NEW YORK: In an unprecedented move, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), has called on faith leaders to travel to Jerusalem by launching a “peace caravan” made up of religious messengers who are independent of any political affiliation.
The call was made at the opening of the second Conference on Cultural Rapprochement between the US and the Muslim World in New York on Oct. 4.
“This convoy should represent the three religions to visit all the holy places in Jerusalem. The crisis cannot be tackled except by great influential men powered with logical wisdom and justice,” Al-Issa said to some 400 US, Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders and thinkers.
The peace initiative by the head of the Makkah-based MWL followed calls for peace by Jewish and Christian American religious leaders.
Charles Small, president of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, said the greatest victim of antisemitism in America today are Muslims. Quoting the Jewish writer and Holocaust survival the late Elie Wiesel, Small said that “while antisemitism begins with Jews it doesn’t end with Jews.”
Shawki Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, focused on the need for a positive intervention, saying that he hopes to make a “positive contribution in the effort to place the foundation of a holistic approach to dialogue.”
The president of the Emirates Fatwa Council, Abdallah bin Bayyah, spoke about religion’s approach to tolerating the other. “We want all religions, and their adherents, to move from simple acknowledgment of the other to the Qur’anic calling of coming to know one another.”
It is noteworthy that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has regularly called on Muslims and Arabs who can visit Jerusalem to do so saying that visiting a prisoner is not legitimizing the jailers, a reference to the suggestion that such a visit represents normalization with Israel.
Al-Issa tackled the label of extremism in his closing speech on the conference’s first day. “Great religions are not extreme by nature; and at the same time, there is no religion that is free of extremists who believe that they solely are privileged with the absolute truth.”