Masjid Al-Aqsa – Its Significance
Dr. Mozammel Haque
On Monday, the 8th of December 2014 there was a discussion on the significance and importance of Masjid al-Aqsa and the situation and what is happening on the ground at Masjid al-Aqsa today. There were parliamentarians who spoke about what is happening there and what is the present situation in that region. The chair felt the need to bring the issue of Al-Aqsa to the heart of British politics; need to bring the issue of Masjid al-Aqsa and its significance to the heart of democracy the parliament today. He said, “We know what is happening in Jerusalem, what is happening to Al-Aqsa.”
Millions of Muslims in the UK and around the world share Palestinian concerns about increasing incursions and trespasses within the sacred Al-Aqsa sanctuary in Jerusalem. In recent months, Israel has taken a number of steps to undermine Palestinian sovereignty to the site, which is a place of enormous religious and cultural significance.
There are distinguished Members of Parliament who spoke about their opinions and also the chair of Masjid al-Aqsa who delivered his briefing on why Masjid al-Aqsa is significant and why it is important and also outline the political reality of what is current on the ground.
David Jones, MP
David Jones, Conservative Member of Parliament from Wales who recently returned from Jordan where he met a group of MPs and a group of Observers, visited refugee camps and had discussions with senior figures from the Jordanian Government including His Majesty the King Abdullah, his Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Interior Minister. He said, “It was very clear that the issue of Al-Aqsa was the predominant one that the Jordanian authority was considering at that time. I like to put the issue of Al-Aqsa in the context of what else I was doing during my period.”
Conservative Parliamentarian Jones visited refugee camps and speaking about his experience, he said, “We visited one Palestinian camp Higgins which has been established since the late 1940s,” Mr. Jones met one of the refugees who is 85-years old; and he was told that she has been refugee since the age of 19 years old.
Speaking about Al-Aqsa incursion, David Jones Conservative parliamentarian said, “The Hashemite Monarchy of course are regarded as the Custodian of the Al-Aqsa and there was no doubt at all in my mind that they regarded the incursion to that Al-Aqsa as a matter of serious as much serious for them as you probably know that they had withdrawn their ambassador from Israel. And that was regarded as a very significant step indeed because there had been provocations from large longer years when you regarded the most recently incursion such serious matter that they could not but rather have to recall their ambassador. I think that was a very wise part of the Jordanian authorities.”
Parliamentarian Jones also said, “We had the horror of Gaza followed by the announcement that there are to be more Israeli settlement; constructed over West Bank and the more recently had the announcement by the Israeli cabinet that they proposed to change the Constitution frankly and covertly reduce Palestinians what can be described as second class citizens within Israel. So there is continuing provocations on the part of Israel. And that will continue certainly until general elections.”
But MP Jones maintained, “However, there is optimistic sign; I think the most optimistic sign is the readiness of Parliaments right across Europe to recognise Palestinian statehood; Sweden, Spain, most recently France and of course the House of Commons noted most recently to recognise the Palestinian Statehood. I hope similar vote would be in the European parliament shortly.”
Marcus Jones, MP.
Conservative MP from Nuneaton, Marcus Jones, said, “I think you can all probably agree in this room some of the things that happened across the summer and some of the things that happened today have been disproportionate.”
He also said, “What I am thinking is to make sure that from this Parliament and from other Parliaments across Europe we might sign this and make loud and clear that we are not willing to accept this situation where this situation is consistently one way situation where the people of Palestine constantly under pressure and I hope to work with my constituency to put that view across towns and colleagues.”
Andy Slaughter MP from Hammersmith
Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter, mentioned that we have identified some of the issues; the very key issues: the very changing, very dangerous situation in the occupied territories at the moment. He said, “I think the threat to Al-Aqsa is possibly the most serious threat potentially and one of the most, I think, one of the most understood least in the West and the restrictions on access for prayers that happened on end of October and equally along side that the effective siphoning of extremist settlers who want to go to the Haram Sharif to pray which is not something which is permitted and which is now happening I understand on daily basis.”
Labour MP Slaughter said, “This is the background what is happening on daily basis. This shows there has been quite a radical change in the outlook of the Israeli in particular over the time Netanyahu is in government this time.”
Parliamentarian Slaughter also mentioned about the settlement building. He said, “The fact that the settlement building goes on apace and living aside what happened in Gaza; the barbarity and attacking on civilians. This is happening every month, not on the same scale but the murder of Palestinians, in prison without trial; and the daily persecution that way and the besieged going on that is something not just constant which has the cumulative effect in that way. It is a powder cake mentality.”
Talking about what is happening in Jerusalem, MP Slaughter mentioned, “What is happening in Jerusalem itself gets worse and worse and particularly the attempt to Judaisation of Jerusalem; the inclusion and encircling the Jerusalem as well as the various attacks on the site of Al-Aqsa. This is now a consertive campaign and it reflects the extremism that brought up within the Israeli government.”
Labour MP Slaughter said he did not see any positive signs. He said, “I am afraid I don’t see many positive signs; you are absolutely right that the votes that are taking place across Europe including around the two places; they are absolutely important, particularly the votes at the House of Commons, given the baggage the UK has in relation to the Balfour Declaration under mandate and also the fact that we have under both the parties had very pro-Israeli government for the past generations here. That changed with the Labour party under Ed Miliband but it has also changed in other parties as well. We have 40 MPs voting for recognition and quite senior MPs as well in that way. Those are important; they are more than symbolic. We will have recognition and I am sure within a foreseeable future.”
Speaking about response, Mr. Slaughter said, “It is rather a half-hearted response. Nobody is talking about even for example banning settlement goods.”
Talking about the Settlements, MP. Slaughter said, “Settlements are illegal; they are illegal under international law; it is not about boycott; we have another discussion about boycott; this is about banning illegal projects; which by definition it is illegal. We are not even talking about today against the events I mentioned going on. Although I think there is now much great understanding; certainly among British people who are overwhelmingly able to understand the Palestinian cause even politicians are catching up; they sometimes do public opinion.”
But still there is disparity there. Andy Slaughter mentioned about the Jeremy Bowen programme, a good programme on olive trees. He said, “if you have heard the programme Jeremy Bowen programme yesterday; it’s a good programme on olive about the settler’s deliberate destruction of the olive trees, how Palestinian farmers cannot sustain themselves; but there are far more symbolic people; it is a good programme and if you listen to that programme you will have a pretty clear idea of Palestine but what it did not do; it did not make clear; it did not address this is only happening because of illegal occupation; it might have mentioned, I have not heard it.”
“Why it is happening; that dimension, that overview situation; missing the political discourse; that’s why we have to keep talking about the issue in the House; that’s why we have to keep informing everyday to see whether justice is kept on line,” Labour MP Slaughter concluded.
Mr. Ismail Patel
Mr. Ismail Patel of chair of the Al-Aqsa explained the importance and the significance of Masjid Al-Aqsa and informed what is happening on the ground. First of all Al-Aqsa what it is? Dome of Rock and finally how it explained and how it transpired into global arena and why it is possible for Israel to get away with.
Al-Aqsa is a piece of land
Ismail Patel first of all gave a brief description of Al-Aqsa. He said, “Al-Aqsa, contrary to lot of myths, it is not a building; Al-Aqsa is a piece of land; approximately 35 acres; it referred to in the media Temple Mount and within this piece of land, which we refer to as Al-Aqsa, there are four mosques, 40 domes; 11 water wells; 3 minars; and whatever within that complex, the Al-Aqsa sanctuary is known as Al-Aqsa mosque. The building of course, has four connotations, four significance and they have all relevant stood in the Islamic history era of the place of the region.”
Mr. Patel also mentioned about that piece of land blessed by God and which is for the whole of creation. He said, “When you talk about al-Aqsa the first thing you have to clear our mind with what we are talking about is a piece of land; a land which has been blessed, according to Muslims, by God for the whole of the creation. This is another very important factor ; there is no exclusive right to the Islamic teaching; that Islam is only blessed to a certain group of people; it is blessed for everybody; anybody who resides there and benefits from it will ripe with the rewards.”
Dome of the Rock
Speaking about the Dome of Rock, Mr. Patel mentioned, “Within the Al-Aqsa complex and if you visit Jerusalem, the immediate picture on most of the people’s mind will be the beautiful magnificent enigmatic Dome of the Rock. This is in the centre of the Al-Aqsa complex; it was built in the 7th century; it was one of the longest historical buildings in the region that is in existence in use. We are talking about the heritage and the history that stretches back over a thousand years. This building which was built is an Islamic masterpiece and it has captured minds not only of the believers but of scholars, archaeologists, poets, and it captured them because of magnificent and what it transpires, what it tells us, it is the testimony that Muslims love and devotion to Jerusalem. In fact, what Muslims tried to do is to encapsulate their love for Jerusalem through bricks and mortar.”
Why Muslims love Jerusalem
Mr. Patel spoke on why Muslims love Jerusalem. He went back to the Islamic heritage and mentioned, “Jerusalem has not only inspired Muslims because of the fact that it is mentioned in the Qur’an but it links Islamic heritage and history not only from the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) but from the time of the creation of mankind itself. We believe that when the first Man put on this planet he built two Houses of Worship created by God, one is in Makkah and the second one is in Jerusalem. Hence we see the heritage from the time of humanity. Thus those who belief in faith it eminence from Jerusalem and this brings Muslims very very close whether they are part and parcel of new modern day state of Palestine or not. It transcends modernity; it transcends nation-state; and it brings in humanity either because of its love of architecture, through its love of poetry, through its history or faith to Jerusalem and hence finally millions of Muslims, right of billions throughout the globe attached to Jerusalem and what happened to Palestine becomes significant.”
Palestine has a special place in the problems of the world. Mr. Patel said, “Despite all the problems that we have around the globe , Palestine finds a special place That I mentioned earlier, Jerusalem is not exclusive to Muslims; Muslims has never in its history claim their sovereignty devoid of any other people. In fact, when substantially Muslims liberated Jerusalem; it was the Jewish people who ended their diasporas ended that started in 1718 Jewish who had been expelled by the Romans. So when Muslims came in 637 they allowed the Jewish people to return back. Thousands years of diasporas the exiled was ended by the Muslims. If you looked at the Judaize State within the first month of Muslims liberated Jerusalem, certainly 70 Jewish family for the first time started residing in Jerusalem.”
Liberation of Jerusalem for humanity
Patel spoke about the liberation of Jerusalem for humanity. He said, “The liberation of Jerusalem not for Muslims, not for the Palestinians but for the humanity. Everybody can enjoy Jerusalem. That should always remind all of us. Also we understand Jerusalem is occupied; particularly East Jerusalem is occupied territory under the international law; under the UN Conventions, under the Geneva Conventions. We even the British government does not accept Israel’s presence in east Jerusalem and within east Jerusalem the Masjid al-Aqsa.”
“But this military occupation has been aided and abetted by the dehumanised Palestinian people. And it has been done through linguistic through double speech through long words which is very important for us to understand,” mentioned Mr. Patel and added, “This language is extremely important. Palestinians are no longer humans; they are targets, death and killing and elimination under act of killing itself become normal. So we see this language and how it refers and how it transposed and how international community people like us, all parliamentarians.”
Sharing the Blessed place
Mr. Patel explained why he mentioned about language. He said, “Why I am mentioning to you about language; the reason I am mentioning about language; because now the extremist Israeli settlers talk about sharing the Masjid al-Aqsa. How noble. Why don’t we share the blessed place Masjid al-Aqsa? How blessed place has got into We want to share it; Share what? Share an occupied territory? That is illegal under international law; that is not belonged to Israeli under any circumstances. This is what they wish. Share what? Let look at the Ibrahimi Mosque al-Khalili in Hebron. This happened in couple of years ago. They said; just share it, just split in half and then they say on our holiday Muslims cannot come. And then now today Muslims cannot use it even on Friday. That is what sharing left.”
What is going to happen to Al-Aqsa
Mr. Patel said, “This language in the history is important. Masjid al-Aqsa has been mentioned by almost all the speakers I think this war has been pushing too far. Because what is going to happen; in the history of Palestine; it has happened before; when Al-Aqsa was lost. It galvanised not only the people of the region but without an exaggeration, the people of the globe and we have also the mirror in front of us when the Crusaders came in they destroyed the holy sites of Muslims and the Jewish people; and it took Salahuddin Ayubi to liberate it and liberated it again for what? And I want to put it. They liberated it for humanity. Christians are allowed to respite despite the Crusaders and definitely the Jewish people are allowed to come back.”
Concluding his speech in a negative tone, Mr. Patel said, “Now under the Zionist occupation of Jerusalem, particularly the Masjid al-Aqsa, we have the reverse situation; when the Christians are suffering and the Muslims are suffering. And I have mentioned now; two-state solution is not talked about. If they do not talk about two-state solution, then the world will have left with no option but to move forward and therefore it is imperative for the Members of Parliament here those who have joined pass the message .to make sure the people do understand; make your friend understand that the way forward is to respect and that respect comes from acknowledging the right of the people; until and unless that comes, the problem will be there.”
Palestine Election Pledge
At the end of the event, the following Palestine Election pledge was announced: