In remarks aimed at the Arab leaders who are meeting this weekend for the Arab League summit in Libya, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki accused Israel of plotting "to change the identity of Jerusalem."
Mottaki claimed that "the recent developments and comments made over the past few months by the officials of the Zionist regime clearly show the seriousness of the occupiers' plot to give a Zionist identity to the first kiblah [direction Muslims should face during prayer] of Muslims."
Claims and accusations like these have of course often been used to incite violence fuelled by religious fervor. As Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti once explained, he relied on the same tried and trusted formula to ignite the so-called "Al-Aqsa intifada" in September 2000:
On the eve of Sharon's visit I participated in a TV panel, on a local TV station. I found this to be the right opportunity to call upon the public to go to Al Aqsa on the following morning because it is not possible for Sharon to arrive at the Temple Mount [...] 'just like that' and walk away peacefully. [...] I saw within the situation a historic opportunity to ignite the conflict. The strongest conflict is the one that initiated from Jerusalem due to the sensitivity of the city, its uniqueness and its special place in the hearts of the masses who are willing to sacrifice themselves [for her] with not even thinking of the cost."
How would demagogues like Mottaki and Barghouti respond if they were confronted with scriptural evidence from the Koran and traditional Muslim teachings that confirm the existence of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem and support the Biblical claim that the land of Israel was given to the Jews by God?
Under the deliciously provocative title "Allah Is a Zionist", Tablet Magazine recently featured quotes from relevant passages of the Koran and the writings of early Muslim scholars, assembled and explained by the Italian Muslim communal leader and Koranic scholar Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi.
Palazzi argues that it "is compulsory for every Muslim believer" to accept that Solomon's Temple was in Jerusalem, "because that is what the Quran and the Islamic oral tradition, called the Sunnah, teach." He also explains that "from an Islamic point of view, Israel is the legitimate owner of the land God deeded to her and whose borders were defined by Abraham in Genesis." Furthermore, Palazzi rejects "recent claims according to which the 'assignment of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people was withdrawn or abrogated'" as politically motivated; according to him, such claims "are bereft of scriptural or traditional evidence. The Quran mentions the territory that God assigned to the Jewish people, but neither it nor the traditional Islamic sources mention a supposed withdrawal."
While religious writings can obviously not provide a sound basis for modern political claims, the quotes and arguments presented by Palazzi are certainly very relevant when it comes to taking on the many demagogues in the Middle East who would like to whip up religious passions to justify jihadi violence and terrorism against Israel and the West. In this context it is also important to note that Palazzi is not the only Muslim scholar who has pointed out that attempts to deny the historic Jewish presence and the spiritual bond of Jews to their ancient homeland cannot be justified by Islamic scripture.
A year ago, The Jewish Chronicle featured an article that described the teachings of a British imam, Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Al-Husseini, who also argues "that the traditional commentators from the eighth and ninth century onwards have uniformly interpreted the Koran to say explicitly that Eretz Yisrael has been given by God to the Jewish people as a perpetual covenant. There is no Islamic counterclaim to the Land anywhere in the traditional corpus of commentary."
Another scholar who has highlighted the lack of scriptural support for Islamist agitation against Israel is Khaleel Mohammed, a professor at San Diego State University. Professor Mohammed has stirred up controversy not only with his views on Israel, but also by tackling the topic of Muslim anti-Semitism.
It also seems that Khaleel Mohammed was one of the first Muslim scholars to point out that Islamists cannot base themselves on the Koran when they deny Jewish rights to Israel. Mohammed explained in an interview in 2004 that he based his view primarily on the passage "where Moses says that the Holy Land is that which God has 'written' for the Israelites. In both Jewish and Islamic understandings of the term 'written', there is the meaning of finality, decisiveness and immutability. [...] So the simple fact is then, from a faith-based point of view: If God has 'written' Israel for the people of Moses, who can change this?"
Indeed, one can only conclude that those who claim that it is their devotion to Islam that inspires their fight against the Jewish state have very little respect for the Koran.