A Jordanian Muslim cleric has been arrested for advocating Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, just a week after he issued a public statement retracting the comments following a hail of criticism.
In a video statement posted online on December 18, Salafi cleric Sheikh Yassin Al-Ajlouni said a place of worship for Jews should be established on the Temple Mount, noting its religious importance to Judaism – although he emphasized that the site should remain “under Hashemite [Jordanian] sovereignty and control,” as per existing arrangements.
“There should be a special place of worship for the Jews among the Israelis under Hashemite and Palestinian sovereignty, and in agreement with the Israeli regime,” Al-Ajlouni said
“This by no means entails the harming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock,” he added, clarifying that under his vision “part of the courtyard, where there are trees, will be allocated for the prayer of the Israelis.”
He further called on Jordanian and Palestinian Islamic scholars to issue a fatwa (religious ruling) to “clarify their religious position regarding the building of a place of worship dedicated for the Israeli Jews.”
Watch: Muslim cleric advocates Jewish prayers rights on Temple Mount
But the comments unsurprisingly drew the ire of authorities, who do not recognize the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount, leading him to issue a public retraction.
In a video dated December 28, the cleric said: “I am retracting my call, in my previous video, to allocate a place of worship for the Jews (on the Temple Mount).”
“The Israelis interpreted this call as if I were saying that they have a right to Bayt al-Maqdis [Temple Mount],” he continued. “I would like to emphasize that Bay al-Maqdis is pure Islamic land.
“No one is allowed to give it up, trivialize it, or to pass sovereignty over it to any non-Muslim party.”
Watch: Al-Ajlouni forced to retract comments
However, apparently that was not enough for Jordanian authorities, who arrested him not long after his retraction.
According to Jordanian media, first cited by the Elder of Ziyon blog, Al-Ajlouni was arrested on the orders of the Administrative Governor of the Irbid Governorate.
In addition, the “General Mufti Department” Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Sheikh Ajlouni, who is a physics teacher, calling on the Ministry of Education to take “appropriate administrative action” against him “for issuing random fatwas that hurt the feelings of Muslims, and affected the Jordanian efforts to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque from Zionist attacks.”
Despite its status as the holiest site in Judaism, Jews are currently banned from praying on the Temple Mount (as are other non-Muslims) due to pressure and threats from Muslim groups – not least among them the Waqf Islamic trust, which administers the site under Jordanian auspices as per Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel. Jewish activists have been campaigning to change that, branding such measures illegal and discriminatory – and have faced hostility and even violence, sometimes deadly, by Muslim extremists in response.
Al-Ajlouni’s comments were unusual given the current discourse within the Muslim world, which denies any Jewish connection to the site. Prominent Jewish Temple Mount rights activist Rabbi Chaim Richman praised his “bold” statement as “extremely positive.”
Up until the 20th century Islamic literature consistently referred to the Mount as the site of the Jewish Temple of Solomon, but Arab and Muslim opposition to the growing Zionist movement sparked a wave of revisionism which saw nearly all reference to the site’s Jewish heritage removed from their history books. Today, the Waqf and Palestinian Authority deny that the Temple Mount was ever Jewish, and actively seek to erase any traces of its Jewish past by destroying precious artifacts.