The organisers behind the visit of an extremist sheikh who was due to visit Parliament next week have defended their decision to invite him and blamed the “Israel lobby” for violating freedom of expression.
This is despite the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem having previously called to destroy Britain, denied the Holocaust, advocated child-martyrs and incited terrorism against Israel and Jews.
In an email sent by organisers EuroPal to all MPs overnight, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri and one other member of the delegation organised by pro-Palestinian group EuroPal, have “both been unsuccessful in obtaining an entry visa for technical reasons, and therefore will not be joining the delegation”.
“I wish to inform you that four delegates: human rights lawyers, NGO representatives and a Catholic faith leader, have been granted a visa to enter the UK. Unfortunately, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Sawsan Safadi, Head of Media and Public Relations at the Directorate of Education in Jerusalem, have both been unsuccessful in obtaining an entry visa for technical reasons, and therefore will not be joining the delegation.”
Europal refers to the CUFI campaign saying “a campaign by pro-Israel groups” had “no bearing on the decision to withhold an entry visa to Sheikh Sabri”, however CUFI has no doubts that the overwhelming response placed upon the Government has had an influence.
The statement continues:
“Regardless of the accusation carried by this campaign, we at EuroPal Forum do not and will not tolerate anti-semitism nor racism of any shape, form or manner. Meanwhile, we regard such attempts by some to shut down Palestinian voices by agents of the Israeli lobby in Britain, a clear violation against the basic freedom of expression and the freedom of information.”
CUFI-UK Executive Director, Des Starritt, says, “Christians United for Israel welcomes the news that Sheikh Ekrima Sabri will no longer be part of this delegation to Parliament.
“It is unfortunate that EuroPal Forum has seemingly endorsed the views of Sheikh Sabri, despite compelling evidence provided by CUFI. We encourage EuroPal to reconsider their position and denounce these expressions of hatred.
“While we are open to dialogue and encourage different voices to be heard regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there is no room for hate speech, incitement or racism in our parliament.”
CUFI revealed on Thursday that EuroPal would be leading a delegation from Jerusalem between 11-15 September and included Sheikh Ekrima Sabri (also known as Ikrima al-Sabri), who was Grand Mufti from 1994 to 2006 and is an imam at Al-Aqsa mosque. The purpose of the visit is to discuss the “recent escalation in Jerusalem”.
Over 18,000 people had signed a CUFI petition launched four days ago calling upon the UK Government to ban Sheikh Ekrima Sabri from entering the UK and not be allowed to attend Parliament as planned.
Here are some of the various statements made by Sheikh Sabri, which EuroPal are seemingly defending as “freedom of expression“:
In 2001, Sabri stated in a sermon on PA Radio, “Allah, destroy the U.S., its helpers and its agents. Allah, destroy Britain, its helpers and its agents. Allah, prepare those who will unite the Muslims and march in the steps of Saladin. Allah, we ask you for forgiveness before death, and mercy and forgiveness after death. Allah, grant victory to Islam and the Muslims…”
Sheikh Sabri has also praised martyrdom in his sermons. In a sermon on Palestinian television in 2001 he said, “The Muslim loves death and [strives for] martyrdom. He does not fear the oppression of the arrogant or the weapons of the blood-letters. The blessed and sacred soil of Palestine has vomited all the invaders and all the colonialists throughout history and it will soon vomit, with Allah’s help, the [present] occupiers.”
In support of child martyrs, he said, ” There is no doubt that a child [martyr] suggests that the new generation will carry on the mission with determination. The younger the martyr – the greater and the more I respect him… They [mothers of martyrs] willingly sacrifice their offspring for the sake of freedom.”
On Jews he has said, “I enter the mosque of Al-Aqsa with my head up and at the same time I am filled with rage toward the Jews. I have never greeted a Jew when I came near one. I never will. They cannot even dream that I will. The Jews do not dare to bother me, because they are the most cowardly creatures Allah has ever created…”
In a 2000 interview with the Italian newspaper la Repubblica, Sabri responded to a question about the Holocaust by stating, “Six million Jews dead? No way, they were much fewer. Let’s stop with this fairytale exploited by Israel to capture international solidarity. It is not my fault if Hitler hated Jews, indeed they were hated a little everywhere. Instead, it is necessary to denounce the unjust occupation endured by my people.”
And in a New York Times magazine interview with Jeffrey Goldberg about the Temple Mount, he said “If the Jews want peace, they will stay away from Al Aksa…This is a decree from Allah. The Haram al-Sharif belongs to the Muslim. But we know the Jew is planning on destroying the Haram. The Jew will get the Christian to do his work for him. This is the way of the Jews. This is the way Satan manifests himself. The majority of the Jews want to destroy the mosque. They are preparing this as we speak.”
He has also threatened that “Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa will prompt massacres the magnitude of which only Allah knows” and harm to Al-Aqsa will prompt “massacres and rivers of blood”.