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The Islamization of East Jerusalem

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To the growing numbers who appreciate and admire Sheikh Salah's work, he is not only providing a handout, but is also providing a framework for Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who feel the lack of leadership in Jerusalem.

To the Israeli authorities, however, Salah is a firebrand who inflames emotions, making repeated calls to Muslims that the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, is in danger. He's also adding, many say, to a growing Islamization of East Jerusalem.

Last month, Israeli security forces raided the offices of the Islamic Movement in Umm al-Fahm under suspicions that it was aiding Hamas. Dozens of police entered the offices of the Al Aqsa Heritage Institute, the new name of Salah's organization. They confiscated documents, computers, and close to $100,000 held in a safe, according to officials and news wires.

In August 2007, Salah was indicted for inciting racism and violence after he called for a "third intifada," or uprising, his response to an Israeli archaeological dig in the Old City that he says is endangering the foundations of the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Salah himself has been barred by Israel from coming to Jerusalem. But the reach of his organization continues to make an impact here, most prominently in the form of this iftar that feeds up to 5,000 people a day.

He is filling in where secular Palestinian leaders have left a vacuum, as other Islamic institutions have across East Jerusalem. There are a growing number of Islamic private schools, as well as a whole host of services provided by Muslim organizations to meet the many needs there.

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