Palestinian Imam Prays For Arafat's Martyrdom

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Mixed messages are emerging from the Palestinian Authority regarding the future of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

A Palestinian Authority Islamic preacher prayed for PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's martyrdom, following threats made by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Palestinian Media Watch said on Friday.

According to the Israeli-based Palestinian Media Watch, ever since Sharon said that Arafat is not immune to Israeli retribution for terrorism, PA television has stated repeatedly that Arafat wants Israel to kill him so he can become a shahid (holy martyr).

In a sermon last Friday, Imam Ibrahim Madiras expressed the Palestinian Islamic belief that death is better than life.

"Regarding the threats of this Nazi mass murderer [Sharon] against President Arafat, we hereby tell him: We are not like you, because we do not desire life. If you threaten to kill President Arafat, we will pray to Allah: 'Grant the President shahada (martyrdom) for you,' Madiras said. "Yes, we do not pray - like other preachers pray - for longevity for the rulers; here in Palestine we pray: 'Lord, grant the President shahada for you.'"

Arafat has said many times that he would like to be a martyr, and he called on millions of Palestinians - including children - to join him in becoming martyrs for the sake of Jerusalem.

Nevertheless, preparations to protect Arafat in his Ramallah compound went into full swing this week. Arafat has been holed up there for two years.

According to reports, security measures have been beefed up around the compound, which has been reinforced with crushed cars and barrels of cement.

Sharon said in a television interview two weeks ago -- following his meeting with President Bush -- that he had told the U.S. leader he had released himself from a commitment to Washington not to harm Arafat.

In radio interviews following the prime minister's statement, government ministers said there were no immediate plans to assassinate or exile the Palestinian leader.

In the past, Israeli officials have said that it is better for Israel to keep Arafat confined in one place rather than allowoing him to travel freely around the world to drum up support for his cause.

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