The American Gazette

Commonsense political and social commentary from "Flyover Country"

Location: Rural Michigan, United States

Friday, October 22, 2004

Organization of Islamic Conference

9. The Conference commended with pride the resistance of the valiant Palestinian people and their legitimate leadership headed by gallant President Yasser Arafat against Israeli aggression. It called for an immediate end to the siege imposed on the Palestinian people and President Yasser Arafat so that they can move freely in and out of the Palestinian territories. It condemned recent Israeli threats on President Arafat’s life and reaffirmed its continued political, financial and moral support for the Palestinian people so that they can regain their inalienable national rights, including the right of return, self-determination and an independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds Sharif as its capital.

Al-Quds Sharif-And what place is this? It is of course Jerusalum. Some background on why the Muslims call Jerusalem by another name and to highlight that no matter how you cut it Modern current Islam is all about moving backwards several centuries.

In the year 72 of the Hijra(Muslim calender) or 691 CE Abd al-Malik, Umayyad caliph from 685-705, built the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock, along with the adjoining building Aqsa Mosque was the first great religious building in the history of Islam. Under Caliph Abd-al Malik a process that Arabic historians call organization and adjustment began. At first glance it may seem odd the first great religious building in Islam was done in Jerusalem, but a deeper look into the culture and religion finds a potent religious and political statement.

Jerusalem is the most sacred city on earth to both Judaism and Christianity, and the choice of this city for the first great religious shrine in Islam is significant. Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Qur'an. Even the name Jerusalem is not in early Islamic writings, when it is mentioned it is called Aelia, the name the Romans imposed on the city after destroying the city and the temple in the last Jewish war, in an effort to desacralize the city for Judaism. The site chosen for the Dome of the Rock is over the Temple Mount, the scene of major events in both Judaism and Christianity. The actual spot on the rock, which according to rabbanic tradition, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. And in later times the Ark of the temple rested.

In essence the building of the Dome of the Rock over these sacred sites of both Judaism and Christianity declares Islam as the final dispensation. This was not a new phenomonom, various religions throughout humanity have done the same, as a very visible means of replacing old Gods with the new. The express purpose of building on this site is reinforced by the Qur'anic and other inscriptions that decorate the inside. One verse occurs over and over again. 'God is one, without partner, without companion. Other inscriptions continue in the same vein.
'Praise be to God, who begets no son, and has no partner in [his] dominion; nor [needs] he any to protect him from humiliation: yes, magnify him for his greatness and glory!.
'He is God, one, eternal. He does not beget, nor is he begotten, and he has no peer.'
'God bears witness that there is no God but he, and so too the angels, those who possess knowledge, and stand firm in justice. There is no God but he, the omnipotent, the omniscient. God's religion is Islam...Let whoever disbelieves in the signs of God beware, for God is swift in his reckoning.'

By building the Dome of the Rock shrine over the most sacred sites in Judiasm and some of the most in Christianity Abd al-Malik asserts the primacy of Islam over both of these religions, as well as the idea that Islam is the descendent of both, but the "corrected" version.

For awhile after the Dome of the Rock was built Jerusalem was called Bayt al-Maqdis, related to the Hebrew Bayt ha-Miqdash the Bibical name of the Temple. In time both this name and the Roman name Aelia were replaced by the name al-Quds, 'the city of holiness'. A Qur'anic verse (17:1) tells how God took the Prophet on a journey by night from the sacred mosque(in Mecca) to the farthest mosque. One early tradition places 'the farthest mosque' in heaven. Another places it in Jerusalem. It is notable that while the later tradition has become the accepted one among Muslims this verse is not in the Dome of the Rock, and other early traditions denied this event took place in Jerusalem. The Al Aqsa (the furthermost) Mosque, neighbor to the Dome, is the site Muslims believe the Prophet ascended into Heaven. It was built after the Dome of the Rock in 715. It is the third most holy site in Islam. For further information on this please see It is telling that in regards to the idea that Jerusalem being holy to Islam prior to the building of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqua, to realize that in the beginning of Islam the Prophet directed adherents to pray towards Jerusalem, but when the Hebrews did not convert to Islam that directive was changed to praying towards Mecca. To even the most casual it should be apparent that Jerusalem was quite literally turned away from, and only became important when it was politically necessary.

In other ways the time of Abd al-Malik and the building of the Dome of the Rock was a time in which Islam rose to prominence over the old Roman empire and the old Persian empire. The Dome is a visible reminder of that. An assertion of the new power player. So the Dome of the Rock is both a political and a religious statement.

The continued use of the name Al-Quds Sharif instead of Jerusalem continues the belief of Muslims that Islam is the last word of God and that Judiasm and Christianity were errors of belief corrected by the prophet Muhammed. In today's world the use of Jerusalem and the Palastinines is just as political and just as politically religious as it was 1,300 years ago. It is a wedge issue intended to rally the troops of Islam, as well as an overt way to denigrate the religious traditions of the other great monotheist religions.

I can't help but wonder how Muslims would feel if the Chrisitan world took to calling Istanbul by it's prior name under the Byzantine Christians-Constantinople. Then include Christians throuhout the world demanding that the Turks turn the Hague Sophia back into a church. Also known by it's other name St. Sophia, it was one of the great achievements of Eastern (Greek)Christianity. Originally built by Constantine the Great, it was burned twice and rebuilt gloriously in 530 by Emperor Justinian, it was later looted by the Western (Latin) Christians, a shameful episode for Christianity. Later after the Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople they added four minarets to it and turned it into a Mosque. Today it is neither a Mosque or a Church, it is a museum. Simply an aside it is interesting to note to me anyway, that Hague Sophia was built atop an older temple. The site was originally a temple to Apollo. I note that simply to highlight again, that throughout history it was quite normal for the victor to build overtop of the loser's religious sites with their own religious building. Always it was done as a political and religious statement, and it is worth understanding that in times past the religious and political were not separated as they are in today's World, well at least in our part of the world anyway.

While Western Christianity has matured and been able to make that separation through first the Reformation and then the Enlightment, not to mention the deaths of millions of people through those struggles, Islam has not been able to achieve that crucial distinction. And thus we come to the crux of the matter and the refusal to call Jerusalem by it's proper name. Right now in terms of terrorism and those speaking for Islam be that verbally or by blowing up whoever is handy, the simple statement of Al Quds Sharif instead of Jerusalem should make us sit up and take notice. It is a complete rejection of compromise in terms of religion and politics.

It is a centuries old belief that Islam is the last true religion and two others it was built upon are relegated to the dustbin of history as far as the adherents of Islam are concerned, and the forces at work today will not stop or rest until they make that a reality. And yet somehow John Kerry thinks he can have a summitt with people who do not want to make a compromise, who are not interested in allowing religions to co-exist except under the old concept of dhimma, in which other religions were allowed to live in peace on the condition of submission to their rulers. It should be noted that while Europe was in the dark and middle ages the religious tolerance of the Muslim world was superior to that of Christian Europe. However with the advent of Whabbism, the strict and severe form of Sunni Islam, that is no longer the case. It is Whabbism that spawned the Taliban as well as Al Queda. When people say that this particular practice of Islam is not what Islam is all about, I say they are correct. But correct only to a point, because the reality is that the Islam they are harking back to is centuries ago, and not today. The radicals of today are not practicing the Islam of the 10th century or even of the 16th century, but then most Christians, Jews or even Hindu's are practicing their religion in the form it was in the 10th or 16th century either. Those battles have been fought and are done. Left to us in the history books to learn about, and perhaps to learn from.

What matters today is that we are fighting a particular practice of Islam that pulls out it's past only that which fits it's current ideology. They use particular rallying points that are useful to it's pursuit now. Al Quds Sharif is one of those harkening back to the past that is useful to today's battles, not any different then Saddam Hussein attempting to paint himself as a modern day Nebachadnezzer.

We must never forget exactly what it is we are fighting. And that is radical Islam. And we must not allow those who would kill you and me simply for the twin sins of being American and not Muslim to make this more or less than that. To effectively fight this evil we must be able to understand the keys these people use in order to turn millions to their cause.

Let me relate a personal story. As a nurse I work with physicians of various nationalities, religions etc... One of those physicians I worked with is a Muslim. This is a man I immediately liked, a good man and a good physician. We spent a fair amount of time chatting during rounds and while we were both sitting and charting. This physician is from Jordon. We both have a keen interest in history with one very significant difference, one I did not recognize at first. One day while we were chatting and charting we settled into talking about history, a very common occurance, however prior to that each of our history conversations had focused on events in the middle east. That particular day he told me he would like to get me some old Roman coins "you can find them all over Jordon" he said. That comment led me to start discussing the Roman empire and then one of my favorite docs said something that I found totally and utterly amazing. His comment? That he didn't care about the history of the Roman Empire, in fact he did not care about the history of Europe at all except for the part when Spain was essentially Muslim. That shocked me a great deal. This doc is well educated and from a wealthy family in Jordon as is his wife. Yet he just completely dismissed huge chunks of relevent history, not only to Europe but to the Middle East as well. And I said so. His response was basically that the light of Islam had far eclipsed the Romans as well as the Persians and that without Islam Europe would not have come out of the dark ages and therefore the only real important history had to do with Islam and it's empires. I was truly speechless. I never was able to see him in the same light again. Don't misunderstand me, I still thought by and large he was a great guy who provided outstanding care to all of his patients regardless of who or what they were, but I also understood that in his world he could do that and still be able to hold to the view that Islam and it's achievements were the only thing that truly counted, all "others" are not even worthy of thinking about.

How many Muslims, particularly those in the Middle East feel the same way? I'm betting more do than don't. And when a culture is so ethnocentric it is very simple for fanatics to gain adherents by harkening back to "glory days". One sees it over and over again in history, with perhaps the most shameful being the rise of Nazism. Like the Nazi's the Islamofascists use symbols and powerful imagery, the difference being they use the symbols of the times of the Caliphs.

As we are days from the Presidental election it is worth remembering the history of Neville Chamberlain and the policies that brought about WWII.

John Kerry is today's Chamberlain.



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