Delay on Nazareth Mosque Decision Aids Islamic Militants

JERUSALEM, Jan 21, 02 ( - Catholic leaders in the Holy Land have told the Fides news service that if the Israeli government delays a final decision on the construction of a Nazareth mosque, the delay will play into the hands of Islamic militants.

When Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for a halt in the construction of a mosque on a site adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation, he appointed a special commission to investigate the possibility of a negotiated solution. That commission-- originally charged with the delivery of a report by January 23-- has now indicated that it will need more time.

However, as time passes, Muslim zealots have stepped up the pressure on the opponents of the mosque. "Christians in Nazareth are terrified," Father David Jaeger, OFM, told Fides.

Father Jaeger, a spokesman for the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, pointed out that Nazareth's mayor-- a Muslim , who had previously indicated his opposition to the mosque project-- declined to testify before the special commission. Public officials are under heavy pressure from Islamic groups, the Franciscan priest said.

Although Israeli authorities had seemed to be inclined toward a final decision against building the mosque on that site, Father Jaeger said that any delay in announcing that final decision would give radical Muslims a chance to sway or intimidate officials. While the commission continues its work, he told Fides, "threats from Muslim fundamentalists are increasing-- with noisy meetings, demonstrations, statements..."

On Saturday, January 19, about 2,000 Muslim fundamentalists staged a noisy street march through Nazareth, shouting anti-Sharon and anti-Christians slogans, threatening acts of revenge against the "enemies of Islam" if the mosque construction is now allowed.

Catholic World News Service - Daily News Briefs
21. januar 2002