Saudi cleric calls for faith leaders to travel to Jerusalem 'for peace'

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Sheikh Muhammad Al-Issa, who is close to Saudi crown prince, urges three main religions to join forces to resolve 'Palestinian crisis'

Sheikh Muhammad Al-Issa has previously criticised Muslim clerics who deny the holocaust (Screenshot)
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Sunday 7 October 2018 9:37 UTC
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An influential Saudi cleric, who is close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), has called on faith leaders to travel to Jerusalem in a bid to quell tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

Speaking at an interfaith conference in New York, Sheikh Muhammed Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Saudi-funded Muslim World League (MWL), urged Christian and Jewish representatives to join Muslim leaders to launch a "peace caravan" to resolve the "Palestinian crisis".

"This convoy should represent the three religions to visit all the holy places in Jerusalem," said Issa.

"The crisis cannot be tackled except by great influential men powered with logical wisdom and justice.

"Leaders attending should have no political agenda whatsoever. They will be more influential without a political agenda because they are independent."

Such a convoy "is not from Saudi Arabia and it should not represent Saudi Arabia. It comes from the Muslim world, the Christian world and the Jewish world. It has no relevance to any country whatsoever," Issa said.

The plea is unusual given that Riyadh has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel and that most Arab nations do not recognise Israel and reject its claims to Jerusalem.

Issa called for the Jerusalem visit at the New York MWL's second "Cultural Rapprochement Between the US and the Muslim World" conference.  

During his remarks at the conference, Issa also stated that the prospective meeting in Jerusalem would be to "keep extremists" from taking advantage of the deteriorating political situation. 

"The chief role of this conference is to keep extremists from taking any advantage of any intellectual holes that they can use to promote their extremist ideologies and have the opinions of well-established scholars," said Issa.

"The extremists are not happy with this conference. We encourage civilized dialogue with the United States, and this does not make the extremists happy. We are here to thwart this extremism."

While Israel and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic relations, Israeli officials have previously claimed mutual cooperation over combatting Iran's growing presence in the Middle East. 

Earlier this year, MBS hinted at supporting the idea of an Israeli state during an interview with the Atlantic magazine, saying that Israelis have "the right to exist on their own land".

Issa's call followed pleas for peace by Jewish and Christian American religious leaders at the conference.

Shawki Allam, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, said he hoped to make a "positive contribution in the effort to place the foundation of a holistic approach to dialogue".

Meanwhile, Charles Small, president of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, said the greatest victim of antisemitism in the US today were Muslims.

Quoting the late Elie Wiesel, the Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor, he said that "while antisemitism begins with Jews it doesn't end with Jews".