Jerusalem (Sep. 30)
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, may not continue in office as President of the Supreme Moslem Council, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learns.
The Government is expected to act now on the report made by the Committee which was appointed in 1926 by Lord Plumer, the High Commissioner at the time, in order to recommend a revision of the regulations of the Supreme Moslem Council, providing among other things, for a system of election to the Council, instead of appointment by the Government as hitherto.
The report of the Committee was submitted to the Government in 1929, but was never published, and no action has been taken on it, so far, the Palestine Government explaining that “action on this report was postponed owing to the August 1929 disturbances”.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency understands that it is now the intention of the Government to take action on the recommendations of the Committee, one of which is understood to be that new elections for the office of President of the Supreme Moslem Council should be held every nine years, and that if the same person is elected subsequently twice in succession, he should be declared President for life of the Council. The suggestion has been made, it is understood, in quarters close to the Grand Mufti, that as the holder of the office, he should now be confirmed in his position, for a second term of nine years, which would have the effect of making it automatically a life appointment.
To this the Government is not expected to agree, and in view of the extensive hostility to the Grand Mufti which exists among a large section of the Palestine Moslems (it was due to the anti-Mufti opposition that only 250 out of the 750 notables invited attended the Nablus Congress held last week under the auspices of the Grand Mufti and his supporters, which decided on a policy of non-co-operation with the Government), it is not thought that he would be re-elected in the event of a contest.
In support of the Grand Mufti’s claim to reappointment, it is pointed out that in several Government documents, the President of the Supreme Moslem Council is spoken as permanent President of the Council.
Sir Herbert Samuel, who appointed the Grand Mufti to his office (the late Lord Melchett mentioned this fact in Sir Herbert’s presence at a meeting of the Society of the Friends of the Hebrew University, held in October 1929, soon after the Palestine outbreak), explains in his report to the British Government on relinquishing his office as High Commissioner, in 1925, that under the Turks the administration of Moslem religious affairs in Palestine was regulated by the Ministry of Wakfs and the Sheikh ul Islam in Constantinople. With the severance of Palestine from Turkey, a new arrangement became necessary. Conferences, he writes, were held accordingly with a number of the leading Moslems in the country, both lay and ecclesiastic. A committee chosen by themselves drew up a constitution for the purpose, which was accepted by the Government and put into operation. The register of secondary electors for the last election to the Turkish Parliament before the war was taken as abasis; a permanent body of five members, with the title of the Supreme Moslem Council, was chosen by these electors; to it was entrusted the care of religious buildings and charitable endow ments, and the supervision of the religious courts of law. The Council, he proceeds, has now performed these duties for a period of over three years; it controls a revenue of Â£E.30,000; it has in addition collected large sums from the Moslem world for the restoration of the Harma-es-Sharif in Jerusalem, an urgently needed task, which is being carried out with care and skill; it has established, in a portion of those buildings, a Moslem Theological College and an Orphanage.
THE 1920 MOSLEM CONFERENCE AND “THE GENERAL SENSE OF MOSLEM OPINION”.
It was on November 9th., 1920, that a conference of Muftis, Ulema and Moslem notables was summoned by the Palestine Government in Jerusalem for “the consideration of questions relating to the control of Moslem religious courts”. This Conference appointed a Committee on whose advice an ordinance was promulgated by the High Commissioner on May 15th., 1921, providing that “a Committee consisting of four members shall be elected for the administration of the Wakf and Sharia affairs, and shall hold office for four years. This Committee shall elect its President who shall hold office likewise for four years”.
On December 20th., 1921, Sir Herbert Samuel, however, acting on the advice of an “Assembly of Moslem Representatives” changed these regulations and announced the creation of a Supreme Moslem Sharia Council with headquarters in Jerusalem. In an ordinance published at the time, signed by Sir Herbert Samuel, it was declared that “this Council shall consist of a President to be known as Rais-el-Ulema and four members. The Rais-el-Ulema shall be elected by a general election, the method of which shall be prescribed by the Council in a special law”.
Sir Herbert Samuel, thus appointing the Grand Mufti as permanent President of the Council, went further in administratively arranging for the Mufti to be appointed President of the Supreme Moslem Council without the general election spoken of in the Ordinance. On August 24th., 1921, Sir Herbert Samuel convened the first meeting of the Supreme Moslem Council, which elected the Mufti as its President.
Since that time, neither the Mufti nor the members of the Council as such were ever re-elected in accordance with the terms of the Ordinance. Four years later, at the beginning of 1926, when new elections to the Council were to be held, these were apparently arranged in such a way that the Supreme Court was compelled to declare them void, administratively prolonging at the same time the term of office of the four members of the Supreme Moslem Council. In order to find a solution out of this position, an enquiry was set up by Lord Plumer, “for the purpose of preparing a revision of the existing regulations and to make any regulations concerning the holding of fresh elections of members of the Council”.
The Mufti himself was appointed, however, Chairman of this Committee, causing vigorous criticism on the part of a section of the Arab press, which is opposed to his regime, who charged him with obstructing the work of the Committee and causing it to move slowly. It was not until 1929 that the draft report was ready and submitted to the Government in its final form. During all that period no elections to the Council were held, and by that time a new ordinance had been promulgated, authorising the High Commissioner to appoint the members of the Council without any elections taking place.
On June 12th., 1929, an official communique was issued by the Palestine Government stating that “before the revised draft Constitution is acted upon by the Government, it would be published so that the Government might be able to ascertain the general sense of Moslem opinion towards it”. A number of documents explaining the position were attached to this announcement, but they were published only in Arabic, and no copies of them could be obtained for the purpose of having them translated into English or Hebrew.
After the cancellation of the elections to the Supreme Moslem Council in 1926, a Moslem Conference was held in Jerusalem to consider the situation and a considerable amount of hostility was expressed to the Grand Mufti and to the Husseini family as a whole. It appeared that the sense of the delegates was in the direction of the affairs of the Supreme Moslem Council being taken out of the hands of the Husseinis and being entrusted to the Nashashibi family, the most important rivals to the Husseinis.
Against the proposal of the supporters of the Grand Mufti, the Conference adopted a resolution asking the Government in accordance with Turkish law to have the Municipalities appoint election committees for the purpose of arranging new elections to the Supreme Moslem Council. Pending the report of the Enquiry Committee, no action was taken, however, by the Government, and the Grand Mufti has meanwhile completed his term of nine years in office.