Head of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah said Friday that “soon Jerusalem will be the capital of the new Muslim caliphate, and the caliph’s seat will be there.”
Salah addressed an audience of 50,000 attending the Islamic Movement’s 11th annual rally in Umm al-Fahm. “Caliph” refers to a leader of the Muslim nation and in Arabic means the “heir” or “substitute” of the prophet Muhammad.
Salah noted that history tells of many occasions in which the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was occupied by foreign conquerors, but the occupiers left after a short time, and thus will also be the fate of the Israeli occupation.
“The Israeli occupation will leave Jerusalem soon. It will happen sooner than is thought,” Salah said at the rally, which was held under the slogan “Al-Aqsa endangered”.
'Punishment from Allah'
The sheikh added that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Moshe Katsav were “punished by Allah” after they plotted to bring harm to the mosque.
Sharon was punished because he planned to break into the mosque, and Katsav’s punishment came in the shape of the sexual harassment charges plaguing him after he supported the notion of dividing the mosque area between Jews and Muslims. The site is also holy to Jews as the site of the Temple Mount.
Former United States President Bill Clinton suffered a similar fate to Katsav’s, and after backing the idea of dividing the site he became embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Salah declared that ideas to divide the site still exist, but he reassured his audience: “There are all sorts of plans to divide the al-Aqsa mosque but they will not succeed.”
During his speech the sheikh called on Arab nations to provide financial support, whether with cash or with gold, to help save the mosque and Jerusalem. He even called for the establishment of a fund for the purpose.
Salah responds to pope's comment
Salah also responded to the statements attributed to Pope Benedictus XVI which were interpreted by many as being offensive to Islam. Benedict quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam.
"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'" Benedict did not explicitly agree with the statement nor repudiate it.
The sheikh expressed hope that the comment did not portray the official stance of the Catholic leadership. “I hope it was a slip of the tongue, because if it is not, his words are a direct call to the nations of Europe to stand behind President (George) Bush and Israel in their war against Islam,” he said.
The former mufti of Jerusalem Ekrima Sabri and the archbishop of the Greek-Orthodox church who is considered close to the Palestinian Authority also spoke at the rally. Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Musa also sent his blessings to the assembly.