Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Says worship there will 'ignite a fire of dispute and schism' 

  Muslims are forbidden to pray in the mosque slated to be built next to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Nasr Farid, stated in an interview published yesterday in the major Lebanese paper A Safir.

The mufti added that anyone who worships in the mosque, for which the cornerstone was laid last week, will be a party to igniting a fire of dispute and schism, which is even worse than murder.

He called on "our Muslim brothers in Nazareth to build the mosque at a different location in the city. Insistence on establishing it at its present site is of no value and does not carry the grace of God and of His prophet Mohammed."

The mosque has been at the center of a controversy involving the Muslim and Christian communities in Nazareth, the Israeli government and the Vatican. The government's decision to let the mosque be built at the site was sharply criticized by the Catholic Church, and last week Latin churches in Israel shut their doors for two days in protest.

The mufti said that the "secret of Islam's greatness" is that it "grants peace and security to the members of the other religions. We must not give our enemies a pretext for driving a wedge in our ranks, as we are one nation."

In reaction to this, Suleiman Abu Ahmed, the chairman of the United List in the Nazareth municipal council and a member of the leadership of the Islamic Movement, said that A Safir "is known for its hostile attitude toward the Islamic Movement in Israel. It is possible that the paper fed the mufti false information to the effect that the mosque will be built on land that was plundered from the Christian community."

Ahmed invited the mufti to visit Nazareth and "see for himself the justness of our position.