I am an American Muslim originally from Palestine. I work hard as a Muslim to shed light on the plight of Christian Palestinians who are often overlooked. As a founder and member of several interfaith organizations here in DC, including Washington Interfaith Alliance for Peace, Love Thy Neighbor and The AD Hoc Committee for Bethlehem, I often speak at local churches and colleges to highlight the tremendous hardships the Christians of Palestine face- I speak as a Muslim who understands that the well being Christian Palestinians and the physical presence of Christians in the Holy Land is critical to Islam and Palestinians.I base this on my understanding of my faith and the historical accounts of well noted Muslim leaders who maintained deference and respect to both the Jewish and Christian presence in Palestine.I take heart in the story of the Second Muslim Khalefa Omar bin Al-Khatab whose respect for Christianity and the Christian belief in Palestine was demonstrated and documented when he refused to pray at the Church of Sepulcher for fear that future Muslims will turn it into a church. As he had predicted Masjid Omar today stands next to the Sepulcher where Omar made his prescribed Maghreb prayed. Omar Bin al-Khatab also was the first among many Muslim leaders who historically were the only leaders of faith who allowed the return of Jews to Jerusalem.For more than 1400 years Muslims have been the custodians of the two most important holy sites in Palestine- the Sepulcher church and the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The same two families daily open the doors of both churches for the Christian faithful according to to the same agreement devised by Omar Bin al-Khatab and Jerusalem Patriarch Sophronious. This agreement has been enshrined by Ottoman "Status Quo" treaty in 1859 and later ratified by the Berlin agreement.My faith is central to all that I do- Islam is the youngest of the three Abrahamic faiths, and as such is respectful of both Christian and Jewish faithful.
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