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CAIR Urges President Trump to Help Protect Religious Freedom in Jerusalem

CAIR National logo(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/20/2017) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today urged President Trump to call on the Israeli government to allow unimpeded access to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and to uphold religious freedom in the city, which is holy to the three Abrahamic faiths.

CAIR is also urging American Muslim religious leaders to pray for peace and freedom in that city during sermons offered in congregational prayers nationwide on Friday.

Israeli authorities recently closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites, and cancelled the weekly Friday (Jummah) prayers for the first time in almost five decades following a shootout near the mosque. Earlier this week, Israeli soldiers wounded the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s imam (religious leader), Sheikh Akrama Sabri, after he prayed in a peaceful protest outside the gates of the holy site.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“We call on President Trump to protect religious freedom in Jerusalem, which is under threat by a long-term Israeli campaign to alter the religious landscape of the city and by recent actions that limit universally-accepted religious rights and practices.

“This matters to the United States because the Israeli government has restricted religious freedom using military resources paid for, in part, by American taxpayers who contribute billions of dollars to the Israeli economy each year.

“Of particular concern are the restrictions placed on worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a holy site cherished by every Muslim around the world.

“Throughout centuries of Islamic governance, Jerusalem’s Jewish and Christian holy sites were never permanently altered, yet today the Israeli government routinely bars Muslim and Christian Palestinians from sacred sites.

“Muslims are proud of the story of the Caliph Umar who received the keys to Jerusalem from the Christian patriarch Sophronius in the 7th century. When the caliph was asked to pray in a Jerusalem church, he refused saying he did not want to provide a pretext for Muslims to appropriate a Christian holy site.

“Jerusalem is mentioned in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, and in Islamic traditions. One hadith (deeds and utterances of the Prophet Muhammad) states that prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque are multiplied many times. One of the Prophet’s companions reported: ”˜Once I asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) what was the first mosque established on earth; he said Al-Masjid (the mosque) Al-Haram (in Mecca). Then I asked him: Then which mosque? He replied: Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.’

“Chapter 17, verse 1, of the Quran states: ”˜Glorified be He (God) who took his servant (Muhammad) for a journey by night from al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca) to al-Masjid al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem), whose precincts we have blessed.’ The night journey referred to in this verse is that of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem, and from the rock now located in the Dome of the Rock near Al-Aqsa Mosque, to heaven. This event, known as ”˜al-Isra wa al-Miraj,’ is marked each year by more than 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide.

“The most recent restrictions on religious freedom in Jerusalem represent just the latest in a decades-long effort by Israeli authorities to change the historic character of the city and its holy sites.

“Given that the United States sends billions of dollars to Israel each year and routinely provides political cover for the Israeli government’s violations of international humanitarian law and U.N. Security Council resolutions, our nation has the right to demand that religious freedom for members of all faiths be protected in Jerusalem.”

“We urge imams to pray for peace and freedom in Jerusalem during tomorrow’s Jummah prayers in mosques nationwide.”

The Washington-based civil rights and advocacy organization urges community members to report any bias incidents to police and to CAIR’s Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by filing a report at: http://www.cair.com/report        

CAIR recently launched an app to share critical “know your rights” information and to simplify the process to report hate crimes and bias incidents. CAIR is urging American Muslims and members of other minority groups to download the app and utilize this resource to stay informed and empowered.

For a quick download of CAIR’s civil rights app, click here: http://www.cair.com/app      

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensión mutua.

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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com

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