Islam does not advocate martyrdom over holy buildings – including and especially the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque) in Jerusalem, an Egyptian professor insisted in a TV interview earlier this month.
Professor Saad Al-Din Al-Hilali of Egypt's Al-Azhar University condemned the practice on Al-Youm TV, against the backdrop of clashes between Palestinian Arab rioters and Israel Police on the Mount. His comments were translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
"Peddling religion is the greatest crime of all, and I have vowed to dedicate my life [to] fighting this," he began.
Al-Din Al-Hilali noted that, in his view – and through a close reading of the Koran and knowledge of Muslim history – modern Muslims calling to die to defend holy buildings are actually bypassing Muslim values.
'What is more important – Muslims or buildings – no matter how important the building is, including the holy Kaaba?" he asked. The Kaaba is the center of Islam's holiest site, the Al-Masjid al-Haram, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. "Which is the most important to Allah?"
The professor cited the Koran as proof that people ultimately come first, although he qualified that "we must fight for what is right" – i.e. that a holy war over Jerusalem is still justified, as it were.
However, he also noted that both Al-Aqsa and Mecca were not in Muslim hands when Mohammed received his prophecy – and used that to question the high priority placed on "protecting" Islamic holy sites from "infidels."
"These people are dying for the sake of turning the war into a religious war," he lamented.