborate religious building is tantamount to posting a placard on the door that “this is ours now”, as the Christian Spanish Ferdinand III did in 1236 at Córdoba and as more modern Catholics tried to re-emphasise in 2005 by temporarily removing the term “Mosque of Córdoba” from Google Maps. It was reinstated a few weeks later and is now again known as the “Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba”.
That’s what Turkey’s President Erdogan has done this month and it’s what Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar did in March 2001 when he ordered the destruction of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. More in 2015 when Islamic State blew up the 2000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin at the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria; and, according to UK Professor Peter Stone, the destruction by mining company Rio Tinto just months ago of two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal cultural sites in the Pilbara (for which the Rio Tinto CEO later apologised).
We prefer to wonder at the exquisite Moorish originals but reflecting on the more recent is still important, even if only as a lesson in futility.
*Footnote: Phillips, R. (2003). Stakeholder theory and organizational ethics. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, p.1