Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dr. Daniel Pipes: If I Forget Thee: Does Jerusalem Really Matter to Islam?

If I Forget Thee: Does Jerusalem Really Matter to Islam?

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If I Forget Thee: Does Jerusalem Really Matter to Islam?

by Daniel Pipes
New Republic
[N.B.: The following reflects what the author submitted, and not exactly what was published. To obtain the precise text of what was printed, please check the original place of publication.]

From the article:

The architects of the Oslo peace accords understood Jerusalem's power. Fearing that even discussing the holy city's future would detonate the fragile truce between Israelis and Palestinians, they tried to defer the issue until everything else had been settled. But it is now all too clear that this approach has failed. Last September, riots met the opening of a new entrance to the ancient Hasmonean tunnel, while the recent building of apartments on an empty plot in eastern Jerusalem has brought the Netanyahu-Arafat dialogue to a bitter and bloody stand-still. And so the international actors must begin to do what they had hoped to postpone: sort through the Jews' and Muslims' conflicting claims on the city that King David entered three millennia ago.

The debate matters. In Jerusalem, the theological and historical arguments matter, serving often as the functional equivalent of legal claims. The strength of these arguments will ultimately help determine who governs the city. Already we hear the ritual and relativistic cliche that Jerusalem is "a city holy to both peoples." But like most cliches, this one is more false than true. Jerusalem stands as the paramount religious city of Judaism, a place so holy that not just its soil but even its air is deemed sacred. Jews pray in its direction, invoke its name at the end of each meal and close the Passover service with the wistful statement "Next year in Jerusalem."

In contrast, Jerusalem is not the place to which Muslims pray. It is not directly connected to any events in Muhammad's life. And it is not even mentioned by name in the Koran. The city never became a cultural center or served as capital of a sovereign Muslim state. Jerusalem has mattered to Muslims only intermittently over the past thirteen centuries, and when it has mattered, as it does today, it has been because of politics.