Public Controversy Over Muslim Cleric Who Expressed ‘Love’ For Jews

A member of the Jewish community, wearing a kippa, attends the inauguration of the new synagoge of Bochum, western Germany, also attended by the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Charlotte Knobloch and Northrhine-Westphalia State Premier Juergen Ruettgers, 16 December 2007.

JAFFA, Israel – Ali Alifri is one of the youngest, most recognized, and popular clerics in the Arab world; he has been interviewed on many religious television programs. Over the past few days, he and dozens of other religious figures participated in a conference to encourage moderate Islam held in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic in Russia.

Alifri’s participation, along with that of Ahmed Mohammed Tayyab, the head of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, possibly the most widely respected religious institute in the Sunni Muslim world, sparked the interest of both Arab and international media in regard to discussions at the conference that sought to create a front of Muslim clerics against Islamic extremism.

Russia’s rivals in the Arab world said that the idea was no more than a pathetic Russian show and that the country seeks to throw out Wahhabist teachings, supported by Saudi Arabia, and present them as an exceptional phenomenon that encourages extremism.

Some of Alifri’s comments at the conference were posted on social media, including one quote in which he said, “I love Jews, but I don’t love the occupation.”

Alifri’s comments fueled anger among those who opposed his participation in the Chechen conference. “May Allah put you with those you love, bastard,” wrote one Twitter user named Bagui, who obviously was not referring to heaven.

The wishes for Alifri to find himself alongside Jews on judgement day were repeated by others such as Alhajiri, a Twitter user who wished that Alifri “will find himself on judgement day with Sharon,” a reference to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Another user said he was sorry to see “that the money caused his heart to stop seeing the truth.”

Muhamad Bin Hamad tweeted: “These are the descendants of the Jews, how do you expect them to hate them?” referring to Alifri and the other participants.

Another user wrote, “But what’s the difference between Jews and occupiers? They are the same. That’s like asking what the difference is between the egg and the chicken. Thanks to Allah who revealed the true identity of those who betrayed themselves with their tongues. They won’t be able to betray us after today.”

Yet another user wrote, “That Alifri needs someone to step on his face.”

A user calling himself 99Fazaa wrote: “A pathetic Sheikh. He even claims to be Sunni. Has he even read the words of God who said, ‘You believers, don’t choose your enemies as leaders and don’t wish them peace?’”

Saudih wrote, “I believe he’s a Jew from Yemen. The truth has been revealed. He yearned to return to his origins.”