In rare interview, Al-Aqsa Mosque's Sheikh Hussein speaks out against Israel's actions.
Ilene R. Prusher / The Christian Science Monitor
But in his three years since being appointed mufti – a title that dates to the British Mandate and bestows guardianship over the Islamic holy places here – Sheikh Hussein has been relatively reserved. He chooses his words carefully, stays above the political fray, and, despite his ability to issue , has not made any Islamic rulings that have engendered controversy.
Which is why, when he now says that Israel is creating tension in the holy city and endangering the Al-Aqsa Mosque, it's a sign that things are not business as usual in the disputed capital at the heart of the Middle East conflict.
"We are always giving a message of peace, of avoiding violence, of no aggressiveness," the mufti said in a rare interview on Thursday. "But the Israeli authorities are continually taking aggressive actions and creating a situation that leads to conflict."
Sheikh: Wrong move by Israel
Most unacceptable, he says, is Israel's move last week – not for the first time – to limit access to the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock complex to men over the age of 50. Israeli police say it's a temporary but necessary measure to keep out rabble-rousers looking to disturb the peace for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worshippers seeking access to the city's elbow-to-elbow religious sites.
That explanation doesn't fly, Hussein says, and anger over the policy is only growing.
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