TURKEY

Muslim scholars highlight Jerusalem at Istanbul meeting

MUSLIM SCHOLARS HIGHLIGHT JERUSALEM AT ISTANBUL MEETING

Muslim scholars from around the world met in Istanbul on Tuesday to highlight the religious and historical importance of Jerusalem.

Held under the banner "Jerusalem: A city blessed by revelation", the two-day event -- organized by Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) -- was attended by 70 Muslim scholars from 20 countries, including Pakistan, Britain, Indonesia and France.

Speaking at the conference, Diyanet Deputy Chairman Selim Argun pointed out that Jerusalem had long served as an example of peaceful coexistence.

"We can't just say, 'Look, we have lived in Jerusalem for centuries in peace under the Muslim administration with Christians and Jews'," Argun said.

"Because today, there are terrorist organizations that accept living together as non-Islamic, and take references from religion, in different parts of the Islamic world," he added, referring in particular to the Daesh terrorist group.

Daesh, Argun said, "opposes coexistence and sees killing non-Muslims as legitimate. This is a distorted understanding".

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- occupied by Israel since 1967 -- might eventually serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Early last month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, prompting widespread condemnation and protest from across the Arab and Muslim world.

Speaking at Tuesday's conference, Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Rahman Tawil, the head Palestine's Sharia Court, described Trump's Jerusalem move as a "crime".

Enver Arpa of the Institute of Eastern and African Studies at the Social Sciences University of Ankara, for his part, highlighted Jerusalem's central importance to Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

Muhammad Luthfi Zuhdi, a Muslim scholar from Indonesia who also spoke at the conference, pointed out how Islam had laid the foundations for coexistence, saying Muslims needed to be reminded of this fact.

Istanbul mufti Hasan Kamil Yilmaz, meanwhile, noted that people of different faiths had lived together in Jerusalem for 1,500 years.

"But today, Muslims -- even Christians -- face the threat of expulsion from Jerusalem [by the Israeli authorities]," he asserted.

"This is ethnic cleansing," he added, "and we must tell the world about it."

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