Egypt’s Al-Azhar – the world's foremost institution of Sunni Islamic learning – condemned on Monday “arbitrary” Israeli tax proposals targeting buildings owned by the various Christian denominations in occupied Jerusalem.
In an official statement, the Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb said that such “iniquitous decisions, and what follows from incursions and restrictions on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, are intended to empty the holy city of its Palestinian inhabitants, both Muslims and Christians.”
The Israeli legislation aims to tax some church assets for the first time, but it will not apply to houses of worship, according to the Jerusalem municipality.
In his statement, El-Tayeb said that the Israeli order was a continuation of policies that aim to “judaize” Jerusalem and its surroundings in light of the "unjust" decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the “Zionist Entity”.
“Al-Azhar affirms its support for the steadfastness and defence of Palestinian population, especially Jerusalemites of their lands and holy sites,” the statement concluded.
El-Tayeb also called on the international community and organizations to pressure the Israeli forces of occupation to suspend such unfair measures, "which conflict with the freedom of worship guaranteed by divine religions and international accords."
The statement from the leading Islamic institution comes one day after Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity’s holiest site, shut down in an uncommon move to protest against the tax proposals and policies governing church-owned property. It is unclear how long the closure of the holy site will last.
In a formal letter, the heads of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic churches in Jerusalem accused Israel of conducting a “systematic and abhorrent campaign” against Christians.