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Al Arifi and the Visit to Jerusalem! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It’s not the controversy surrounding the announcement made by the Saudi preacher Dr. Mohammed al Arifi to visit Jerusalem to film an episode of his weekly program there that bothers me. Rather, what worries me is the following question to al Arifi, his supporters and others; what about the Arab journalists who want to cover the Sheikh’s visit and the moment he enters Israel? Will they be held accountable for normalizing [ties] with the enemy or not? Will the [news] agencies and the press of slogans launch attacks against the journalists? Will the satellite channels that broadcast religious preaching programs send their correspondents to Israel to cover the visit?

Some might see these questions as provocative. It is evident that provocation, or let us say transgression, is what al Arifi embarked on when he announced his intention to go to Jerusalem, as it is clear that the preacher is in search of fame and limelight, but this is not the ideal way to get it. In fact it is evidence of political ignorance and this is not out of the ordinary as before the announcement that he would visit Jerusalem, there were the famous attacks on Sayyed al Sistani in an inappropriate and unacceptable manner and the timing reflected major political ignorance as he incited detestable sectarianism and opened the door to attacks and insults with undesirable consequences, not to mention the controversial religious edicts even with regards to football!

When we say that he is as far away from political awareness as can be this is evident in his comments about [not] fearing “the treachery of the Jews” and his attempt to look like a hero, and it seems this will backfire on him, if it has not already, as he believed that the Israelis would present him with a gift and he would end up the winner with his slogans. But in fact, what has happened, up to now, is the opposite, as the Israelis are beginning to say, with remoteness, that all al Arifi has to do is apply for a visa to enter Israel at its embassy in Amman or Cairo and then he will be able to enter Jerusalem.

Of course al Arifi’s behavior cannot be considered [a form of] support for Jerusalem or the Palestinian cause in any way whatsoever. Rather, just as we mentioned before, it is a performance for the media through which he hopes to gain fame and steal the limelight, as the preacher “is calling for people to perform Hajj when they’re already on their way home,” as the saying goes, as amid international pressure on Israel and the US-Israeli crisis, not to mention the pressure on the Netanyahu government regarding settlement construction, al Arifi comes along to say that he is going there to save Jerusalem!

If this is the best way to save Jerusalem then why accuse those who call for action to be taken, or for visiting Jerusalem in order to strengthen Arab claims to it, of betrayal, and consider this action normalization [of ties with Israel] and recognition of the Israeli state? Today, when al Arifi announces his intention to visit Jerusalem is it considered [a form of] support and Jihad or confusion and silence!?

There is no doubt that the preacher’s supporters and advocates are in a predicament; if they defend him they become advocates of normalization [of ties with Israel], and this would be a first, and if they remain silent in the hope that a bigger media storm will erupt to cover up the issue and obscure people’s vision so that they forget what al Arifi did then they would have committed the sin of silence.

This must be a lesson for all those who reject rational and logical dialogue and believe those who repeat slogans.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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