Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, has described Israel's decision to prevent him from entering the Noble Sanctuary for two months as "arbitrary and inhuman". Sheikh Sabri told Quds Press that this, the third such banning order, runs contrary to all concepts of freedom of worship. "This violates the authority of the Islamic Waqf administration in Al-Aqsa Mosque," he said, "and how many democratic countries in the world prevent people from attending places of worship?"
The Imam claims that the decision of the local Israeli occupation army commander is part of a systematic process of intimidation by extremist Jewish groups and Knesset members (MKs) against him. "This is a personal attack," said Sheikh Sabri, "and they have even called for the government to take me to court for urging Muslims in the mosque to stop MKs from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque in March."
He claims that the Knesset members were "trying to follow the example of Ariel Sharon and his infamous visit to Al-Aqsa in 200 which sparked-off the Second (Al-Aqsa) Intifada" to raise their credibility with the Israeli public. "At that time we asked Muslims worldwide to head to Al-Aqsa to protect the mosque's sanctity."
Claiming that the Israelis are trying to expel Jerusalem's Muslim leaders from Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to allow visits by "extremist Jewish groups without objection from anyone", the Sheikh stressed that military dominance alone does not and will not give the Israeli occupation authorities any rights over Islam's third holiest site.
Such visits are, he believes, part of Israel's "Judaisation" policies for Jerusalem, with "devilish" talk about splitting sovereignty over the Noble Sanctuary and dividing the mosque. "We reject such talk totally," he added.