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Hajj Amin al-Husayni and the Haram al-Sharif: A Pan-Islamic or Palestinian Nationalist Cause?

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The World Islamic Conference, held in Jerusalem in 1931 under the auspices of Hajj Amin al-Husayni and the Supreme Muslim Council, marked a turning point in the Palestinian nationalist struggle as well as in the struggle between the two main factions—the more extremist one led by Hajj Amin and the more moderate Opposition—for control of the Palestinian leadership. The Conference, though co-sponsored by Shawkat ‘Ali and the Muslim Indian Congress, and ostensibly representative of the worldwide community of Muslims, was effectively dominated by Hajj Amin and his Palestinian supporters. Through his control of its proceedings, Hajj Amin was able to redefine the Palestinian nationalist cause as essentially a pan-Islamic one, in connection with the perceived need to defend the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem against Zionist encroachment. Contrasted here with the World Islamic Conference (and held concurrently with it) is the Second Arab Orthodox Congress. Whereas the World Islamic Conference sought to redefine an issue arguably specific to Palestine as pan-Islamic, the local Christian Orthodox community, in keeping with its desire to Arabise Palestine's Greek Orthodox Church (hence their self-designation as the Arab Orthodox Church in Palestine), sought to redefine what was essentially a religious matter—concerning the succession of the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem—in nationalist terms. It was not simply a matter of differing ideological perspectives; defining the cause of the Haram al-Sharif as a pan-Islamic one also served a political objective, namely the enhancement of Hajj Amin's position vis-à-vis his political rivals. Nonetheless, whatever the motivations involved, this development was a factor in the marginalisation of the Christian Arab component of the Palestinian nationalist movement. Whereas at the start of the British Mandate they had played a role disproportionately large relative to their actual numbers, by its end, their role in the nationalist movement had diminished almost to the point of near inconsequence, as evidenced, for instance, by their marginal involvement in the Arab Revolt (1936–1939).

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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