Sheikh Samir Aasi says “I Was Attacked Because Of What I Stand For. These Extremists Don’t Want Relations Between Religions”
Sheikh Samir Aasi, Imam of the main mosque in the city of Akko, openly condemned the massacre that took place last week in a Har Nof synagogue. This terror attack was perpetuated by two Palestinian men, who entered during morning prayers and shot worshipers dead as well as stabbed them with meat cleavers.
Aasi made the trip from Akko to Har Nof to participate in a pluralistic faith assembly attended by clergy from all of Israel’s faiths. The assembly was held in the synagogue where the attack took place. Aasi spoke there, saying “I come here today to condemn this terrible act, which crossed all lines. The time has come that people of faith must ask themselves, how have we gotten to this point?”
“I specifically made that trip to send a message to extremists,” Aasi explained to Tazpit News Agency. “There is a red line, and it is absolutely and utterly forbidden to cross – holy places are holy places, and you cannot attack holy places, no matter what.”
On Thursday, after his trip, his car was attacked with acid. “Every religion has its extremists”, Aasi asserted. “I was attacked because of what I stand for. These extremists don’t want relations between religions.”
‘But they are wrong, because attacks like this only make our resolve to continue working for peace and relations between our religions stronger.”
Sheikh Aasi has reason to believe Muslim extremists want to stop him, as he has been working for a long time alongside Akko’s Chief Rabbi Yosef Yashar to promote peace and understanding between Akko’s residents. Akko is a mixed city of 46,300 people, with Jews making up two thirds of the population and Arabs comprising a quarter of the city’s residents.
Chief Rabbi Yashar told Tazpit News Agency, “Akko is a mixed city, and [Sheikh Aasi and I] work together so that all who live here should live in peace. We are great friends.”
“Sheikh Aasi was my guest in my Sukkah this past chag Sukkot, to show everyone what a “Sukkat Shalom” is,” Rabbi Yashar added.
Rabbi Yashar and Sheikh Aasi regularly visit schools, both Jewish and Arab, across Akko to teach the students about both religions, and to promote understanding on both sides about their neighbors. “We discuss stories from both religions with the students, in order to teach both perspectives and help students understand their neighbors,” Imam Aasi said. “Thank G-d, Akko has wonderful leaders in all its religious institutions who work for peace.”
This is not the first time Muslim extremists have attacked people who work to promote peace amongst Jews and Muslims, or between Palestinians and Israelis. Mohammad Zoabi, the teenaged cousin of Arab member of Knesset Haneen Zoabi, was forced into hiding over the summer after his life was threatened by Arabs unhappy with his pro-Israel activism. Additionally, a few weeks ago, a brawl between Muslims supporting terrorists and Druze supporting Israel broke out in the mixed city of Abu Snan. Druze Ayoob Kara, a former member of Knesset, told Tazpit News Agency at the time that “Arabs want the Druze to be part of the Arab agenda, and the event in Abu Snan was a part of those efforts…the Druze see themselves as an integral part of Israel.”