Arab visits to al-Aqsa mosque are not forbidden – Abbas

April 25, 2012

(Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem/Barbara Kabel

High-level Arab visits to Jerusalem to pray privately at the third holiest site in Islam should not be seen as acceptance of Israel’s disputed grip on the eastern half of the city, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.

The argument by some respected Islamic scholars that going to the al-Aqsa mosque is forbidden as long as access is controlled by Israelis is wrong-headed, Abbas said

Muslim faithful visit Mecca and Medina with the permission of Saudi Arabia. But seeking Israel’s consent to get to al-Aqsa is seen by some Muslims as acquiescence in Israeli occupation.

But this month, two Jordanian princes visited the mosque and adjacent Dome of the Rock, and Jordanian intelligence official Hussein al-Majali was seen at the sacred compound on Monday.

Their trips to Jerusalem must have been coordinated with Israel. Access to al-Aqsa is guarded by Israel security forces, who protect all of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Abbas said there was a “long controversy with several prominent Arab and non-Arab figures, on visiting Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem”. Some were saying “this visit is forbidden”, he told an Arab youth delegation in Ramallah, his West Bank capital.

“There was an intense and important dispute between us and some of our brothers among Islamic scholars whom we respect,” Abbas said. “But they mixed the religious with the secular, religion with politics, and partisanship with Islam. The result was that they’ve lost touch with what’s right and just.”

When prominent Egyptian cleric Mufti Ali Gomaa visited al-Aqsa last week, there were calls for his resignation from the Islamist-dominated parliament in Cairo.

Read the full story by Noah Browning here.
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