A prominent Palestinian sheikh on Tuesday called on the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, to step back from a religious edict prohibiting non-Palestinians from visiting Jerusalem.
“This edict is wrong, violates the Quran and Sunnah, and renders a free service to the Israeli occupation that wants to isolate the holy city from its Arab and Islamic surroundings,” the Palestinian Authority's Religious Endowments Minister Mahmoud al-Habash said in a statement.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had called on Arab leaders during the International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem in Doha this week to visit Jerusalem, which both Qaradawi and Hamas consider a step toward normalizing relations with Israel.
Habash said visiting Jerusalem is an Islamic duty and a political necessity.
Habash added that Muslims visiting Jerusalem under occupation are following the path of the Prophet Mohamed. He offered the example from Islamic history of the prophet's visit to Mecca under the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, under which Muslims in Medina and the pagan Quraish tribe of Mecca agreed on a 10-year peace accord that allowed Muslims to travel to the holy city.
“No one said that it was normalization by the Prophet or [his] recognition of their rule,” he said.
The minister also supported what Abbas had said in Doha — that visiting Jerusalem is not normalization with the Israeli occupation but communication with Jerusalem and its inhabitants.
Habash also added that visits to Jerusalem by Muslims and Christians “represent a challenge to Israeli policies that aim at isolating the holy city. It’s also moral and financial support for people in Jerusalem so they do not feel alone defending Jerusalem and its Muslim and Christian holy sites.”