By Khaled Abu Toameh, April 5, 2003
The Palestinian Authority’s mufti, Ikremah Sabri, issued a fatwa (religious
decree) Saturday banning US President George W. Bush and British Prime
Minister Tony Blair from setting foot on “the sacred, holy land of Palestine.”
This is the first time that the mufti, who was appointed by Yasser Arafat, issues
such a ruling. The fatwa was announced at a press conference organized by the
Palestine Media Center in al-Bireh.
Palestinians said the decree is an indication of growing anti-American and
anti-British sentiments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It comes at a time
when tens of thousands of Palestinians continue to stage protests denouncing
the US and Britain and burning effigies of Bush and Blair.
The unprecedented religious decree forbidding Bush and Blair from
visiting the Palestinian territories comes only days after Christian leaders in
Bethlehem announced that the two leaders would never be allowed to visit the
Church of Nativity.
In his religious decree, Shiekh Sabri urged Muslims to confront the US-British
“aggression” on Iraq. But he stopped short of calling for a jihad (Holy war)
against London and Washington.
Other preachers used Friday prayers to urge Muslims to wage a holy war
on the US and Britain. “Muslims are obliged to rise in the face of this
aggression,” said the fatwa, which was read by the mufti. “This war is aimed at
taking control over the Iraqi people and their oil resources and reshaping the
Arab region to serve America’s interests.”
The mufti, who is the highest religious authority in the Palestinian Authority,
ridiculed Bush and Blair for declaring that the purpose of the war is to free the
Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“The ongoing aggression is aimed at stealing Iraq from its people and not
liberating the people,” he argued. “Who appointed the Americans as guardians
on Iraq to liberate its people,” he wondered, adding that his decree also
imposes prohibits Muslims from providing any kind of assistance to the US and
Britain in their war.
Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
demonstrated over the weekend in support of Saddam Hussein and against the
US and Britain. Chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Britain,” thousands
of protestors took to the streets in several towns and villages after Friday noon
In Gaza City, thousands of worshippers streamed out of the Omari Mosque in
one of the biggest shows of support for the Iraqi leader. The Palestinians,
chanting, “With blood, with soul, we redeem Iraq,” marched towards the
monument for the unknown soldier in the center of Gaza City, where a tent had
been set up to express solidarity with Saddam.
Carrying two coffins – one with the words UN Security Council on it and the
other with Arab League – the crowd chanted “Bush listen very well, the Islam
fighters will send you to hell.” Top Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders who led the
rally saluted the Iraqi army for its fierce resistance against the American and
Hamas’s spiritual leader, Ahmed Yassin, reiterated his call on the Iraqi people to
follow suit with Hamas and launch suicide attacks against the American and
British troops. The demonstrators retorted by chanting, “Oh Iraq we are
coming, and we are prepared to sacrifice millions.” Hamas representative
Mahmoud Zahhar told the crowd that, “It was inevitable for the American and
British invaders to arrive at the gates of Baghdad because that’s where they are
going to be buried.”
He added: “If the crusaders insist on storming Baghdad, they will lose
thousands of soldiers. Baghdad is a graveyard for invaders, whose destiny will
In Ramallah, Palestinian officials joined thousands of Palestinians who took to
the streets following Friday prayers to protest against the war in Iraq. Waving
Palestinian and Iraqi flags, the protestors shouted slogans denouncing Bush and
Blair, as well as pro-Western Arab presidents and monarchs.
The PA mufti in Ramallah, Jamal Bawatneh, called in his Friday sermon for a
jihad against the US and Britain. He told thousands of worshippers at the Jamal
Abdel Nasser Mosque in al-Bireh that it was the duty of all Muslims to
participate in a holy war against “the Americans and British infidels who are
perpetrating massacres against Iraqi children and women on a daily basis.”
In Nablus, masked gunmen belonging to the Hamas military wing spearheaded a
large crowd of demonstrators carrying Iraqi flags and photographs of Saddam.
Spokesmen at the rally emphasized the “special bond between Iraqi and
Thousands cheered as the masked gunmen set fire to a huge wooden
emblem of an American F-18 warplane and effigies of Bush and Blair.