Jamaat al-Muslimeen International Press Release

Pope is welcome guest, Christians are friends
but Recognition of Israel Raises Serious Questions

They say: "Become Jews or Christians if ye would be
guided (to salvation)." Say thou: "Nay! (I would rather)
the religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not
gods with Allah." (The Qur'an 2:135)

"Give good advice to the one who seeks your advice,
otherwise you have betrayed his/her trust."
Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, hadith narrated by Abu
Huraira, collected by Imam Abu Hanifa.

On April 6, 2001 the Pope who leads the Catholics of the world visited one of the oldest mosques of Islam, the Ummayad mosque in Damascus, Syria. Earlier, he was greeted by President Bashir Assad of Syria and welcomed at the mosque by Muslim clerics. The Pope's words seemed to be critical of the excesses Israel has committed against the Palestinians. He was also interested in visiting Quneitra, the Syrian town with numerous Christian inhabitants, which was destroyed by the Israelis house-by-house, after they ended its occupation years back.

The Pope's visit should strengthen Muslim-Christian relations and is in that light a welcome visit. Islam considers Christians the friends of Muslims. Islam is the only religion other than Christianity which reveres Jesus (pbuh). Islam has never encouraged Muslims to fight Christians. In fact Muslims have a duty to defend Christian places of worship. During the era of the crusades too, it was the Christians who were the aggressors. When finally the Muslims, under Salahuddin, and later the Slave-Kings of Egypt, defeated the crusaders, they treated the Christians kindly and did not take revenge.

The Pope's visit emphasizes the crimes Israel has committed against Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians.

However, there are underlying problems with the Pope's visit which need to be addressed.
1. This Pope reversed the entire outlook of the Vatican about Zionism and the role of the Jews in history. The Pope ended up recognizing Israel. With this recognition goes the assumption that Israel is a legal entity and that Muslim retaliation against this settler-criminal-terrorist state is not legitimate but is to be seen as "terrorism."
1a. The Pope has recognized Israel in the face of the teachings of all his elders from the past. The Vatican was very disturbed when the British conquered Jerusalem from the Turks (through the treachery of Arab rulers). "The day after the British conquest of Jerusalem, (cardinal) Gasparri told (French representative Loiseau) that the Turks had been the most faithful custodians of the Holy Places and that their departure was liable to be a source of problems." He added that "The Zionists, to whom Balfour had presented Palestine as a gift, were likely to cause new strife." (The Vatican and Zionism by Sergio I. Minerbi, 1990.)

That was 1917. Until the arrival of this Pope, the Vatican was steadfast in its opposition to Zionism and Israel.
1b. If the Pope is guided by God (as the Catholics believe), on what basis would it be possible to claim that "God was wrong all those years" and it is okay for this Pope to recognize Israel?

2. ASSAD's REGIME represents a tiny minority, the Alawites, who have been ruling Syria through the ruthless use of armed force. In 1982, Assad's father destroyed the entire city of Hamah on the excuse of crushing the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus the great majority of Syria, following Sunni schools of thought, are disenfranchised in their own country.
2a. Mufti Kaftaru, who welcomed the Pope on behalf of the Muslims of Syria, is a helpless puppet of the playboy dictator of Syria. He is totally unable to express the sentiments of the Muslim majority of Syria. In that context, where the Muslims are helpless, how can the Pope's visit be seen as valuable Muslim-Christian dialogue? The new Syrian president has released some political prisoners but thousands of Islamic prisoners, including women, are still in jail after having been tortured in violation of all international law against torture.

3. Despite Assad's rhetoric, the Syrian ruler's position vis-a-vis Israel is ambiguous. Recently Israel bombed Syrian positions, killing several Syrian soldiers in the process, for allegedly helping Hizbullah. THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO SYRIAN RESPONSE. For 28 years, the Syrian regime has not fired a shot at Israel while it has killed hundreds of Palestinians. Only recently, the Syrians handed over an Islamist to the Jordanian king. He had mistakenly taken refuge in Syria. He faces death in Jordan.

In these circumstances, the meaning of the papal visit to a mosque in Syria is opaque. It raises more questions than it answers.

There is also a report that the Church might be preparing to make a claim that the 800-year old Omayyed mosque is built on the site of the shrine of John the Baptist. The Vatican needs to quash such reports, otherwise it would appear that the visit was not for fraternal purposes but for taking advantage of an oppressed Islamic nation (and Islamic world) which is prostrate and helpless before the boots of Zionist and imperialist aggression both from within and from outside the lands of Islam.
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WE URGE OUR CATHOLIC FRIENDS TO SPEAK OUT FOR THE FREEDOM OF SHAIKH OMAR 'ABDEL RAHMAN, IMAM JAMIL al-AMIN, AHMAD AJAJ and political prisoners in Jordan, Syria, Arabia, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. These are the people who represent the Muslim ummah's aspirations. The Pope is talking to non-representatives when the authentic people are in jail.
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Four videotapes of our 2000 c.e. International Islamic Symposium (with veteran Islamic strugglers in USA) are available for $40 from ($10 each) from:
New Trend, P.O. Box 356, Kingsville, MD 21087
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2001-05-08 Tue 13:56ct