Al-Aqsa: Theologies in the Face of Uncertainty

by Samuel Mellish

Horrific  Brutal  Inhumane  Disgusting  Oppressed  Painful  Saddening  Without hope

I do not wish to present a poem of the damned, but simply wish to underline the obvious. The deaths of two Israeli policeman, the closure and limitations surrounding worship at the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the subsequent injuring and killing of innocent civilians who were attempting to peacefully ensure their right to theologise, at one of Islam’s holiest sites, are all abhorrent episodes. Watching camera footage of Palestinians being targeted by water canons, stun grenades and rubber bullets is incredibly disturbing. The screaming and confusion sits in stark contrast to heavily armed Israeli soldiers, who were always under little threat. Too long is collective punishment perceived as appropriate by a government seeking to undermine the rights of human beings. But in the face of this darkness, stand ordinary people, like you and I, who in the face of death, have demonstrated incredible courage and risked everything to express a core theological belief, as Muslims, to worship Allah. More infuriating is that inevitably these measures have furthered distrust, exacerbated tension, and increased casualty numbers, as protests continued following Friday prayers, despite the end of the supposed ‘stand-off’.

Of course the perpetrators behind the killing of the Israeli police officers should receive punishment (though they were shot dead at the seen), but why are they considered to represent an entire community? The answer is fear. The decades of conflict, on both sides, have produced rival cultural stereotypes, which unsurprisingly are almost identical in their apparent intent to cause unnecessary and unjustified harm to the opposition. These are, of course, theologically polarised: a hard-line, colonial, and ramboed-up Judaism, facing off against an evil, immoral and dirty guerrilla force that wishes to inflict pain. Competing communities, suspicious of one another will always paint such pictures.

It would be easy, and much simpler if this conflict was that of competing theological tensions: Jews vs. Muslims. Such a perspective is widely shared, and yet deeply flawed. It is the actions of a powerful government, which was indeed produced to service and protect a worldwide Jewish population, and yet, it functions through common secular mechanisms. Remember, such a government cannot represent the summation of all Jewish theological expressions, or the worldwide Jewish community. All it can do is represent some of Israeli society. In the same way the murders of the Jewish police officers cannot claim to be the Islamic or Palestinian voice. More so, the philosophical and theological perspectives of these Abrahamic religions, makes such a dichotomy fundamentally unsound. We are witness to a government – not a people – taking disproportionate action in response to a terrible crime, working through and utilising secular tools. We cannot and should not justify such actions, rather, we should seek to challenge all who practice death and violence, as well as supporting those advocating their peaceful theologies in the face of such uncertainty. However, at the same time, we must not polarise two communities, creating opposition where there is only similarity.

Israel-2013-Jerusalem-Temple Mount-Al-Aqsa Mosque” by Andrew Shiva (Godot13) is licensed under CC by SA 4.0