A Leading Islamic Cleric Speaks About Jews and Israel


Sheikh Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi
Sheikh Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi


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by Alex Maist, Israeli Correspondent for Novosty Nideli

Sheikh Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi is Secretary-General of the Italian Muslim Association. He was born in Rome. His mother was an Arab of Syrian origin (her grandmother immigrated to Italy from Aleppo), his father an Italian Catholic who converted to Islam. Palazzi learned at home teaching of Sufism and then studied the philosophy of Avicenna and Averroes at university in Rome before going to Al Azhar University in Cairo to prepare to receive his theological degree. In Cairo he received his "ijaza" (authorization to teach Islam) from Shaykh Ismail al-Khalwati and Sheikh Husayn al-Khalwati, and holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Sciences by decree of former Saudi Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Ibn Baz.

In 1987 Palazzi became an Imam and Sheikh, receiving the equivalent of a doctorate in Islamic theology from representative of Chief Mufti of Saudi Arabia. In 1989 he became the Secretary General of the Italian Muslim Assotiation.

Abdul Hadi Palazzi challenges conventional views on peace, Oslo, Arafat, Islam, the Middle East and Arab-Israel conflict. According to Palazzi, Saudi Arabian Wahhabis and Arab dictators distort Islam and have perverted it into a religion of hatred.

Did Koran recognize right of Jews create own country in Promised Land?

- The Qur'an foretells that before the Day of resurrection the Children of Israel will come back to the Land of Israel from which they were exiled twice. As about the right to create a state, this is not specified either for the Jewish people of for any other people.

According to the Qur'an, sovereignty belongs to God, and He is free to entrust it to a certain leader or to a certain people, and then to replace it with another leader or another people. That is the reason why one saying of the Prophet Muhammad (hadith) says "the ruler is the shadow of God", and why obeying the law of the country where a Muslim lives is prescribed by Islamic law (Shari'ah). As long as a government (be it formed by Muslims or non-Muslims alike) respects the religious freedom of the Muslims, a Muslim or a group o Muslims have no right to rebel or to commit acts of sedition against that government.

This applies to the state of Israel and to any other state in the world, were Muslims are free to practice their religion and not forced to covert to another religion or to atheism. If a certain Muslim is not satisfied with the government were he lives, he is not permitted to rebel against the government, but must either live there as a loyal citizen, or migrate elsewhere.

Did Koran recognize Jerusalem as ancient capital of Jews?

- The Qur'an does not specifically contain the notion of capital, but mentions that Jerusalem was the center of the kingdom of David and Solomon, and the seat of the Temple which Solomon built with the help of human beings and invisible beings. If this is not exactly the concept of a capital, it is nevertheless very close to it.

In Arabic world Jews had status "zimmi" (second-sort people). Is it possible, that in such context Arabs will accept independent and strong Jewish state in the Middle East?

- I must say that – because of the absence of a Caliphate, i.e. because of the non-existence of the Islamic state, no Jew or no-Christian can today be in the legal condition of dhimmi. It is only a Caliph or his delegate who can accept the covenant of dhimmah from a Jew or a Christian. In my opinion, the absence of the status of dhimmah is one of the main causes of the violation of the rights of the minorities in the Muslim world.

A Caliph and his officials are bound by the Shari'ah to respect the religions freedom of the dhimmis and to protect their rights (even in case they are peradventure violated by some Muslims). Surely there exist many misunderstandings considering dhimmah, exactly like there exist similar misunderstandings about the status of non-Jews in Israel.

Some people claim that dhimmis in Islamic law are second-class citizens, and some other people claim that non-Jews in Israel are second-class citizens. The two things are strictly related, since the Knesset law regulating the status of non-Jews in Knesset law derives from the Ottoman Mujallat, which in its turn is based on the Shari'ah.

If one abides by a strict secularist ideology, then it is natural to suppose that all the citizens are equal in front of the law, and that religious identity is a private matter, having no relevance for the state. If on the contrary one state wants to be the state which expresses the values of a certain religion, i.e. the religion of the majority of its citizens, the immediate problem is the legal status of those citizens belonging to a different religion.

One cannot change their religion by force, and cannot deny that their abide by the creed which is not the one by which the state is inspired. Islamic law effaced from the very beginning the problem of non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim state, and the rules of "dhimmah" were the solution. In 1948 Israel had to efface a similar problem: the status of non-Jewish citizens of the Jewish state, and the solution was borrowing from Mujallat.

Now an Islamic state does not exist anymore – and consequently there exist no dhimmis anymore – while a Jewish state exists, as it existed before the advent of Islam. I do not think that all this is related to the problem of the acceptance of an independent state of Israel, which as such does not opposes the dictates of Islam, but on the contrary totally opposes the ideology of secular Arab nationalism.

According to religious-politic concept of Islam, Muslim world must return to itself lands, which were lost during the war with "unfaithful" ("infidels"). Can Israel be accepted in such situation?

Shari'ah is something radically different from the ideology of extremist movements like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, whose belief is Wahhabism. Some classical scholars of Shari'ah say that, when a Caliph looses part of the territory under his rule, he is bound to recapture it whenever he has the opportunity to do it. Other classical scholars, on the contrary, say that it is possible for the Caliph to accept agreements by which a part of his territory is transferred to a non-Muslims ruler, in case such a decision is helpful for the Muslims.

The advocates of this second option quote in their support the case of Omar, who accepted to give back to the Byzantines some parts of Syria which had conquered by the Muslim army. In our time, this problematic is merely scholastic, since there is no Caliph, and no Islamic State, and consequently the subject of reconquest is absent. Moreover, Israel was not conquered by the Israelis to a Caliph, and this further proves how to applying to the case of Israel some of the rules which are valid during the existence of the Islamic State is completely out of place.

Hamas, among whose member there is no authoritative scholar of Shari'ah, simply tries to selectively quotes some aspects of the Shari'ah while keeping completely silent about the related conditions and about different verdicts. This is done in order to deny another relevant aspect of the Shari'ah: the duty to obey the law of a government which does not deprive Muslims of their religious freedom.

Interesting enough, this is done for Israel, but not in other cases. Andalusia, for instance, was a territory subject to a Caliph, and was conquered by Christians to a Caliph. Even so, none claims that in Southern Spain Muslims must be involved in acts of terror against Spanish citizens, until "Andalusia is liberated from Christians".

The case of Syria is even more evident: although its population is formed by a majority of Sunni Muslims, they are ruled by an Alawi regime, and while Jews and Christians are considered People of the Book in Islam, Alawis are regarded as polytheists. Moreover, Israel does not limit the religious freedom of its Muslim citizens, while Syria does. Even so, none claims that the Muslims of Syria must be involved in terror until they country is liberated from the polytheist regime of the Assad family.

The reason of this discrepancy is clear. Extremist Wahhabi group use the name of "Islam" only when doing so is in their political interest. Although non-Muslims, the Alawis of Syria are Arabs, while the Jews are not. The real problem is always an ethno-political supremacism, and not Islam or Judaism.

Muslim clericals claim, that Judaism, like Christianity, - truthful and great religion, but Jews betray their own commitments. Should Israel, from your point of view, change it's secular character to be accepted by Islam?

Maybe this could to a certain extent contribute to change the situation, but I do not think it is the central issue. The problem for Israel is "Islam", but that it is the non-democratic and totalitarian nature of the regimes which opposes her. What could be effective is steadfastness on principles, but the Oslo agreement destroyed this idea, and showed that Israel was ready to accept absurd claims coming from criminals as if they were reasonable.

Israel's readiness to bow in front of PLO and its requests destroyed the moral ground on which Israel could say "We are a democratic state, PLO is a gang of thieves and terrorists. There is nothing in common between us". If someone accepts to hug Arafat, he also causes people to suppose he is in the same level of Arafat.

Unfortunately, even politicians of the national champ seem to be unable to solve that problem. Neither Netanyahu nor Sharon were able to say: "Oslo is death, let us conquer Yesha again, capture Arafat and give him a fair trial in court."

Muslims who prefer being Israelis instead of being changed into "Palestinians" were paralyzed by Oslo. They feeling was "Israel is selling us out to Arafat". What is needed is showing the Israeli Muslims and the Muslims of Yesha that their are not under blackmail anymore, that the can emerge and speak in support of Israel without fear of being assassinated by PLO or Hamas.

Israel only cares of having Arab "collaborators", people who collaborate to their own risk. Absolutely nothing was done to support the growth of a pro-Israeli movement among the Muslims, neither is Israel not outside of it.

Where, from your point of view, roots of secular Arabic states hatred to Jews?

I think that contemporary Arabic secularism is based on totalitarianism, replacing history with propaganda, ethno-linguistic homogeneity and closure to the cultural influence of the West. Israel concentrates in Middle East the opposite, since she introduces pluralism, democracy and dialectics between an old religious-cultural tradition and modernity. It is a synthesis of everything which opposes the plans of those who wants to make Middle East an oasis of underdevelopment and backwardness.

Do you see serious different between Sunni and Wahhabi conceptions of Islam?

Surely. There exist plenty of hadith which announce the advent of Wahhabism as the greatest apostasy from Islam, as the horn of Satan and the apex of unbelief. Wahhabis were able to conquest Arabia by a massacring tens of thousands of Muslims, by besieging and killing the inhabitants of Mecca, Medina and Ta'if. The Muslim scholars were the main objective of their persecution.

Wahhabis consider the Sunnis to "be idol-worshippers", and have an anthropomorphic concept of God. According to their belief, God has a physical shape, is sitting on a throne localized in a certain part of the space, and is endowed with real pupils, auditory meatus, tongue, larynx, legs, feet. Al this represents for the Sunnis a deviance from faith in God.

Wahhabis do not believe in the God of Abraham as the Muslims or the Jews do, but believe in an imaginary bodily deity. The fact that the use the name "Allah" for that deity does not change the situation. Because of that belief of theirs, the Sunnis say that none of the acts of worship of the Wahhabis are acceptable, since they are not directed toward the Only Creator of Heavens and earth.

How strong Christian anti-Semitic prejudices influenced to Arabs and their attitude to Jews and Israel?

I must say that original opposition to Israel was based on mere nationalist considerations. The Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia and the secular followers of Nasser in Egypt were frightened by the presence in Middle East of a State which was based on democracy and pluralism, and saw it as a danger for their totalitarian approach.

The early argument used against Israel was nationalistic, then came the attempt to misinterpret some aspects of Islam in order to create anti-Israeli feelings among the illiterate Muslims. Now the most recent trend is importing classical European anti-Semitism by translating into Arabic the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", Nazi-fascist literature or the books of revisionist authors like Roger Garaudy or David Irving.

There was a time, during the Golden Age, when Europe was borrowing from the Arab word the best of its scientific or literary production. Now we are in a phase when the Arab world is importing from Europe the most shameful and disgusting literate. Nothing better than this can show the decadence and the backwardness of the contemporary Arab world, and hostility toward Israel surely contribute to them to a large extent.


from the February 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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