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Who’s Afraid of a Bedouin?: The Extent of Islamophobia in Beer Shiva

How can you convert a mosque into an Islamic Culture Museum but then not mention “Islam” at all?

The battle for a mosque continues in Beer Shiva:

Who’s afraid of a Bedouin?

by Charlene Silverman (Electronic Intifada)

Last June, Israel’s Supreme Court reached a ruling that some saw as a compromise to a legal battle that had lasted nearly a decade.  Beer Sheva’s Big Mosque that has been closed to prayer since 1948 would be converted into a museum of Islamic culture.

The decision disappointed thousands of Muslim citizens who wished to re-open the Ottoman-built mosque as a place of worship, thereby fulfilling a gaping need: there is currently no public space for Muslims to worship in Beer Sheva.

This month the Big Mosque tried out its new mantle as a museum, but visitors will not find one mention of Islam. Instead passersby can see figurines wearing the military fatigues of the British and Israeli armies, and pictures of Mandate-era governmental buildings in an exhibit titled, “History of Be’er Sheva: From 1900 – 2011.”

According to an Adalah press release, “The building’s signs and pamphlets distributed at the entrance reveal that the Big Mosque has been turned into an architectural museum, recording construction in Beer el-Sabe from the British Mandate until today.”

Nuri al-Uqbi, the director of the Association for the Support and Protection of the Rights of the Bedouin in Israel, told Adalah:

“I went yesterday, on 5 March, on a trip to the Big Mosque, and I felt horrified and furious at this violation of the mosque’s sanctity. In the mosque there are plastic dolls and models wearing British and Israeli uniforms, some of them in shorts, among other exhibits that are irrelevant to Arab-Islamic culture or tradition.”

The Big Mosque was originally built in 1906, and was used accordingly until the Nakbah in 1948. From 1948 until 1953, the newly created State of Israel imposed military rule on its remaining Palestinian population, and used the building as a courthouse and prison. Since 1991, the mosque had been closed for public use of any kind and has subsequently fallen into disrepair.

In August 2002, Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Islamic Committee in the Naqab, and 23 Palestinian citizens of Israel from Beer Sheva petitioned the High Court of Justice to re-open the Big Mosque for prayer.

Arguing against the petition, the Beer Sheva municipality claimed that allowing worship in the mosque would disturb the peace, and argued it should be used as a “general museum” instead.

Justice Miriam Naor, who sided with Beer Sheva’s municipality, said a general museum for all religions and ethnic groups would promote “multiculturalism and coexistence rather than disrupting it.”

A city that refuses to grant its large Muslim population with any place to worship does not appear to care much for “multiculturalism.”

But why does the municipality fear the existence of a single mosque in Beer Sheva? Or an Islamic museum? Is it so insecure with its own identity in the “Jewish State” that it must deny the historical lineage that connects Muslims and Arabs to the land?

Israel consistently denies its Arab and Muslim population with equal rights in what appears to be an anxious effort to assert Jewish supremacy in a land it took by force.

It looks like Israel is once again displaying its neurosis to the world.

Adalah has submitted a pre-petition to the Attorney General, to immediately remove the current exhibition.

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  • JT

    Nick, it may be true but sometimes Islamophobes pounce on a story coming from the Muslim world before the actual details become clear.

    Like this:’t-do-a-two-second-google-search/

    So it’s better to be patient, otherwise you’ll look like an idiot.

  • nick;

    JW has published false stories in the past. In fact I think that their general modus operandi is falsehood; be it misrepresenting the minority as a majority or making facts fit the agenda. Your story is an example of that; yes crap happens but is it representative crap?

    If you wish to learn the ‘truth of what Islam represents’ then I would suggest talking to Muslims.

    Not sites like JW which, in reality, don’t have the credibility. Mr Spencer and so on don’t have one qualification related to Islam, not one, nor are their articles peer reviewed or any of the other paraphernalia you’d expect to come with a reputable person who tries to pass himself off as a scholar.

    It is just not there.

  • nick

    well u can try Assyrian International News Agency and Bikya Masr. You can also Google the names of the defendant and named lawyers.
    The info certainly does seem true. Sadly these stories have not been taken up by international media. I came across them via Jihad-Watch. I am aware that you detest this site but that doesn’t make the info it covers false, in fact if it were to publish such false stories then they would be immediately denounced and proven to be fabricated and rightly destroy the site’s credibility for all people seeking the truth on what Islam represents

  • nick

    …the original sources were Christian news agencies, and nobody is disputing that the reports are not true. You use the term ‘hate site’ far too easily – what exactly constitutes such an entity in your opinion?

  • nick

    meanwhile across the border in Egypt…

    [snipped: We don’t allow links to hate sites. Ilisha]

  • Believing Atheist

    Just so no one gets confused I deliberately put Israel/Palestine, to refer to the British Mandate of Palestine, since what the mandate called Palestine later became Israel (and Jordan separately) I believe.

  • Believing Atheist

    As JSB said, this is in fact a distorted view of history. We cannot blame one side in Israel/Palestine. For a list of killings and massacres by both Arabs and Israelis click below:

  • Just Stopping By

    “Jews, Christians, and Muslims coexisted there peacefully until the Zionists decided that Jews should have virtually exclusive rights to that land.”

    There are unfortunately few places in history where people of different groups all lived together peacefully for extended periods of time, and Palestine was not an exception. See, for example, Safed alone in 1660, 1834, and 1838.

    As for which side wanted exclusive control of the land, I doubt you want to get into a factual debate on which more openly advocated expelling members of the other, or which expelled a greater percentage of the other from the territories they controlled after the 1948-49 war. I have problems with what both sides did, but blaming just one provides a distorted view of history.

  • @ ‘Stoned Gremlin’ – I’ve never been very good on Geography; but keep in mind that wherever the family of Abraham lived before the Egyptian enslavement as the Bible story relates it, they were simply a relatively small family group living among a lot of non-Abrahamic people. They did not have any ‘country’ as theirs exclusively. It was much like the Jewish presence in Palestine before the Zionist Israeli invasion of the twentieth century. Jews, Christians, and Muslims coexisted there peacefully until the Zionists decided that Jews should have virtually exclusive rights to that land. But the Jewish presence in Palestine prior to the Zionist invasion was much larger than the family of Jacob prior to their ‘sojourn’ in Egypt.

    Remember that the “Jews” (they weren’t really “Jews” at that time) entered Egypt to live when they were still just Jacob, his 12 sons, and their families (according to the Biblical story). They grew into a large ethnic group during the 400 years or so they lived there before the “exodus” as recounted in the Bible. Wherever they lived, there was no ‘land of the Jews’; just one family living among a whole bunch of other people.

    It was only after the ‘sojourn’ in Egypt that a Jewish nation sought to lay claim to a portion of land as theirs exclusively (according to the Bible story).

  • Just Stopping By

    @Stoned Gremlin:

    The Biblical story is that the Jews lived in Canaan before moving to Egypt, though there is no archeological evidence on that. But given their population, the Jews would have been just one group among many there at the time.

    As for whether Jews are an ethnicity/race or a religion, it is a complicated one with elements of each. The religion aspect is obvious, though there are a lot of atheist Jews. For biology as a measure of ehtnicity: “A study published by the National Academy of Sciences found that ‘the paternal gene pools of Jewish communities from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population’, and suggested that ‘most Jewish communities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora’.” So, the Khazar claim is generally viewed as mostly legend without any factual basis.

  • Stoned Gremlin

    @azeb I did take the Canaanites into account. That’s why I said BEFORE the enslavement of the Jews by the Egyptians. Weren’t the Jews living their before the ancient Egyptians enslaved them? It was during those 400 years of expulsion that other tribes started settling their.

  • @ stoned gremlin no, remember the Canaanites, besides Jewish people are not a ethnicity/race they are religous group, plus most Jews are White Ashkenazi who are mixed race with Khazar Turkic ancestors who mixed with slav people, similar to Muslim Turks of Cyprus and Turkey also Xinjiang

  • Stoned Gremlin

    @Rich The point AA was trying to make was that if the Jews have the right to occupy Palestine because they lived there before, but took it by force from other peoples, then by the same standard Muslims should have the right to rule Spain.

    But didn’t the Jews live in Israel (or Judea I’m not sure what it was called before their enslavement) even before those other tribes?

  • RichandHomeless

    @Stoned Gremlin

    So? Didn’t the Native Americans live in America before the Europeans?

  • Stoned Gremlin

    @Arab Atheist But didn’t the Jews live in “Israel” before their enslavement by the ancient Egyptians?

  • Arab Atheist;

    Yes, a very fair point that I have often made r.e. Spain. Why for example am I not allowed to go and claim the land from where my ancestors came? Simple; my ancestors settled somewhere else and someone came and took their place! I have no right to go back and say ‘sorry, I was here first, bugger off’.

    I suspect that Americans would be very annoyed if the Native Americans decided to come and take back their ancestral land! Yes, I know that Native Americans generally never had the concept of ‘ownership’ but the point stands. How about if the Swedes and Norwegians made the claim as well? Or the Chinese? Both sent explorers and settlers to the Americas long before Europeans ever did, the former under the Vikings and the latter under the likes of Zeng He (who was a Muslim might I add).

    The world simply doesn’t work like that. Heck, the world doesn’t work to well as it is now that we have drawn lines all over it and stuck little flags everywhere but anyway… better than the alternative where everyone claims everyone else’s bit of dirt because their ancestors used to live there.

  • Aspie and Atheist

    Is this the same Susanna who once said on the comment section on LW that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation?!?!?

  • Aspie and Atheist

    Israel must end it’s siege and apartheid policies.

    I support a one state resolution.

  • Arab Atheist – ملحد عربي


    Yes Jews occupied Palestine long ago, long before Christ or Muhammad were born. They came from Egypt and exterminated the native Midianites. So did many other nations with other nations. Arabs and Muslims have their record too.

    How about the this for something to think about: Muslims also occupied Spain for almost 800 years, their occupation of Spain is more recent and more easily provable. Does that give Muslims the right to go back to Spain now as occupiers? Hell no!

    The Zionists (who misrepresent Judaism) have just as much right to re-occupy Palestine as the Muslims to re-occupy Spain now. AS SIMPLE AS THAT.

    However, the problem with the Israeli occupation is that it’s injustices are ongoing and systemic, and most horrifically, are taking place in the twentieth century and done by a state claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East.

  • NurAlia


    Why not let the people decide what the building should be. Personally since it is the cause of so much tension, and drives the fears of recalling honest history…I think it would be best left abandoned…or better yet, taken down.

  • crow

    Actually Susan’s your grasp of history isn’t all that good either..
    Take your own advice

  • mindy1

    Why not a prayer space in the museum? What are they afraid of? Let them worship.

  • Susanna

    @ Al

    The joke is actually on you. Please study and understand history.

  • Al

    The joke is on them! There is no isra-HELL! Never was. All there is is an occupied state, and the worlds largest open air prison. FREE PALESTINE!

  • Just Stopping By

    Adalah has been working very hard on this and has a nice summary about the Israeli Supreme Court opinion last year in which the majority opinion blasted Be’er Sheva’s claims, saying some of them were not just wrong but should not even have been made:

    (In his ruling, Justice Salim Jubran strongly criticized the Beer el-Sabe Municipality’s position that merely opening the mosque for prayer would lead to violence and disturb the peace. He wrote, “It is difficult to understand the position of the municipality that using the building for worship would harm public order.” He asked whether the municipality argued that religious ritual by their very nature led to fighting and conflict, or whether it claimed that it was specifically Muslim worship that involved something that could result in confrontations between groups that would otherwise enjoy normal relations with one another.

    Justice Jubran also criticized the municipality’s insistence on converting the mosque into a general museum. He stated that the municipality’s decision ignored the history of the mosque, its design and cultural and religious importance for the Muslim community, adding that, “In my opinion, many of the arguments put forward by the municipality should not have been made at all. These arguments create bad feeling in terms of the Municipality of Beer el-Sabe and the state’s view of the Muslim community living among us.”)

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