A fiery leaflet disseminated by Muslims in Nazareth against the Pope’s scheduled visit next month has Israeli police concerned they could riot during the visit.
Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to arrive in Nazareth in another three weeks and tensions in the city can be easily seen.
The Shihab a-Din Mosque, known as the “mosque of contention” between Christians and Muslims because of the work-cessation order on the mosque issued by Israel against the its plans to erect a 325-foot tall minaret overshadowing the Church of the Annunciation in the late 1990s, is where the leaflet originated. The mosque is located adjacent to the church and is where the Pope is scheduled to say Mass.
Young Muslim worshipers recently handed out the leaflet following Friday prayers held in the courtyard adjacent to the church.
AdSys ad not found for top_stories:instory –>
The leaflet attacks the Pope for statements he made about Islam and Muhammad during a lecture he gave in Germany more than two years ago. In the talk, he quoted a Byzantine emperor who said Muhammad had only brought inhuman and evil things into the world. The Pope subsequently apologized for how his statements were understood.
“We announce from Nazareth that we are oppose to the Pope’s visit. A person who cursed the prophet, who stood at the head of the effort to convert Muslims in Darfur, Indonesia and the Muslim world, attacked Islam, praised America and drew near and fraternized with the butcher of Gaza-is unwanted here,” the pamphlet reads.
The supporters of the leaflet also voiced their opinions about those Muslims who intended to participate in any reception for the head of the Catholic Church.
“The mayor and his deputy will receive the Pope, but no sheikh or imam will dare do that – only crooks who disguise themselves as Muslims,” said one Islamic activist “When someone curses my father, I’m not willing to accept that, so I certainly won’t accept it when they curse the prophet.”
However, to place matters in perspective, this group represents a small minority among the Muslim population of Nazareth. Most of the residents are pleased with the flourishing economy and the flood of tourists and look forward to the Pope’s arrival.
Still, the Northern District of the Israeli Police is not taking the matter lightly.
Operation White Cape, the codename for the police operation for the Papal visit, is ready for all eventualities.
“The State of Israel cannot afford to be disgraced with respect to the Pope,” said one Israel Northern District Police officer. “So we are monitoring all developments.”
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com