Fiyaz Mughal

Religious zealots must not be allowed to abuse the Temple Mount

Conflict on the site starts a chain reaction that leads to more death and destruction


TOPSHOT - Palestinians walk outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City in al-Aqsa mosque compound on January 23, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI (Photo credit should read AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

April 27, 2022 14:19

Pesach and Ramadan are times for reflection, prayer and introspection. They are also moments of interconnection with God, spirituality and family. So the recent escalation of events on the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosques on the Temple Mount are deeply troubling.

There is no doubt that the site is central to Jews and Muslims and tensions over the site bubble under the surface. Jewish worshippers are heavily protected and make their way to the site under heavy guard, and Muslim Jerusalemites fear that the site may be "taken over" to their permanent exclusion. There is much fear and from that comes division, anger and violence.

Yet there has to be some realisation that conflict on the site will start a chain reaction that will lead to more death and destruction. We must also not forget that there has been a backdrop of terrorist attacks which have recently rocked Israel and led to the deaths of many young lives.

Israel’s coalition is extremely fragile. It has brought together the religious ultra-right with Islamists. This government has managed to hold so far, but it must walk a fine line between representing the needs of religious Jewish ultra-right groups and ensuring that Muslims have access and rights to pray in the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques.

A firm national commitment to ensure the longevity of the two mosques would go far to reduce the space for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to whip up fears that Muslims will "lose" the mosques. This is a narrative that these groups have used to garner further support and place them front and centre, as so-called "Defenders of the Mosque". They are hardly "defenders" - but, rather, exporters of polarisation, division and intolerance.

Any religious group that seeks to use arms or violence to impose its will in Israel, whether Muslim or Jewish, must be condemned and challenged.

Allied to this must be a firm commitment from the Waqf or religious authority organising prayers in the mosques that everything will be done to stop young men from desecrating the mosques and from undertaking violent actions that have involved rock throwing and the use of Molotov cocktails. No municipality can allow such violence and we should not expect this to be allowed in the heart of Jerusalem and in the holiest of places.

There is no easy solution to what seems an annual merry-go round of violence on the holy site. However, we must always try to find a workable medium because the alternatives strengthen only those who want conflict, death and destruction.

In the end, religious zealots of any kind seek a "rebirth" and a renewal based on exceptionalism, as though they alone have rights. They are a threat to the middle ground in societies who seek peace, trade and joy in pluralistic societies.

April 27, 2022 14:19

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