When ISIS put a Jordanian Air Force pilot into a cage, poured gasoline on him, set him on fire and broadcast a video of the gruesome murder on the internet in February 2015, the Jordanian government responded decisively. It hanged two jihadists affiliated with Al Qaeda and broadcast images of Jordan's monarch, King Abdullah II, wearing military fatigues to highlight Jordan's participation in an American-led coalition that engaged in bombing raids against the terror organization. The Jordanian press office also publicized the king's promise to exact revenge on ISIS for the murder of the pilot, Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, via a statement that was quoted in countless outlets.
To further solidify Jordanian support for the war on ISIS (which, prior to the murder of the Jordanian pilot, had been a source of controversy in the Hashemite Kingdom), Abdullah's wife, Queen Rania, led a rally in Amman condemning the group.
The strategy was a success. After the images of King Abdullah wearing military fatigues appeared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, some bloggers and journalists falsely reported that the monarch had led the bombing sorties himself, and in some places, King Abdullah was declared a "badass." The Jordanian public relations campaign successfully promoted the notion that the Hashemite Kingdom was at the forefront of the war against ISIS and jihad.
The reality was a bit different. Yes, the Jordanian government and its monarch will pull out the stops to take revenge when a Jordanian citizen is killed by Muslim extremists, but when the hostility is directed at Jews, Israel or the West, the Hashemite Kingdom is not quite so forceful.
The Kingdom's ambivalent role in the war against Islamic extremism and the violence it causes can be seen in the Jordanian refusal to extradite Ahlam Tamimi to the United States to face prosecution for her role in the Sbarro Pizza suicide bombing attack that took place in Israel in 2001. The U.S. is seeking to prosecute her for the murder of several Americans who died in the attack; Jordan will not hand her over.
Jordan's tentative, half-hearted role in the war against jihad is also highlighted by its failure to stop or even curb the hateful rhetoric that is broadcast at the Temple Mount, or Al Haram Al Sharif in Jerusalem —presently under the Custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom. The kingdom, which appoints and accredits the speakers in the Al Aqsa Mosque and which employees more than 200 guards to maintain order, has failed to stop the site from being used as a tool to promote genocidal hostility toward the Jewish people, not just in Israel, but throughout the world.
The Al Aqsa Mosque, on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. (Image source: Young Shanahan/Flickr)
In October 2015, for example, Sheikh Khaled Al-Mughrabi declared from a pulpit in the Al Aqsa Mosque that in a final battle between Jews and Muslims, "The children of Israel will all be exterminated ... and the Muslims will live in comfort for a long time." (Al-Mughrabi, whose speech was captured and translated by Palestinian Media Watch, was arrested by Israel and the following month, charged with incitement.)
Not only is rhetoric like this from Jordan-approved imams a clear-cut violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (which makes incitement to genocide a crime), Jordan's tolerance for anti-Jewish and anti-Western rhetoric at the Temple Mount is a violation of the treaty signed between Israel and Jordan in 1994, which among other things affirms the "special role" that Jordan plays at the Temple Mount.
Article Nine of this treaty states quite clearly that Israel and Jordan "will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace."
On this score, the Hashemite Kingdom has failed miserably, allowing the Temple Mount to be transformed into a volcano of hostility not only against Jews, but against non-Muslims in general. Under Jordanian Custodianship, the Temple Mount, which Muslims call Al Haram Al-Sharif or "The Noble Sanctuary," Muslims regularly sow hatred of the West and call for its destruction.
For example, on June 18, 2016, Palestinian Imam Issam Amira used the Al Aqsa Mosque to declare that "friendship and tolerance toward infidels are unacceptable" and that "the strategy in Islam is hostility toward non-Muslims." In his Ramadan sermon, which was recorded and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Amira reported the following:
Once I took part in a discussion, in which we were talking about global politics and about our relations with America and Russia, and the word "infidels" came up. After the discussion, somebody objected. He said, "Brother, say 'America' and 'Russia,' but do not say, 'infidels.' Allah called them 'infidels' so why should I be ashamed to call them that?
They want to water down these forceful and powerful terms, which embody the loftiness and the might of the Muslims. They want to degrade Muslim might and turn it into cheap tolerance toward those who plundered our land, attacked our homes and destroyed them, killed [Muslims], and violated the honor of the women. What kind of tolerance is possible with these people? There is only one kind of punishment for those people: to stop them, to wreak vengeance upon them, and to teach them a lesson. This is not achieved through tolerance, negotiations, or kindness. It is achieved through might.
In this same Ramadan sermon translated by MEMRI, Amira also condemned Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for declaring that he did not want to send his children to their deaths. "Do you think you are doing them a favor?" Amira asked, "by preventing them from reaching Paradise, and by keeping them here, where they live as half-men? There should be hostility toward infidels."
Amira's Ramadan sermon is only one of many examples of this type of rhetoric. In November 2017, Sheikh Abu 'Umran Al Barq declared in a sermon documented by MEMRI that Muslims are required to wage jihad against non-Muslims so that "Islam will triumph over all other religions."
Sermons like this have set the stage for periodic acts of violence against Israeli Jews since Haj Amin Al Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and subsequently a close ally of Adolf Hitler, came on the scene in the late 1920s to tell Muslims in the Middle East that the Jews were going to destroy Al Aqsa Mosque. The goal of such demonizing rhetoric is to enshrine the notion of Muslim supremacism over non-Muslims, (Jews especially) in the minds of its target audience. That the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif is used to further the cause of Muslim supremacism in the 21st century is an intolerable outrage that needs to come to an end.
Unfortunately, the problem is going to get worse, a lot worse, before it gets better. The preachers who are accorded the privilege of broadcasting their anti-Jewish and anti-Western hate on Judaism's most holy site set a terrible example for Muslim imams throughout the world, even in places such as the United States, where anti-Semitic incitement is supposed to be taboo, and a clear violation of the rules of American civil society. Just recently, imams have shocked the interfaith community in the United States by speaking in rhetoric similar to what we have been hearing from the Temple Mount.
In July 2017, Ammar Shahin, an imam preaching at a mosque in Davis, Calif., invoked an anti-Semitic hadith (saying of Muhammed) to incite hostility against Israel after the Netanyahu government shut down the Al Aqsa Mosque and installed metal detectors in response to a murderous attack on Israeli guards at the site earlier that month. In a sermon translated by MEMRI, Shahin called on God to "liberate the Al Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews" and to "annihilate them down to the very last one."
"Do not spare any of them," he said. Two other imams have made similar statements in the U.S. in recent weeks — one in Texas and one in North Carolina. The one common thread in these sermons is that they all invoke the "Al Aqsa Is in Danger" narrative broadcast by imams speaking under the authority of the Jordanian government in the Noble Sanctuary. This narrative, which was first used by Haj Amin Al Husseini to incite hostility against Jews in the 1920s and 30s, is currently being used to undermine interfaith relations between Jews and Muslims, not only in the Middle East, but in the West as well, most notably the United States and Europe.
The upshot is this: The failure of Jordan -- which appoints and accredits the imams who speak in the Al Aqsa Mosque -- to live up to its obligation under its 1994 treaty with Israel and put an end to this type of propaganda is harming interfaith relations in the United States. This is intolerable. The time is long overdue for the Hashemite Kingdom to stop promoting the patently false narrative that the "Al Aqsa Is in Danger."
The Hashemite Kingdom has effectively abandoned its responsibility to prevent the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary from being used as a focal point of anti-Jewish and anti-Western hatred, even as it continually reaffirms its role as Custodian of the site.
In the United States, landlords who allow their tenants to use a property for criminal enterprises, such as the sale or manufacture of drugs are liable to having their property seized in a process called "asset forfeiture." Maybe a similar process needs to be applied to Jordan's custodianship of the Temple Mount, for clearly, the Hashemite Kingdom is not serious about preventing the site from being used for criminal incitement against Jews and Westerners.
This was made perfectly clear during a talk presented by Wasfi Kailani who spoke at a conference about the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary mentioned above. Kailani, manager of Jerusalem Affairs at the Royal Hashemite Court, spoke extensively at this conference about the legitimacy of the Jordanian monarchy's Custodianship over the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary. Jordanian monarchs, Kailani reported, have given substantial sums to help maintain and restore buildings on the site since 1948.
Successive monarchs have also had their custodianship over the Temple Mount affirmed by Palestinian leaders over the years, including President Mahmoud Abbas in a 2013 agreement. And in 1994, this custodianship was affirmed by Israel in the previously mentioned treaty.
Apparently, however, Custodianship does not really mean all that much. When asked what obligation the Hashemite Kingdom had over the incitement taking place on the Temple Mount, Kailani declared that in light of Ariel Sharon's controversial visit to the site in 2000 and Israel's decision to "unilaterally administrate the affairs of the entry of non-Muslims" at the Temple Mount, "our Waqf has lost the control over the behavior and the actions of the Waqf guards and the Muslims inside the site."
In response to a follow-up question from conference organizer Harvard Law Professor, Noah Feldman, Kailani reported that the speakers who give the Friday sermons at Al Aqsa Mosque are nominated by Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem, but accredited and approved by the Jordanian government. The nominations for new speakers at the mosque comes from Jerusalem sheiks, Kailani said, but they are appointed by Jordan's Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Holy Places.
So there you have it. While the Hashemite Kingdom appoints the imams who give Friday sermons at the Temple Mount, by its own admission, it has lost control over what happens at the site. Predictably, the Hashemite Kingdom blames Israel for these circumstances, but the question remains: If King Abdullah II can stand up to ISIS when it kills a Jordanian pilot, why is the Hashemite Kingdom unable (or unwilling) to put a stop to anti-Israel and anti-Western incitement on the Temple Mount?
Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.