Interview with Ikrima Sabri, Mufti of Jerusalem, appointed by the Palestinian
authority, January 17, 2001.
Translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an independent,
non-profit organization providing translations of the media of the Middle East.
Die Welt: The new Intifada is named after the Al-Aqsa Mosque which is on the
Temple Mount. On January 4, the Chief Rabbinate declared that Jewish Halacha
(Religious Law) prohibits “the transfer of sovereignty over the Temple Mount
to foreigners, whether directly or indirectly”, for it is the holiest place
for the Jewish people. Four days later, you declared in a Fatwa that the
place is Muslim in its entirety. Is this an unsolvable contradiction?
Sabri: There is not the smallest indication of the existence of a
Jewish temple on this place in the past. In the whole city, there is not
even a single stone indicating Jewish History. Our right, on the other hand,
is very clear. This place belongs to us for 1500 years. Even when it was
conquered by the Crusaders, it remained Al-Aqsa, and we got it back soon
afterwards. The Jews do not even know exactly where their temple stood.
Therefore, we do not accept that they have any rights, underneath the
surface or above it.
Die Welt: It is agreed among archeologists that the Wailing-Wall is part of
the foundation of Herod’s temple. The Bible and other antique sources report about
this place in detail. Why can’t you respect the Jewish connection to this place?
Sabri: It is the art of the Jews to deceive the world. But they can’t do it
to us. There is not a single stone in the Wailing-Wall relating to Jewish
History. The Jews cannot legitimately claim this wall, neither religiously
nor historically. The Committee of the League of Nations recommended in
1930, to allow the Jews to pray there, in order to keep them quiet. But by
no means did it acknowledge that the wall belongs to them.
Die Welt: Why don’t you allow Israeli scientists to dig there to look for
possible remnants and proofs for or against the existence of the Jewish temple?
Sabri: We categorically reject all excavations under the Al-Aqsa mosque,
because they would endanger the historical buildings on the site. Besides,
they have already dug everywhere. All they could find were remnants of
buildings from the Omayyad-period. Everything they excavated was related to
Arabs and Muslims.
Die Welt: King Hussein once proposed “Divine Sovereignty” over Temple Mount,
in order to reduce the tensions between peoples and religions thereâ¦
Sabri: We accept God’s sovereignty. That is why this mosque is called
Al-Aqsa. Allah himself gave it this name. Allah wants the place to belong to
the Muslims and to no one else. This is acceptable to us.
Die Welt: Would you agree, if necessary, to the internationalization of the
city, in order to manage these unsolvable problems?
Sabri: An internationalized Jerusalem would be worse for us than a Zionist
Jerusalem. In such a case, the entire world, and not only one state, would
be against us. This would be a regression to colonial times.
Die Welt: On March 23, the Pope said in Jerusalem: “Religion must never be
an excuse for the use of force especially when religious identity overlaps
with cultural and national identity.” How would you answer him?
Sabri: Any religious man would agree with that. We also believe that
religion is not the reason for the hatred between peoples. Only those
without religion ignore that. But who are they? Who occupies and destroys
other peoples and their property?
Die Welt: The Intifada is also violent. Wasn’t the peaceful resistance with
which Gandhi ended British colonialism in India, more successful?
Sabri: We have fought for peace without using violence since 1967. But no one
listened to us. We won resolutions in the UN, but no one lifted a finger for us.
Die Welt: In your July 2000 Fatwa you declared: “We insist on the Right of
Return for all the 1948 refugees and prohibit them from getting
compensations for of the Holy Land, for it has no price. What are
the borders of this Holy Land that you refer to?
Sabri: From an Islamic point of view, it stretches from the Mediterranean to
the Jordan . It is Palestine in its entirety.
Die Welt: And there is no place for the Israelis?
Sabri: For the Jews who lived here before, there will be a place, of course.
But all those Jews who came here from all over the world, must return to the
places from where they came. The Jews from Germany should return to Germany.
(laughs) After all, you like them so much, don’t you?
Die Welt: Does this mean, that there is no place here for a Jewish state?
Sabri: I didn’t address this issue in my Fatwa. All I said was that the
refugees must return. I didn’t say anything about the borders.