Adalah to AG: By OpeningGeneral Museum, Beer el-Sabe Municipality ViolatesSupreme Court’s Ruling in the Big Mosque Case


Nuri al-Uqbi in front of the Big Mosque


Arab Bedouin community leader, Mr. Nurial-Uqbi,upon visiting the museum: “I felt horrified and furious at this violation of the mosque’s sanctity.”

(Beer el-Sabe, Israel) It is a surprise to everyone who visits the Big Mosque in Beer el-Sabe(Beer Sheva) today: The lobby and walls of the mosque are covered in pictures of government buildings and figures wearing old military uniforms. The mosque building has not been converted into a museum of Islamic culture, as the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in a decision issued in June 2011. 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. The exhibits have no link to Islamic or Eastern culture. Moreover, the exhibits and the short film that plays on loop fail to mention that the building had been built as a place of prayer and worship, and is built in traditional “Old Turkish” style, despite the minaret still standing over the mosque.

On 6 March 2012, Adalah Attorney Aram Mahamed filed a pre-petitionto the Attorney General demanding that the Municipality of Beer el-Saberemove the current exhibition, which violates the court’s ruling. The court handed down its decision in response to a petitionfiled by Adalah in 2002 on behalf of the Association for the Support and Protection of the Rights of the Bedouin in Israel, the Islamic Committee in the Naqab (Negev), and 23 Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel from Beer el-Sabe. The petitioners were represented by former Adalah lawyers Morad el-Sana and Adel Badeer. They requested that the Big Mosque be re-opened as a place of prayer for Muslim residents. Adalah and the petitioners will continue with this demand before the appropriate planning authorities, following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Mr. Nuri al-Uqbi, the director of the Association for the Support and Protection of the Rights of the Bedouin in Israel and one of the petitioners in the case stated that: “I went yesterday, Monday 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.” He added: “Throughout my trip and during conversations with officials in the place, they stressed that worship and prayer are strictly forbidden in the building, despite the fact that the mosque was built during the time of the Ottomans, with funding from groups of Arab Bedouin Muslims from the Naqab.” He noted that around 1,000 Arab Muslim families live in Beer el-Sabe today, in addition to the thousands who cometo the city every day, but there is not one place of worship for them. Instead, they are forced to pray in shops and inappropriate public places, rather than having a proper place in an open mosque where they would be able to worship.

Case citation : HCJ 7311/02, The Association for Support and Defense of Bedouin Rights in Israel, et al. v. The Municipality of Beer Sheva, et al. (decision delivered 22 June 2011)

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