World View: BBC Reporter Confronts China’s Military in South China Sea

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This morning’s key headlines from

  • Egyptian scholar: The original al-Aqsa mosque may not have been in Jerusalem
  • BBC reporter confronts China’s military in South China Sea

Egyptian scholar: The original al-Aqsa mosque may not have been in Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

In a recent TV interview, Egyptian scholar Youssef Ziedan said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine is not the Al-Aqsa Mosque referred to in the Quran. Citing ancient scholars, Ziedan said that the Al-Haram Mosque and Al-Aqsa Mosque were “on the road from Mecca to Ta’if.” “Neither we nor the [Jews] have anything to do with it,” he said. “It’s all politics.”

Ziedan is quoted as saying:

Hamiqdash [“the temple”] is a Hebrew word. This is a Hebrew concept. The Christian [name of Jerusalem] is “Aelia.” The Al-Aqsa Mosque, in my view, is not the one [in Jerusalem]. It cannot be. […]

Our ancient religious scholars… said that the Prophet Muhammad… went to the city of Tai’f. On the road to Ta’if, there were two mosques: Al-Adna Mosque [“the nearest”] and Al-Aqsa Mosque [“the farthest”]. The Quranic verse [17:1]… says: “Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from the Al-Haram Mosque to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the surroundings of which We have blessed.” At that time there was no prayers yet. So it was a place of worship. The place was well known. Otherwise, its location would have been specified. Therefore, … these two mosques were on the road from Mecca to Ta’if. […]

The Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] did not exist back then, and the city was not called “Al-Quds.” It was called Aelia, and it had no mosques… The Al-Aqsa Mosque represents a political game by [Caliph] Abd Al-Malik ibn Marwan.

So I did some checking on Caliph Abd Al-Malik ibn Marwan. Abd al Malik was Caliph from 685 to 705, several decades after the death of Mohammed. He was clearly not only a conquering military leader, but also a politician. He centralized power in the capital at Damascus, he was responsible for establishing Arabic as a standard language, he centralized the control of minting money by standardizing coins of remarkable uniformity, and he even established a postal service.

He also oversaw the construction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which celebrated the location of the ascent of Prophet Mohammed and proclaimed Islamic dominance over Jerusalem, the holy city of Judaism and Christianity. The Dome of the Rock was also meant to compete with the great Byzantine holy sites in the region.

It is this last accomplishment that is being challenged by Egyptian scholar Youssef Ziedan. If I understand what Ziedan is saying, Abd Al-Malik was a politician who named Jerusalem as the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the ascent of Mohammed for purely political reasons, when the real al-Aqsa Mosque was hundreds of miles to the south, near Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

It is an interesting theory, and makes for good political talking points during the various “peace process” negotiations. But whether it is true or not, it will not make any difference. Jerusalem is the epicenter of the growing conflict between Jews and Palestinians, and nothing that Ziedan says is going to change that. Memri and Oxford Islamic Studies and Metropolitan Museum of Art and Islam Laws

BBC reporter confronts China’s military in South China Sea

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has repeatedly said that “The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.”

In pursuit of that pledge, the U.S. has repeatedly flown, sailed and operated close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, despite warnings from China. Apparently Australia has done the same.

Last week, BBC reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, with a small crew, hired a plane in the Philippines, and flew past China’s artificial islands. At the first set of artificial islands, the pilot got nervous and turned away. After hours of negotiation, the pilot agreed to stay on course in traveling near the second set of artificial islands.

There was a radio conversation between the Chinese Navy and the pilot:

China: “Foreign military aircraft in north-west of Meiji Reef, this is the Chinese Navy, you are threatening the security of our station! In order to prevent miscalculation leave this area immediately!”

Pilot: “Chinese Navy, this is Philippine civilian aircraft en route to Palawan, carrying civilian passengers. We are not a military aircraft, we are a civilian single-engine aircraft.”

China: “Foreign military aircraft in north of Meiji Reef, this is the Chinese Navy!”

The loud and aggressive Chinese warnings continued until the plane left the region.

According to Wingfield-Hayes:

Below us we could see the lagoon teeming with ships, large and small. On the new land, cement plants and the foundations of new buildings.

Then, as we rounded a cloud, we got the first clear view of the new runway China is building here, just 140 nautical miles from the Philippine coast. I did a quick calculation. A Chinese fighter jet taking off from here could be over the Philippine coast in as little as eight or nine minutes.

He adds, “[China] is building new runways, high-powered radar stations and deep-water port facilities.” It is clear that China fully intends to militarize these artificial islands. And once they are completed, there is little doubt that they will be used for military action against neighboring countries. As has been clear for years, China is preparing for preemptive war, and will trigger World War III unless Russia beats them to it. What is most worrying is that the Chinese are deluding themselves into believing that, in the end, no one will challenge their military takeover of the South China Sea, and that there will not be a war. This is a disastrous self-delusion that China and the whole world will regret. BBC

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Jerusalem, al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock, Youssef Ziedan, Saudi Arabia, Mecca, Ta’if, Aelia, Abd Al-Malik ibn Marwan, Ash Carter, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, China, South China Sea, Philippines, Palawan
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