Palestinian plan to bring Muslim pilgrims back to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque

June 19, 2012

(The Al-Aqsa mosque is seen on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City May 23, 2012. REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

The grand mosques in Mecca and Medina, the two holiest in Islam, draw millions of pilgrims annually. Al-Aqsa, the last of the three sacred sites the Prophet Mohammad urged Muslims to visit, sees only a few thousand foreign worshippers a year.

The difference is political, not religious. The first two mosques are in Saudi Arabia, a proudly Muslim kingdom, while Al-Aqsa stands on Israeli-controlled land that may be the most disputed religious spot on earth.

(Inside Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, 17 May 2012/Tom Heneghan)

Jews call the raised ground at the eastern edge of Jerusalem’s Old City the Temple Mount, while Muslims know it as the Noble Sanctuary. Both claim sovereignty over it. Muslims have kept up an informal boycott of the walled esplanade since Israel seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in a 1967 war, saying visits would amount to recognition of Jewish occupation of Palestinian territory.

Palestinian and Jordanian officials now want to reverse that. President Mahmoud Abbas urged Muslims last February to resume the journeys to Jerusalem to counter what he called Israel’s attempts to “Judaise” the city and in solidarity with the Palestinians.

“Visiting a prisoner is an act of support and does not mean normalization with the warden,” he said.

(Stained glass windows in Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, 17 May 2012/Tom Heneghan)

Since then, several high-ranking Arab and Islamic leaders have turned up to pray at Al-Aqsa and – they hope – kickstart a new wave of pilgrimages.

“Some Muslims haven’t visited Al-Aqsa mosque since 1967, but this was a big mistake,” said Palestinian Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habash.

“We have now decided to correct our mistake.”

(People visit the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, where the Dome of the Rock (L) and Al-Aqsa mosque (not seen) stand May 18, 2012. REUTERS/Ammar Awad )

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2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

It is overloaded sentence when saying Palestinians PLAN to bring Muslim pilgrims back to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, the President himself has to ask for permit in order to pass one of the checkpoints scattered the occupied West Bank. Looking at the story as an outsider; I see it politically incorrect.

Posted by Hosam | Report as abusive

As a matter of curiosity did you bother to check how many pilgrims came to the “third holiest site in Islam” in the 50s and 60s when it was under Hashemite rule? Might I suggest that the lack of “millions of tourists” has more to do with the fact that Jerusalem is not really that holy to Muslims and less to do with the fact it is now part of Israel. In fact, one might argue it is backwards, that it only became “important” to Muslims BECAUSE it was controlled by Israel.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

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