The Temple Mount is “a holy place for Muslims only, and no one but the Muslims have any religious or historical right there,” Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.
The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site and is considered holy in Islam.
Hussein, who was appointed to his position by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of using a deadly Palestinian terrorist attack at the Mount last Friday as an excuse to “intensify the process of Judaization of Jerusalem and of the al-Aqsa Mosque.”
He claimed Israel was doing so by installing metal detectors at the entrances to the Mount. Israel’s new security measures were put into place as a direct response to the Palestinian terrorist attack last Friday in which three assailants somehow smuggled weapons onto the site and murdered two Israeli police officers guarding an entrance to the compound.
Palestinians will continue to protest at the entrance to the al-Aqsa Mosque “until occupation forces remove the electronic metal detectors once and for all and remove all the restrictions and barriers,” Hussein told Breitbart Jerusalem.
“Since the attack, the Israeli occupation has tried to force the worshippers to go through these electronic metal detectors and prepared to install cameras,” said the Mufti. “We oppose these steps and all religious scholars oppose these steps because they violate the status quo.”
Hussein continued, “Any violation of the historic condition and historic status of the mosque represents a unilateral change that will encounter opposition and refusal on our part. And we call on all Palestinians to oppose metal detectors and not to agree to pass through them on the way to the mosque. However, we call on Palestinians and Muslim worshippers to arrive for prayers at the gates of Al Aqsa until the occupation is forced to give up these metal detectors and all the new steps they’ve taken.”
Throughout the interview, Hussein repeatedly referred to Israel as “the occupation.”
When asked why he opposes increased security measures, which also help secure Muslim worshippers, Hussein answered, “These are steps that restrict freedom of worship and restrict access to al-Aqsa, so we will continue praying at the gates of the mosque and we won’t enter the complex through these new gates erected by the occupation.”
According to Hussein, “The worshippers arrive at a holy place, a place of worship and prayer, not to some institution where they are obligated to enter under this kind of check. This is degrading and humiliating. The Palestinians on every level – the public, the state … (and) the society – completely oppose these steps.”
Hussein’s denial of Jewish ties to the Temple Mount are mainstream within Palestinian society.
Earlier this week, Maher al-Sousi, a lecturer at the Islamic University of Gaza, claimed that the Jewish Temples were never located on the Temple Mount and that Jews have no right to the holiest site in Judaism.
In a Breitbart Jerusalem interview last year, Khaled Elkhaldi, a professor at Gaza’s Islamic University, completely denied Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.
In 2007, Breitbart’s Aaron Klein conducted an exclusive video interview with Waqf official and chief Palestinian cleric Taysir Tamimi, who used the occasion to claim the Jewish Temples “never existed” and the Western Wall was really a hitching post for Muhammad’s horse.
Excavations near the Mount routinely uncover archaeological evidence further tying Jews to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. For example, discoveries at the City of David, an archeological site just outside the Mount, have unearthed the core of ancient Jerusalem, including Hezekiah’s Tunnel, evidence of the Gihon Spring, Jewish Temple artifacts, Temple purifying pools and more.
Not only are these Muslim scholars’ claims about the lack of evidence tying Jews to the Temple Mount false, the Islamic scholar glossed over the Palestinians’ own complicity in disposing of Jewish Temple artifacts.
As Klein previously reported:
In 1997, the Waqf conducted a large dig on the Temple Mount during construction of a massive mosque at an area referred to as Solomon’s Stables. The Wafq at the time disposed of truckloads of dirt containing Jewish artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods.
After the media reported the disposals, Israeli authorities froze the construction permit given to the Waqf and the dirt was transferred to Israeli archaeologists for analysis. The Israeli authorities found scores of Jewish Temple relics in the nearly disposed dirt, including coins with Hebrew writing referencing the Temple, part of a Hasmonean lamp, several other Second Temple lamps, Temple-period pottery with Jewish markings, a marble pillar shaft, and other Temple-period artifacts.
The Waqf was widely accused of attempting to hide evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temples.
And in 2007, Klein personally reported from the site of an unusual dig on the Temple Mount in which the Waqf utilized heavy machinery to dig in one of the most sensitive archaeological compounds in the world and were once again caught red-handed destroying Temple-era antiquities.
This article was written with additional reporting by Aaron Klein.