Saturday,20 January, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1373, (14 - 20 December 2017)
Saturday,20 January, 2018
Issue 1373, (14 - 20 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

US action undermines peace

Al-Azhar says maintaining Jerusalem’s Arab identity is central to world peace, reports Amany Maged

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem prompted Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s leading seat of learning, to release a strongly worded denunciation. Al-Tayeb also back-pedalled on an earlier decision to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence on 20 December in Cairo.

The US Embassy in Cairo submitted the request a week before Trump’s Jerusalem announcement and the grand imam agreed to the meeting. “But after the unjust and unfair American decision on Jerusalem Al-Azhar’s grand imam rejected the meeting,” read an Al-Azhar statement.

“Al-Azhar cannot sit with those who falsify history and steal the rights of peoples.”

“How can I sit with those who give what they do not own to those who are undeserving? The US president must immediately reverse this decision,” said Al-Tayeb.

The grand imam of Al-Azhar said Trump and his administration were “fully responsible for igniting the flame of hatred in the hearts of Muslims and peace-lovers the world over and for squandering the principles of democracy, justice and peace which the American people, among many, cherish”.

Pope Tawadros II has also refused to meet with Pence, says Mohamed Al-Shahhat, a professor at Al-Azhar University.

“Al-Tayeb’s decision not to meet with the US vice president is proof that the Egyptian government has no influence over Al-Azhar’s decisions,” said Al-Shahhat.

The Al-Azhar professor called on Arab leaders to follow Al-Azhar’s lead.

Ahead of Trump’s official announcement the Council of Muslim Elders, headed by Al-Tayeb, issued a statement warning about the consequences for peace and stability of the US move. The council called on the Islamic Cooperation Organisation, the Arab League and leaders of the Islamic world to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque. It demanded the international community uphold UN Security Council resolutions 252 (1968), 267 (1969), 465, 476 and 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016) by rejecting all measures that seek to change the legal and historic status of East Jerusalem, its holy sites, identity and demographic composition.

In the wake of Trump’s decision on 6 December Al-Azhar called for an international meeting of Muslim and Christian clerics and concerned regional and international bodies to discuss ways to support the Palestinians against those who seek to steal their land and holy sites.

Al-Tayeb also decided the sermon on Friday, 8 December, should focus on Jerusalem and its Arab identity. After noon prayers Al-Tayeb directly addressed the people of Jerusalem: ‘Let your third intifada be on the level of your belief in your cause and your love for your country. We are with you and will not let you down.’”

Al-Azhar’s grand imam also called on leading Muslim organisations and the UN to move quickly to nip Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem in the bud.

“On behalf of the Islamic world, Al-Azhar rejects this reckless, illegal move. Moving ahead with the US decision is a flagrant falsification of history and endangers the future of peoples,” Al-Tayeb said.

He stressed that Jerusalem is the capital of occupied Palestine. Undermining the city’s status, he said, was a threat to international peace and stability. To support Israel’s occupying forces and steal the rights of peoples and their heritage is an act of barbarism, and maintaining the Arab identity of Jerusalem remains the Arabs’ and Muslims’ undying cause.

Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said of the 20 January meeting: “We are done with humiliation and defeat. Jerusalem is Arab in identity and will remain as such. If the US wants peace it should reverse its decision.”

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