Since the very beginning of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the holy sites of the Old City of Jerusalem have been under attack, particularly AlMasjid Al-Aqsa, one of Islam’s three holiest sites. The explicit goal of these attacks and violations is to build the ‘third temple’ on the site of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.
Attacks & Violations
In recent years economic, social, political and physical attacks on Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa have intensified. Calls for the demolition of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, once the preserve of extremists and fundamentalists, have now become pervasive, commonplace and to be found even in mainstream media. This, coupled with an almost daily violation of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa by violent settlers and their ilk make the partition or even destruction of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa a distinct possibility. The partition of the Ibrahimi Mosque into Jewish and Muslim parts in neighbouring Hebron in the early 1990s is the blueprint for these ambitions for one of Islam’s most holy and sacred sites.
Breaking of a Taboo
On 28 February, 2012, during a meeting for the Arab League in Doha, Qatar, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a plea for Muslims to visit Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. On April 18, 2012, HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, accompanied by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Goma’a, broke what had been, in some parts of the Islamic World, a 45-year taboo by visiting AlMasjid Al-Aqsa in order to pray there and support the beleaguered Jerusalemites. The visit was viewed as controversial in Egypt, but set off a change of public opinion in the Islamic World. During the trip to Jerusalem, the Prince and the Grand Mufti also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This visit was much appreciated by the Christian community of Jerusalem.
Palestinian-Jordanian Agreement on the Holy Sites of Jerusalem
The Agreement signed between His Majesty King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the Holy Sites, signed on March 31st 2013, reaffirmed the following:
His Majesty King Abdullah II is the Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, and has full right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard and preserve them, especially Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, defined as the entire al-Haram al-Sharif (of 144 Dunums).
Historic principles upon which Jordan and Palestine are in agreement as regards Jerusalem and their common goal of defending Jerusalem together, especially at such critical time, when the city is facing dramatic challenges and daily illegal changes to its authenticity and original identity.
The status of East Jerusalem is Palestinian sovereign occupied territory, and that all post-1967 occupation practices or aggressions against Jerusalem are Issues of the Day 232 not recognized by any international or legal entity.
Hashemite Custodianship of the Holy Sites started in 1924, and Jerusalem was physically part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan from 1948 until 1967, and legally until 1988, when Jordan severed ties with the West Bank (excepting only the Holy Sites and the Awqaf or Religious Trusts). Thus from 1988 until 2013, there was some ambiguity as to the status of the Holy Sites. After Palestine became recognised as a state in November 2012, a treaty between Jordan and Palestine became absolutely necessary not merely to avoid any disputes between Jordan and Palestine, but more importantly, to enable Jordan and Palestine to jointly legally protect the Holy Sites in Jerusalem against Israeli (official or unofficial) incursions, physical destruction and illegal annexation.
Road to Jerusalem Conference
An international conference, ‘Road to Jerusalem’, comprising leading religious scholars, academics, politicians and various other leaders was held in Amman, February 2014. The conference rejected the fatwa of Shaykh Qardawi banning Muslims from visiting occupied Jerusalem. It issued the following communiquÃ©:
1. Exerting efforts to achieve the unity of the Arab and Muslim Ummah and at the very least agree together on the constants, the most important of which are the protection of the Ummah’s holy sites and religious antiquities in Jerusalem; and continuing to defend the rights of the Palestinians and the justness of their cause; for under division and fragmentation, none of the Ummah’s substantive goals can be achieved.
2. Reminding the Ummah that financial and personal sacrifices must be made to defend the Ummah’s religious holy sites and religious antiquities, its land and its people.
3. Supporting Jerusalemite institutions, be they educational, medical or social, in a manner that guarantees that they continue to be sustainable and steadfast.
4. Supporting the projects of Jerusalemites related to housing, religious endowments (awqaf ) and their upkeep; and supporting committees for zakat (required alms giving) and for social, medical and economic welfare.
5. Supporting the projects of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration and Maintenance of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Noble Dome of the Rock.
6. Supporting the efforts to care for Christian holy sites and protect them from Judaisation and confiscation.
7. Calling on the scholars of the Muslim Ummah and its khutabaa’ (preachers) and its du’aat (those who invite to the faith) to discuss the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque in their sermons, particularly their Friday sermons, and to supplicate for its freedom away from occupation and to ask the Almighty for the gift of praying in it for Muslims.
8. The conference pays tribute to the struggle of the state of Palestine and its insistence on Jerusalem being the capital of the Palestinian state; and its insistence on Palestinian sovereignty over all the occupied territories of Palestine including Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the holy sites.
9. The participants pay tribute to His Majesty King Abdullah’s speech before the UNGA in which he clarified that the Blessed Al Aqsa Mosque is a sacred Islamic waqf as important as the Blessed Kaa’ba and thatany invasion or division of the site of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa would be viewed, not only as a breach of Israel’s obligations, but as profound aggression against 1.7 billion Muslims, one quarter of the world’s population.
10. The participants pay tribute to the role of Christian churches and the heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem for preserving the Pact of Omar and their holy sites and for rejecting the occupation. The conference urges the heads of churches in Jerusalem and around the world, through their influence and representation in the international forums and media, to defend the Pact of Omar and the historic relationship between their Jerusalem churches and Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic Waqf.
11. Thwarting the Jewish narrative that aims to Judaise Jerusalem, its holy sites and all of Palestine in international arenas including academic and educational forums, international organisations, media institutions and social networking channels. As an offshoot of the Road to Jerusalem Conference, a 233 committee shall be established that will be dedicated to monitoring the Jewish narrative on all fronts and will prepare counter-studies that will refute it.
12. The conference calls on the universities and schools in the United States of America, the European Union countries, among others, to revise the exclusivist Judaisation narrative of the history of Jerusalem and Palestine in many school and university books.
13. The conference absolutely and categorically rejects the support of the occupation government and its implementation of the plans of Jewish extremists for spatial or temporal division of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. The conference calls upon His Majesty King Abdullah, the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, to defend the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque in all Arab, Islamic and international arenas, forums and organisations.
14. Reiterating the religious importance of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy sites, particularly among the young; and repositioning the cause of occupied Palestine as a prominent topic in educational curricula in the schools and universities of the Arab and Muslim worlds.
15. Studying the suggestion to make a percentage of the proceeds of Hajj committees and trusts in the Muslim world a religious endowment (waqf ) that goes towards the financial support of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the people who are steadfast within it.
16. Holding the United States of America responsible for the continuing arrogance that Israel has displayed; and for the aggressions committed by Jewish extremists against the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and Muslim and Christian holy sites and religious antiquities, actions which could lead to a religious war. The United States uses its veto power at the UN Security Council whenever it is invited to veto vote on decision that requires Israel to implement resolutions of international legitimacy.
17. Forming a “Palestine Committee” in every Arab and Muslim parliament to monitor violations against holy sites and religious antiquities and finding ways to resist them.
18. The conference praises the following fatwa issued by the scholars from all over the Muslim world who participated in the Road to Jerusalem Conference:
19. First: The scholars participating in the Road to Jerusalem Conference see that there is no difficulty in religion (la haraj) for the following segments to visit the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem:
20. Palestinians wherever they may be, in or out of Palestine and regardless of their nationalities. 21. Muslims with passports from countries outside the Muslim world.
22. Second: In all cases, the following conditions must be observed:
23. That it does not lead to normalisation with the occupation which may cause harm to the Palestinian cause.
24. That the visit supports and assists Palestinians and not the occupiers; and here we affirm that any transactions including buying, selling, dealings, accommodations and transportation undertaken must benefit the Palestinians and the Jerusalemites and none other than them.
25. That visitors enter with Palestinian or Jordanian tourist groups and stay clear of programmes run by the occupier.
26. It is preferred that trips to Al-Aqsa be within the routes of Umra and Hajj trips as much as possible and in an effective and collective manner that achieves the significant religious benefit of this; and in a manner that supports the Palestinian economy and particularly, the economy of Jerusalem; and politically with the aim of protecting Al Aqsa and the religious antiquities.
Amman, 29th Jumada Al Akhira, 1435 AH / 29th April, 2014 AD
DESTRUCTION OF RELIGIOUS AND ANCIENT SITES
The past few years have seen a troubling trend of systematic grave desecration and destruction of religious places carried out by various Wahhabi groups in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Mali, and Egypt. With the fall of ruling powers resulting from the Arab Spring many Wahhabis have decided to utilize power 234 vacuums that opened up in Libya and subsequently Mali to ravage these lands by destroying all signs of their holy sites, which according to their puritanical view are heretical, pagan-like places of grave worshipping, despite the fact that the vast majority of Sunni scholars throughout history have held them to be valid and even praiseworthy to maintain. Spurred on by extremist preachers, the destruction of centuries old heritage continues to spread to other countries despite it being condemned by all other Muslims as sacrilege. DA’ISH have continued and widened the scope of the destruction to include ancient sites and relics as well. The destruction over the last few years includes the following:
– May, 2016: the historical Hamo Mosque in Mosul is blown up
– April, 2016: Further parts of the Nineveh wall are destroyed including the Mashka and Adad Gate.
– March, 2016: Al-Rahmah Mosque in Mosul blown up
– August, 2015: Abu Baker Al Sadiq’s mosque in Mosul is blown up
– June 2015: The Tomb of the Girl, in Mosul, bulldozed.
– April 2015: The remnants of the 12th-century Bash Tapia Castle in Mosul is destroyed
– March 2015: The Hamou al-Qadu Mosque in Mosul, which dated back to 1880, is bulldozed to the ground.
– February 2015: DA’ISH blows up the 12th century Khudr Mosque in central Mosul; burns books from Mosul libraries; destroys ancient artifacts at the Mosul Museum and the archeological site at Nimrud, a city that dates back 13 centuries BC.
– February, 2015: Al-Faroqu Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the city of Al-Anbar built at the times of Omar Bin al-Khatab, is blown up
– February, 2015: Mosul library is ransacked, and over a hundred thousand rare manuscripts and documents are burnt – January 2015: Nineveh Wall in al-Tahrir neighbourhood is bombed
– September 2014: Al-Arba’een Mosque in Tikrit, containing forty tombs from the Umar era, was blown up.
– July 2014: The tomb of Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, is blown up; the shrine of Imam Sultan bin Asim Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab (grandson of Umar ibn al-Khattab), in the Makhmour area southeast of Mosul, is destroyed by IEDs.
– June 2014: The shrine of Fathi al-Ka’en is bulldozed.
– Other sites destroyed in 2014 include: the shrine of Arnaout, the shrine of Ahmed al-Rafa’i, the famous Sunni Sufi saint, and the shrine of Sheikh Ibrahim, all in the city of Tal Afar.
– Prominent Shia sites destroyed in 2014 include: al-Qubba Husseiniya Mosque and the shrine of al-Imam ‘Awn al-Din (one of the few structures that survived the 13th-century Mongol invasion, destroyed by DA’ISH in July 2014), both in Mosul, as well as Jawad Husseiniya Mosque, Saad bin Aqeel Husseiniya Shrine, Qaddo Husseiniya, and the Mosque of the Martyr of Lashkar-e-Mullah, all in Tal Afar. DA’ISH has also destroyed many Christian sites including:
– April, 2016: The Sa’a Qadima Church, which was built in 1872, was blown up
– January, 2016: The Monastery of St. Elijah or Dair Mar Elia, which was 1400 years old, and was the oldest Christian historic site in Iraq. The Monastery was demolished in late August or September 2014 and went unreported until January 2016.
– March, 2015: St Markourkas Church, a 10th-century Chaldean Catholic church
– March, 2015: the historic tomb of Saint Behnam, a monastery built in the 4th century 235
– March, 2016: Parts of the 13th-century Palmyra Castle are blown up
– September, 2015: 2nd-century AD Tower of Elahbel in Palmyra is blown up.
– July-August 2015: The temples of Baalshamin and Bel at Palmyra a well as three of the best preserved tower tombs, including the Tower of Elahbel, were destroyed. – June 2015: The graves of Mohammed bin Ali, a companion of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, and Nizar Abu Bahaa Eddine, a well-known Sufi scholar whose tomb was built 500 years ago.
– May 2015: the Lion of al-Lat and other statues at the historical site of Palmyra (Tadmur) were destroyed.
– January 2015: The grave of Sheikh Muhammad al-Nabhan in Aleppo was destroyed and exhumed; the school and houses next to it were also damaged.
– Al-Omari mosque destruction started in 2012, but later in 2014, shell crater damage caused a hole in the roof and the upper level of the mosque was also destroyed.
– March 2014: Uwais al-Qarni’s grave destroyed (while the surrounding mosque was destroyed entirely in May 2014); Al-Saliheen Mosque in Yalda damaged and looted; a stone that is said to have had the footprint of the Prophet Ibrahim was removed.
– October 2013: Mosque of Sheikh Ajjan Al-Hadid shelled.
– April 2013: The minaret of the great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo was destroyed and looted.
– March 2013: Ammar ibn Yasir’s shrine in al-Raqqah was destroyed.
– Other sites destroyed in 2013 include: the shrines of Sheikh Aqeel in Manbej, Sheikh Ma’badi, Sheikh Abdullah, Sheikh Badawi, Sheikh Hilal, and Muhammad al-Na’san, all in or around Aleppo.
– 2011: The tomb of Sheikh Rih, a prominent Sufi sheikh, was demolished in Azaz, northern Syria. Reports by the Directorate of Antiquities in Aleppo indicate that 90 percent of Sufi shrines have been destroyed. At least five major archeological sites were destroyed or looted, including: Palmyra, the Mar Elian Monastery, Apamea, Dura Europos, and Mari. In total, at least 23 sites have been damaged by shelling, six by looting, and 14 by armed occupation.
– August 2013: The tombs of Sheikh Hamid Abu Jarir in central Sinai and Sheikh Salim Al-Sharif Abu Jarir in the Bir El Abd area were destroyed using IEDs.
– May 2011: The shrine of Sheikh Zuweid was bombed by an unknown group.
– April 2011: The tomb of Sidi Abdel Rahman in Qalyoub, as well as five other tombs, were destroyed. DA’ISH’s leader, al-Baghdadi, referred to the destruction of the pyramids and Sphinx as a religious duty upon Muslims.
– March 2015: Sufi shrines near Tripoli destroyed by sledgehammers and bulldozers.
– May 2013: The Hamid Hudairi tomb in Sebha was A destroyed mosque in the town of Al-Shaykh Maskin, liberated extensively damaged. by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) from ISIS militants in Syria’s Daraa province. Michael Alaeddin/Sputnik 236
– March 2013: The al-Andalusi Mausoleum in Tajoura, a national monument that dates back more than 500 years, was destroyed.
– August 2012: The tomb of a 15th-century scholar Abd as-Salam al-Asmar in Zliten, about 160km (100 miles) southeast of Tripoli, was destroyed along with burning of the neighbouring library, which housed a huge number of books and manuscripts dating back centuries; al-Shaab al-Dahman Mosque in Tripoli, named after the Sufi scholar Abdullah al-Shaab, who fought the Spanish colonialists, and which contained many graves, was bulldozed; the grave of the grand Sufi sheikh, Ahmad Zarruq was exhumed.
– January 2012: The cemetery of Sidi Ubaid in Benghazi was wrecked and 31 corpses were stolen
– October 2011: The Sidi al-Masri Mosque in Tripoli was vandalized and damaged extensively.
– Other sites destroyed include: the tomb of Sidi Mahmoud (d. 955 CE) in 2012.
According to officials, Islamists in Tunisia have attacked almost 40 tombs, the most prominent being:
– February 2013: Sidi Bin Abd al-Jabbar’s tomb in Jammal, was damaged by arson
– January 2013: The tombs of Sidi Bou Said (in the village named after him), Sidi Baghdadi in Monastir, and Sidi Amor Bouzid in Awlad Chamakh, were damaged by arson.
Timbuktu is known as the “the city of 333 saints” and has many ancient mosques and tombs, and hence, UNESCO has placed the city on its list of endangered world heritage sites.
– September 2012: The mausoleum of Cheik ElKebir was destroyed.
– July 2012: The doors to to Sidi Yahya’s Mausoleum were broken down; the shrines of Sidi Elmety, Mahamane Elmety, and Sidi Mahmoudou were destroyed with hoes and chisels.
– June 2012: Ansar Dine fighters completely destroyed the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar, the tombs of Sidi El Mokhtar and Alfa Moya, and thirteen other sites.
– Other sites destroyed include the tomb of Almirou Mahamane Assidiki in Goundam in 2012.
– March 2010: The tombs of of Sheikh Mohammed Bimalo, leader of the Qadiriyyah order in the early 20th Century, Sheikh Mohyiddeen Ali, and Sheikh Hassan Muallim Mumin, founder of the Idrisiyyah order in Somalia, were destroyed and exhumed.
– Early 2010: The tomb of Sheikh Ali Mumin was destroyed and exhumed.
– the tomb of Sheikh Ali Tairi
– April 2011: At least 41 persons were killed and more than 100 injured when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the shrine of Sufi saint Ahmed Sultan, popularly known as Sakhi Sarwar, in Dera Ghazi Khan District of Punjab.
– July 2010: At least 40 persons were killed and 175 others injured when three suicide attackers blew themselves up inside the shrine of Lahore’s patron saint Syed Ali Hajwairi popularly known as Data Gunj Bakhsh. Since 2010, a month rarely passes in Pakistan without a suicide bombing taking place. Some of these attacks target mosques and shrines.
– August 2016: The bombing of Prophet Shu’ayb’s tomb, one of the Prophet’s mentioned in the Holy Qur’an.
– February 2015: The 800-year-old tomb of Sufyan bin Abdullah in al-Hota town, Lahij province was destroyed. Bin Abdullah was famed for having fought for Saladin in 1187 CE, when he ousted the Crusaders from Jerusalem.
– 2011: At least 43 Shia mosques, including the ornate 400-year old Amir Mohammed Braighi mosque, and many other religious structures were destroyed.
Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition that includes US, UK and Sunni Arab allies have carried out regular airstrikes in support of the ousted president, AbdRabbu Mansour Hadi, against the local Houthis. The Houthis are Zaydi Shi’a (who ruled Yemen for more than a thousand years until 1962) and have been accused of receiving weapons from Iran. As well as conflict between these two sides, both sides are fighting Al-Qaeda, who regularly carry out suicide attacks. And then there are the US drone strikes targeting Al-Qaeda.
Yemen is being decimated.
The current conflicts as well as the restrictions and sanctions imposed by the Saudi-led coalition have left 21 million people, out of a population of 26.7 million, in need of humanitarian aid. The airstrikes alone have caused three million people to flee their homes, and caused thousands of civilian deaths, as well as devastating the infrastructure. International organisations like Medecins Sans Frontieres have been forced to withdraw because not even their hospitals have been safe from attacks.
Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world importing 90% of its food. The UN estimates that 19 out of Yemen’s 22 governorates are currently facing severe food insecurity leaving 7.6 million people in Yemen suffering from malnutrition, including 1.3 million children under the age of five.
Unfortunately, this crisis has received very little attention in the media. With the international focus on Syria and where its refugees will end up, Yemen is largely forgotten. And this is a conflict that shows no signs of ending: the Houthis are not only resisting the attacks, but also gaining ground; Al-Qaeda is as active as ever, as are the drone strikes; and Saudi arms purchases jumped around 50% to $9.3bn.
HRH Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has recently commented on the number of strikes on Yemen’s infrastructure: “these terrible mistakes occur with unacceptable regularity”, and also “perhaps the members of the coalition have been guilty of international crimes” .
FRANCE’S “BURKINI BAN”
Fance’s so-called “burkini ban” reached its peak after global news outlets disseminated images of four police officers towering over an unassuming Muslim woman while she lay on a beach in the Promenade des Anglais. Cameras caught the sight of the Muslim woman publically disrobing her long-sleeve shirt upon their demand, which in turn sparked outrage by co-religionists and women’s rights activists across YEMEN, SANAA : Yemeni female fighters supporting the Shiite Huthi rebels sit holding weapons in the back of a vehicle during an anti-Saudi rally in the capital Sanaa on September 6, 2016. The Saudi-led Arab coalition launched a military campaign against the Huthis and their allies in March 2015, after the rebels closed in on Gulf-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in his southern refuge of Aden, forcing him into exile.
Later that summer in Cannes, a Muslim mother wearing leggings, a tunic and a headscarf was also fined and ordered to disrobe by local police. Her violation read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.
The town of Cannes was the first to pass the ban, which was confirmed by the local administrative court on the 13th of August, 2016. Cannes mayor David Lisnard explained the decision by stating: “the burkini is like a uniform, a symbol of Islamist extremism.”
It is perhaps no surprise that the ban on full-body swimsuits arose in the French Riviera, where the nearby city of Nice was the site of the horrific deadly lorry attack that claimed 85 people on Bastille Day by a lone DA’ISH supporter. The fact that a third of the attack’s victims were Muslim typifies the doubly destructive effect of DA’ISH’s violent extremist ideology: not only does it ruthlessly reap innocent lives of all faiths, it also incites the promotion of secular extremism and xenophobic tensions against Muslims living in the West.
The dress of Muslim women has borne the brunt of scrutiny since 2004, when a law was instated to forbid the wearing of religious symbols in schools and colleges, including headscarves. In 2010, France became the first European country to ban the full-face veil in public. Though France’s unique stringent brand of national secularism claims to uphold equality among its citizens, the regulation of what Muslim women can or cannot wear is justifiably seen as a contradiction of liberal values and the freedom of religion. The unilaterally directed scrutiny towards Muslim citizens of the republic, and specifically Muslim women, reveals France’s shortcomings in the progressive and “moral values” it seeks to uphold.
While the French High Court deemed the ban illegal in August 2016, many local municipal courts continue to be adamant about banning modest swimwear in their towns. The recent controversy is therefore symbolic not just of a seeming “clash” of values, but also of a deep-seated racial and political divide between a predominantly white, European nation with Christian roots, and its largely Muslim immigrant community. The issue of modest dress is therefore often scapegoat for underlying tensions towards Islam and Muslims in France, which ultimately exacerbates the xenophobic casting of Muslims as an inferior “otherized” group that is incompatible with French society. The irony of the present day so-called “burkini ban” cannot escape seasoned purveyors of modern Middle Eastern history. In French-occupied Algeria in 1960 — only a little over half a century ago — French colonial officers would distribute flyers among native Algerian women that read: “are you not pretty? Unveil yourselves!” The so-called “burkini ban” is therefore not only revealing of France’s contradictory notions of liberty and equality, but also points to the deeper complex political history between Europe and its Muslim-majority colonies in the early 20th century.