An Israeli court has sentenced Sheikh Ra'ed Salah to nine months in prison for taking part in a "disturbance" at Al-Aqsa Mosque in February 2007. Sheikh Ra'ed, who is the head of the Islamic Movement in northern Israel, said in response that he does not recognise the jurisdiction of the court and that he is happy to be "behind bars" for the sake of Al-Aqsa.
Friends and supporters are not surprised that Sheikh Ra'ed has been imprisoned by the Zionist authorities as he has been at the forefront of those defending the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, other holy places and the city of Jerusalem itself. As a leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ra'ed has also faced measures taken against him by Arab regimes in the region, including a ban on travelling to Jordan.
Among Palestinians there are some who struggle for the liberation of Jerusalem and the holy places from inside the country and those who operate outside, but Sheikh Ra'ed is the first of all to step forward in times of crisis, even if nobody else shows up. He has always led from the front, ready to sacrifice himself before others. In other words, he's a true leader, whether it has been confronting Israel's building schemes, demolitions or excavations. None of this is done for personal gain; in fact, as the latest jail sentence demonstrates, he often has a lot to lose and his struggle is for the sake of God alone.
As he sits in solitary confinement Sheikh Ra'ed will have time for himself, to think, to rest and worship without interruptions or worldly concerns. It is ironic that his enemies are giving him this space; in due course, God-willing, he will have the time to sit in solitude inside Al-Aqsa Mosque when it is free.
What is important now is for us to be loyal to Sheikh Ra'ed and his spirit of struggle to protect Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem; we must not leave Jerusalem to the darkness of the Zionists. We have confidence in those who live in the land occupied in 1948 to continue the struggle to defend Jerusalem. May their efforts and voices shake the thrones and end the silence of those who collaborate with the occupation.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.