Cleric: Muslims should visit Jerusalem

Senior Palestinian religious leader withdraws a previous fatwa, urges believers to visit holy city.

al aqsa dome of the rock 248 88 (photo credit: )
al aqsa dome of the rock 248 88
(photo credit: )
A senior Palestinian Muslim cleric on Wednesday urged Muslims to travel to Jerusalem, breaking a taboo against visiting the holy city because it would be considered as normalizing relations with Israel. Speaking at a press conference in Cairo, Sheikh Tayseer al-Timimi said Muslims should travel to Jerusalem and perform pilgrimage to Muslim holy places in the disputed city, backtracking on an earlier edict. "I withdraw my fatwa (edict) and now ask all Muslims and (Arab) Christians to creep into Jerusalem for a visit, satisfaction and shopping," al-Timimi said. "Come to the Palestinian hotels and come to the Palestinian markets," said the Palestinian cleric. Al-Timimi had previously banned Muslims from visiting Jerusalem, arguing that would be considered normalizing relations with Israel. Other Muslim clerics also ban such visits, saying Muslims should wait until a Palestinian state is established with east Jerusalem as its capital. Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque is one of Islam's most sacred shrines and Arabs and Muslims used to visit regularly to worship there until 1967. Al-Timimi's call would likely not affect Muslims in countries such as Syria or Saudi Arabia, who do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but it could encourage Muslims in other places such as India or Egypt which do. The cleric's call comes amid reports that the United States is urging Arab nations to take some steps to normalize relations with Israel as incentives for the Jewish state to revive the peace process with Palestinians. US Mideast envoy George Mitchell has reportedly proposed that Arab states reopen Israeli diplomatic missions and allow Israeli commercial planes to fly in their air space and grant entry to Israeli tourists. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states that allow this today. US President Barack Obama's administration has been pushing all sides to increase efforts to achieve "comprehensive peace" between Israel, an independent Palestinian state and the broader Arab world. But Arab countries, which launched a collective peace initiative in 2002, have been reluctant to take additional steps without first getting concessions from Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has so far refused to concede to US demands that Israel stop settlement construction in the West Bank and commit to the creation of a Palestinian state.