June 19, 2014
by Joshua Levitt
Canada’s Minister for Multiculturalism Tim Uppal, a proud, turban-wearing Sikh, visited Israel this week and ascended the Temple Mount, generating a tremendous response from Canadians who felt that worshiping at the Foundation Stone from the Torah’s Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should be open to people all faiths.
Uppal was photographed approaching the Muslim Dome of the Rock, built atop the original Jewish altar, and the picture was widely viewed on social media.
Uppal said that in Israel Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent speech in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, was well remembered.
Canadian MP Mark Adler sent a Tweet with a comment from Uppal from Jerusalem: “To quote my colleague @MinTimUppal currently in Israel, ‘the PM’s powerful words in support of Israel still resonate today.’ Happy to hear!”
In a statement, B’nai Brith Canada said: “We are pleased to see that more and more Canadians are attuned to this important issue and applaud the Minister for taking this symbolically important step. The issue of religious freedom for all worshipers on the Temple Mount is something that we have previously raised with Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom after a B’nai Brith Canada delegation was harassed this past year.”
“By visiting the site — which is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims — Minister Uppal has shown that Canada will not support any attempts to discriminate against worshippers, regardless of their religion,” the Jewish human rights organization said.
The Toronto Sun columnist, CFRB talk-show host and author, the Pakistani-born Indian Muslim Canadian, Tarek Fatah, was another vocal voice on Twitter, where he said “of course” he agreed with Uppal’s decision to visit the shrine, and noted that the “Temple Mount has far more religious significance to Jews than Muslims, yet Jews are barred.”
The author has explained his case for Muslims to view Jews as friends in his books, ‘The Jew is Not My Enemy’ and ‘Chasing a Mirage.‘ Fatah is also the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress to counter Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence in politics. He was twice imprisoned by the military regime in Pakistan as a student, was barred from working as a journalist, and lived as an exile in Saudi Arabia, before becoming a public intellectual in Canada.
On Thursday, Fatah told The Algemeiner: “The barring of Jews from the Temple Mount is a recent development enacted by the British in 1928 as a measure to avoid strife between the two competing communities of the city.”
He said “to suggest the site is holy for Muslims is a bit rich. In fact, even after it was built, the Dome was open to Jews and both communities would perform their religious ceremonies.”
“The Dome on the Rock did not exist during the early years of Islam. None of the first four caliphs of Islam after Prophet Muhammad contemplated or even proposed building the structure even as the caliphate moved from Medina to Damascus,” Fatah said.
“However, in 691 CE the Dome was built at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik, as an alternative to the Holy Kaaba in Mecca, which was under the domain of a competing caliph, and Muslims from Syria were ordered not to go to Mecca for Hajj, but to perform the rites in Jerusalem.”
Fatah said, that, in his opinion, it would be against Islamic law “to build a mosque over any non-Muslim place of worship, be it the Dome of the Rock, or the Hagia Sophia Mosque over St. Sophia cathedral, in Istanbul.”
He said, “It’s time for us Muslims to correctly embrace diversity, not demand it where we need it. I say, open the Temple Mount to non-Muslims and non-believers.”
On his webpage, Fatah describes the deeper conflict faced by Muslims: “Today, the result is a Muslim society lost in the sands of Sinai with no Moses to lead us out, held hostage by hateful pretenders of piety. Our problems are further compounded by a collective denial of the fact that the pain we suffer is caused mostly by self-inflicted wounds, and is not entirely the result of some Zionist conspiracy hatched with the West.”
He said he writes “as a Muslim whose ancestors were Hindu. My religion, Islam, is rooted in Judaism, while my Punjabi culture is tied to that of the Sikhs. Yet I am told by Islamists that without shedding this multifaceted heritage, if not outrightly rejecting it, I cannot be considered a true Muslim.”
But Fatah said the identity that’s had the “most profound effect” on his thinking was as a Canadian: “For it is only here in Canada that I can speak out against the hijacking of my faith and the encroaching specter of a new Islamofascism.”