The historicity of the tensions around Al-Aqsa Mosque

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By: Er. Ishfaq Khaliq

Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the holiest places in the Islamic faith while the entire area is holy for Jews as well as Christians too. The mosque is having an area of 35 acres and is also called as the ‘Qibla-e-Awal’ or Haram Al-Sharif. In Arabic Aqsa  is translated as ‘farthest’ and it is from here that Muslims believe the holy prophet (S.A.W) ascended to the heavens.  The mosque can accommodate 5000 worshipers at a time.

For Jews, the temple mount, known as Habayit is the holiest place because it was the site of two ancient temples- the first was built by King Solomon, according to the bible, and was later destroyed by Babylonians. The second temple stood for nearly 600 years before roman empire destroyed it in the first century.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the old city, from Jordan during the Arab-Israel war of 1967 and annexed the area. It later declared Jerusalem as its capital through a move that has never been internationally accepted or recognized. Under a special status quo Islamic trust funded by Jordan continue to administer the Al-Aqsa mosque and the dome of the rock, as it has done for decades while as a special role was assigned to Israel by Jordan in 1994 to have some control on Al- Aqsa under a treaty.

The Jews are allowed to visit the holy shrine as Israeli security forces are always deployed on the holy shrine while Muslims are prohibited to pray inside the mosque. These tensions have continued for the long time giving rise to anguish, anger and hatred against Israel in all the Muslims living there and many more around the globe. The tension is also strengthened when Jews celebrate the annual Jerusalem day. The celebration was held most recently as a provocation to the Palestinians including residents of eastern parts of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of future Palestine state while as Israel wants to maintain the status quo and the prime minister of Israel has been pretty vocal about his country’s stand. It is worth noting that Israel also wishes to evict eight families of the Sheikh Jarrah locality near the mosque but Palestinians have refused to do so and that became the centre point of the recent clashes. Hundreds of Palestinians have been made homeless and many mosques have been damaged in the recent spate of violence and aggression shown by Israel. The world has acted opined strongly against the brutalities and there have been many voices that urged Israel to end the cycle of violence against the people as well as Al Aqsa.

Israel has granted jurisdiction of the mosque and complex to an Islamic waqf but it actually deploys its security forces to regularly perform patrols and conduct searches within the precinct. Under the Preservation of the Holy Places Law, the Israeli government has also allowed entry to different religious groups – such as Christian pilgrims.

Al-Aqsa is mentioned in the Quran in the story of the night journey of Islamic prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem and from here to the heavens. Recently, tension flared over the eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, when Israeli authorities blocking access to the important Damascus Gate plaza during Ramadan and a march of thousands of Israeli ultra-nationalists through the city on May 6, during the celebration of ‘Jerusalem Day’ (this day marks the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967). Lack of understanding, particularly regarding the nuances of the conflict on both sides gives rise to more violence and more confrontations in the area and as a result several lose their lives. Perhaps if understandings could be achieved, communication and conflict resolutions would prove more effective which is causing so much trouble across the globe. The Palestinians believe and argue that Israel, by its brute mighty military power has taken their land and just because it enjoys the favors and patronage of the big powers including the USA, it has been wrecking havoc on the innocent Palestinians.

A unique aspect of the conflict is that the Palestinians consider death as martyrdom and believe that fighting against occupation is ordered by the almighty and that no one should actually surrender before the occupation as it goes against the very principle of Islam.  That is why many Palestinians are willing to scarify their life for the freedom of the holy land and for ensuring that people of Palestine are finally free to live their lives in their own land.

Once the occupation ends, the cumulative effects of the trauma and violence that have been witnessed by the masses will remain a serious concern. Even after the cessation of violence and the resumption of peace, the population will continue to suffer from the lasting effects of what they have experienced. It is a given that when tensions, stress factors and restrictions are reduced, the anger and mistrust towards the other will automatically reduce too.

History is witness that the road to peace and understanding is a fragile one and difficult process to initiate as well as sustain. However, it is only through understands that peaceful coexistence can be attained. Israel should change its perspective of always waging wars on small and flimsy grounds which could have been dealt with peacefully and through dialogue. Their military might could lead them into a serious situation as the world has grown enough to hear Palestinians and to understand the factuality of the issues.  The blood bath needs to end- once for all!

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