Jordan conference permits Islamic pilgrimage to Jerusalem

Gathering hosted by King Abdullah II encourages visits to Al-Aqsa, as long as no business is done with Israelis

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount during the festival of Eid Al-Adha, October 26, 2012 (photo credit: Sleiman Khader/Flash90)
Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount during the festival of Eid Al-Adha, October 26, 2012 (photo credit: Sleiman Khader/Flash90)

Palestinians and Muslims living outside Islamic countries may visit Jerusalem even under Israeli “occupation,” a religious conference in Jordan under the auspices of King Abdullah II ruled.

The two-day “Road to Jerusalem” conference which ended on Wednesday brought 150 Islamic scholars and Jordanian parliamentarians to Amman to discuss ways of “defending Islamic and Christian holy sites” from Israeli violations, official daily Ad-Dustour reported.

The plenary allowed for “future discussion” regarding the right of Muslims living in Islamic countries to visit the third holiest city in the Islamic faith. It warned pilgrims to avoid “normalizing with the occupation” and adhere to “buying, selling, traveling and [accepting] hospitality only with Palestinians.”

“It is recommended that visits to Al-Aqsa [mosque] take place as part of the Hajj pilgrimage to the extent possible and in groups,” an article published by Jordan’s official Petra News Agency read.

Jordan, which controlled east Jerusalem and the Old City between 1948 and 1967, was given custodianship over the city’s holy sites in an agreement with the Palestinian Authority in March 2013. Last month, King Abdullah vowed to protect Jerusalem and stand up to “Israeli violations” in a speech delivered at the Arab League conference in Kuwait.

According to Al-Jazeera, a Qatari news channel critical of the Jordanian monarchy, the main goal of the conference was to issue a fatwa, or religious opinion, allowing “Arabs and Muslims to visit occupied Jerusalem, despite the objection of non-official Jerusalem-based institutions and scholars.” The channel claimed the gathering was intended as a counterbalance to influential Egyptian cleric Youssef Qaradawi, who has denounced Muslim visits to Jerusalem as long as it lies under Israeli control.

Conference participants told Al-Jazeera that Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the King’s cousin and adviser on Jerusalem affairs, announced that Qaradawi’s rulings “apply to the Muslim Brotherhood, not to all Muslims.” When Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani warned that a fatwa encouraging religious tourism to Jerusalem would constitute “normalization with Israel,” he was cut off by the Jordanian royal, the channel reported.

Prince Ghazi himself visited Jerusalem together with Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa in April 2012.

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