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An American Muslim Reflects on Religion and Politics at the Temple Mount, Jerusalem

Screenshot of Rabbi Yehuda Glick praying with Muslims (video below). Sourced from YouTube.

Screenshot of Rabbi Yehuda Glick praying with Muslims (video below). Sourced from YouTube.

Last week, Rabbi Yehuda Glick was shot and critically injured in a targeted assassination attempt. The characterizations of Rabbi Glick alternately painted him as a “right wing activist” or pacifist promoting coexistence amongst the peoples of Jerusalem.

This raised the ire of Israeli citizen media, who deemed the dichotomy unbecoming. In the midst of the brouhaha, Gibran Malik, a man who identified himself as an American Muslim, posted a YouTube video, reflecting on a chance meeting he had with Rabbi Glick last year on the Temple Mount. The video, which was shared widely, gave weight to the view of Glick as a peacemaker despite the tenuous politics of the holy city.

With a soft-spoken eloquence, Malik recounts the Rabbi addressing him with the Islamic greeting (0:24):

“I actually met Rabbi Yehuda Glick last year at Temple Mount when I first visited Jerusalem. And I saw him and he smiled, and he came up to me and said, “Assalamu aleikum [have a good day].” And I was surprised about that and I said to him, “Wa aleikumu salam.”

Malik recalls Glick reciting a Muslim prayer in Arabic, saying (2:50):

Seeing him reciting that with Muslims, you could see on his face that it was like: this is what we connect on. Like, he had no problem in saying it. Because just as strongly as Muslims believe God is one, Jews believe God is one. And we're one of the few people[s] who think that way…

There are so many things about us that should make us close to each other, regardless of the differences, but somehow we're the most distant. We have the most turmoil between each other.

Here is the full video (8 minutes):

Research on Gibran Malik reveals that he is a hip hop artist and actor, facts not belied by the straightforward, personal style of communication in his videos, which explore interfaith issues and current events, such as “Differences between the [Jewish] Torah and [Muslim] Quran,” “The Truth about ISIS and Extremism,” and “The Cure for Terrorism (September 11, 2012),” in which he states (1:30):

Now I'm not going to get into a whole religious debate with everyone who says, “No, but your books says this, your book says that.” Everyone's [holy] book out of context sounds like they want to kill everybody… It's all because we are living two thousand or a thousand or so years later and don't understand the time these texts were revealed in and the people that they were talking to. And that's why reading it today, it looks so odd and, you know, it looks so jumpy, because we don't understand them that well. But I'm not going to get into that whole debate.

Malik's YouTube channel and this profile, sheds light on his background as a performer and his musical persona, known as King Sage.

Access to the Temple Mount has been and continues to be an area of heated controversy in the conjoined realms of religion and politics in Jerusalem. The area is under control of the Waqf, or Islamic religious committee (that you hear Malik mention in the first video), yet the Israeli authorities maintain strict control over who can enter.

The Jewish Virtual Library explains:

For Jews, visiting the Temple Mount is a very controversial subject- both in terms of religious allowance and because non-Muslim prayer is prohibited at the site. Although freedom of access to the site is enshrined as law, Israel does not allow non-Muslim prayer on the Mount so as not to offend Muslim worshippers.

At time of writing, only men over the age of 35 (as well as all women) are able to enter the mosque.

Al Arabiya, which calls itself “the leading 24-hour news station in the Arab world,” reports:

The [Thursday, October 30th, one day] closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque was the first for decades and prompted a spokesman for [Palestinian] President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the move as an Israeli “declaration of war.”

The resident imam [religious leader] at Abbas's headquarters in Ramallah echoed the president's words, saying the closure had been a “declaration of war … to Muslims across the world” and calling for people to “defend” Al-Aqsa.

The hashtag #HandsOffAlAqsa is currently trending on Twitter. In a best practice model for citizen media and digital activism, Friends of Al Aqsa, a UK nonprofit, organized the Twitterstorm, providing users with over 100 possible tweets to post with the hashtag.

Regarding Rabbi Glick's portrayal in pro-Palestinian news sources, Maan News’ depiction is typical of its peer publications, calling him: “hardline… an advocate for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and its replacement with a Jewish temple.”

Glick's father is Prof. Shimon Glick, who has been described as a “left-leaning religious Zionist.” In an interview with the Times of Israel, he remarks:

I agree with the principle that Jews should not be harassed, cursed or stoned for going up to the Temple Mount… I believe that all violence should be suppressed vigorously.

With regard to the question of whether Jews, like his son, should be allowed to enter the area, the senior Glick states:

It’s a personal decision. Four of my children go, and two of my children don’t… There is a sign at the entrance to the Temple Mount from the chief rabbi saying that Jews should not go up, and I choose to not violate that ruling.

Meanwhile, in response to the assassination attempt and the controversy surrounding Rabbi Glick's political and religious intentions regarding the Temple Mount, Israel Unseen posted footage of Glick praying with Muslims in Arabic. In this one minute video, you will see them interacting with friendship and good humor, followed by a short exchange in Hebrew, praising God.

The video is captioned, “Yehudah Glick, who was recently shot by a terrorist in Jerusalem, favored co-existence between Jews and Arabs on the Temple Mount.”

The video caused strong reactions amongst its viewers.

Nancy Evans responds:

That's the kind of man he was. His speech right prior to him being shot did not have one unkind word against them, but the opposite! I am so angry and I'm not even Jewish!

YouTube user Ecuaruby reacts:

Wow, he is always described as a right wing activist or extremist. I thought he would be some religious nutcase.All the articles I have read claim he is fighting for the right of religious Jews to pray at the site…That is considered extremist? It seems the media is no longer even bothering to hide their disdain for Israel.

I assumed Jews would be able to pray there since Israel controls that area, but found out they can't! Doesn't make sense…

While Beni Habibi observes:

And people accuse this guy of being a radical because he wants Jews to have access to Jewish holy sites. This man survived an assassination attempt recently. pray for his full recovery, and pray that his noble goals will be met as well.

There is an extended back-and-forth with Israeli viewer Uri Kurlianchik, who writes:

Both Israeli and international media describes this man as a “right wing extremist.” This is true. He had the radical notion that Israeli Jews should be allowed to move and pray freely in their capital… as should Muslims and Christians and anyone else who so desires. “Dangerous extremist” indeed.

Aaron McLin of Seattle, Washington (USA) questions Kurlianchik, asking:

Well, isn't there a Mosque there now? Would the country's Arabs expect that they would be allowed to continue to pray there if a new [Jewish] Temple were to be built there? I mean, I see what you're saying, but isn't this at the heart of the conflict in the first place? Two mutually antagonistic groups, each convinced that the other wants them out (or worse), contesting the same resources?

Charles Griswold of Humboldt County, California (USA) comments on Kurlianchik's explanations of the situation in Jerusalem:

I would invite you to come live in the U.S., but I'm not sure the situation here is really that much different.

Eran Shlomi of Israel summed up the situation succinctly in a conversation. Sharing his observation with permission:

“It's sad that some people decide to demonize others only because they don't share the same belief or perspective on life. Yehuda Glick suffered from two assassination trials, once in real life and second on the media.”

For a comprehensive overview of the unfolding situation, refer to Henriette Chacar's article in +972 Magazine, “What the Palestinian Media is Saying About the Jerusalem Violence.”

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