By Anees Bargouthi
JERUSALEM (AA) – Several Islamic institutions in Jerusalem on Saturday criticized the detention of an Al-Aqsa Mosque preacher by the Israeli authorities one day earlier, describing the move as “dangerous and unprecedented”.
In a joint statement, the Supreme Islamic Council and the Council of Awqaf (religious endowments) and Islamic Affairs, along with a number of other Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, said that preachers (“Khatibs”) at Al-Aqsa Mosque deserved to be shown “sanctity and respect”.
They added that the detention and interrogation on Friday of Sheikh Mohamed Salim by the Israeli occupation authorities constituted a “dangerous” escalation, going on to describe the move as “unprecedented interference in Muslims’ religious affairs”.
The Supreme Islamic Council, for its part, accused the Israeli occupation authorities of trying to establish control over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound “by interfering in the restoration of the mosque; interfering in the duties of mosque guards; controlling the mosque’s entrances and exits; harassing worshipers; and other aggressive and racist practices”.
“We stand with the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s preachers because they are carrying out their religious duties in all righteousness and sincerity,” the council said.
“Israeli actions against Al-Aqsa will not win the Jews any right to it,” it added.
Israeli police on Friday detained Salim for an hour and a half as he left the Al-Aqsa complex after delivering a sermon in which he criticized frequent incursions by extremist Jewish settlers into the mosque compound.
He also called on Muslims to protect Al-Aqsa in light of recent calls by extremists to storm the mosque on the Jewish Passover holiday later this month
In a statement, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Simari said police had detained Salim after he had delivered a sermon that “incited violence.”
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the “Temple Mount”, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem — in which Al-Aqsa is situated — during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state.
[Photo: Israeli soldiers in Al Aqsa mosque compound. Photgrapher: Muammar Awad/AA]