Open-Air Preaching and a Muslim Festival: Religious Rituals, Violence, and Urban Space in mid-19th Century Belfast and early-20th Century Jerusalem

Mara Albrecht

Conflicts between different religious groups were a frequent occurrence in cities of the British Empire, particularly from the Victorian era to the interwar period. The imperial agents had a paternalist and orientalist perspective[1] on these episodes of communal violence and assessed them as uncivilized manifestations of religious fanaticism. They were well aware of the important role of religious rituals and especially processions as trigger for urban riots, which fixed them to religious prayer days and holidays in the urban calendar. Still, it was not possible for local authorities and imperial agents to impede the renewed use of violence. A main reason for this was one of the prime precepts of British imperial policies: to grant religious freedom to all religious groups. This policy was based on Britain’s ‘civilizing’ mission and liberalist worldview of that time and resulted from an imperial perspective on the (colonial) others as divided along religious lines.[2] This religious differentiation in the application of imperial policies contributed to rivalries, conflicts, and communal violence not only at the peripheries but also close to the center of the British Empire. It facilitated the politicization of religious identities and furthered the formation of nationalist movements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While conflicts occurred in nearly all parts of the empire, from the West Indies to India and from South Africa to Ireland, I will focus here on two cities that were of particular importance for the government in London as well as the British public and proved especially hard to be kept peaceful: Belfast and Jerusalem.

Belfast was a Protestant stronghold in Ireland with its Catholic majority. It was founded in 1613 in the context of the Ulster Plantation, the organized colonization of the Northern part of Ireland by Scottish and English settlers.[3] In the 19th century, Belfast grew into the largest city of Ireland and became one of the most important centers for industrialized production in the United Kingdom, especially contributing to the rise of the British Empire as global naval power with its port, ship wharfs, linen mills and ropemakers.[4] Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom since the Acts of Union of 1800, so it was of utmost importance for the British government to keep the peace there, though this proved difficult, particularly in the cities of the North. Urban riots and smaller outbreaks of communal violence between the Protestant majority and the Catholic minority took place in Belfast regularly from 1813 onwards, often in the context of annual parades and other public displays of partisan strength by both religious groups.[5]

Of particular relevance up until the present day is the parade by the Orange Order on July 12, when the Protestants remember the victory of William III. of Orange over Catholic King James II. at the Battle of the Boyne in 1691. This actually was a new holiday then, superseding the celebrations of William’s birthday on November 4. It became of importance in the 1790s in the context of Catholic emancipation and the formation of the Orange Order, when mostly members of the lower classes reveled in the remembrance of the humiliating defeat of the Catholics. Soon, it became a contentious festival that started smaller and larger episodes of violence in Belfast.[6] During the larger riots in 1857, 1864, 1872, 1886, and 1920-22, other religious and political rituals were also decisive for triggering new violence or intensifying conflicts, among them open-air preaching events, funeral processions[7], Sunday school children’s excursions, or the burning of effigies. All these rituals were closely connected to and intertwined with the urban space of Belfast and included spatial practices that were provocative towards the other religious community.

For this blog entry, I will highlight the significance of the religious and spatial practice of open-air preaching for the riots of 1857. Prayer services in public places by the Protestant churches became a common occurrence in the wake of the growing influence of evangelicalism in mid-19th century Belfast. While this trend started with Methodist ministers, the Presbyterian and later the Anglican Church took up this practice to reach the ‘unchurched’, especially among the working-class.[8] In 1857, the Orange parade on July 12 initiated a week of violent rioting that was limited to the Protestant Sandy Row and Catholic Pound working-class areas in West Belfast. The report of the commissioners investigating the riots states that “[…] these riots were confined exclusively to two districts separated from the rest of the town ordinarily visited by strangers, and from the parts where the principal shops are, and where the business of the town is carried on; and that it is quite possible that a considerable portion of the inhabitants of Belfast knew very little of the state of things actually existing in their own town.”[9] However, an initiative by the Anglican Church of Ireland had also planned a series of open-air sermons during this week of violence, which was supposed to take place in the city center and most certainly would have led to further outrage. In the following report by a royal commission of inquiry on the riots, the commissioners wrote:

In Belfast, for many years, open-air preaching has been practised by the Presbyterian clergy and Wesleyan Methodists. This practice hitherto was never regarded as a matter of offence by any party; and it is to be regretted, as a most unfortunate occurrence connected with the late proceedings, that the practice of open-air preaching became almost necessarily in the public mind connected with the celebration of the last 12th of July festival, and as a new means for its further celebration. […] This year, for the first time, a new and unusual step was taken by the clergy of the Established Church. During the riots in July, and while the parties were in actual conflict—that is to say, on the 17th of July—public advertisements were circulated and posted on the walls of Belfast, announcing that a series of open-air sermons were to be preached at the Custom-house, situate at one of the greatest thoroughfares in Belfast, on each succeeding Sunday; and the first clergyman named as preacher was the Rev. Mr. M’Ilwaine […] well known in Belfast as controversial preacher, who has been in the habit of distributing placards of his controversial discourses, in language not unnaturally considered offensive by the Roman Catholic people, for whose sake they were stated to be delivered, and to which they were invited to attend by placards worded in not very complimentary terms.[10]

Aware of the effect street-preaching with its “anti-Popery” sermons could have in triggering unrest in Belfast, the local magistrates requested a temporary ban of the practice.[11] The ministers of the Church of Ireland, among them Rev. McIlwaine, accepted this measure and postponed their series of open-air sermons.[12] The Presbyterian minister Rev. Hugh Hanna, though, insisted on his right to proceed with open-air preaching, and held a sermon on the afternoon of Sunday, September 6. On the day before, placards titled “Down with Open-Air Preaching ” were hung at the walls in Belfast by unknown persons, addressed to the “Catholics of Belfast, Down, and Antrim”, stating “[…] that our religion is again to be assailed, our public walks obstructed by that low and ruffianly system of Ranterism, which has lately been got by our Evangelical neighbours, for the sole purpose of giving annoyance to their Catholic neighbours. It is now quite manifest to all rational minds that this outrage will be persevered in for the sole purpose of creating a quarrel, and, perhaps, for the purpose of shedding Catholic blood.”[13]

Portrait of Reverend Hugh Hanna (1824–1890). For copyright details, see here.

Instead of taking over the vacated space of the Anglican ministers at Custom House, Rev. Hanna, decided to preach next to the Harbour Office, a small distance away from the Custom House.[14] Although this location was not situated directly next to the main street in the city center at Donegall Quay, where Belfast’s citizens of all confessions and all classes used to walk on Sundays, it was still very close to it and led to “the most disgraceful riots that occurred in Belfast, and one of the most alarming in its extent over the whole town”. Besides an attendance of about 1500-2000 Protestant worshippers[15], a group of about 300 men connected to the Orange Order, called the “ship-carpenters”, attended as “protective body against outrage to the preacher” and were armed with “thick and sharp-edged staves, used in building vessels”.[16] The Ulsterman, a Belfast newspaper representing the Catholic population’s view, published an article on the next day, titled “Street-Preaching—More Riot and Bloodshed”. It described the open-air sermon as “beastly and disgusting sight” and Rev. Hanna as “howling ranter on a platform” with his worshippers as “howling mob of discordant elements below”. The aggressors were identified as the ship-carpenters, who supposedly attacked the Catholic bystanders that were “unarmed and unprepared for assault”. They picked up pieces of brick, allegedly purely in defense, and “a fierce battle began”.[17] The police finally could separate the two groups, but the rioting continued in other streets of Belfast and in the evening returned to the usual battlegrounds in the Pound and Sandy Row working-class districts.

Rev. Hanna planned to give another open-air sermon the following Sunday directly at the Custom House, which the commissioners described as “the great thoroughfare of all the classes in Belfast” and “the most public place in Belfast, the habitual walk of all the working classes on Sunday, and the hour selected was the hour at which most certainly the greatest number would be assembled”.[18] Although in the end the authorities prevented the event to take place, it was announced by Rev. Hanna in two open letters in inflammatory language, stirring up the Protestant population:

Men and Bretheren,–Your blood-bought and cherished “RIGHTS” [sic] have been imperilled by the audacious and savage outrages of a Romish mob. […] But you were not to be either bullied or cajoled out of your rights. They are not to be surrendered, and they will be strenuously maintained. That, you have unmistakably shown on the past Sabbath. Then you arose calm but powerful, as the thunder reposing in the cloud. You firmly, temperately, and triumphantly asserted your rights. You were assailed—savagely assailed. […] You saw your strength there. You encouraged each other, and when you saw yourselves you wondered at your strength. Many a heart then thanked God and “took courage.” [sic] You saw that, aided by the Divinity, it was impossible to wrest from you your cherished rights.[19]

One could ask here whether Rev. Hanna is really only talking about the right of holding open-air preaching events, or whether he refers to the broader rights of the Protestant population in Ulster and in Ireland as a whole. In the context of slow reform, the partial abolishment of the Penal Laws and Catholic emancipation, the Protestants feared for their supremacy in Ireland, in which they only constituted a minority. Even in Belfast with its Protestant majority, the Catholic population was growing as a consequence of the Great Famine and Belfast’s rise as industrial center with job opportunities for unskilled workers. The Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland was questioned and there was a rising fear of possible vengeance and ultimately annihilation of the Protestant population. I argue here that the religious practice of open-air preaching was utilized by Rev. Hugh Hanna for a larger aim, that is to publicly affirm the position of the Protestant community in Belfast and perhaps in all of Ireland and to mobilize the masses, particularly the parts of the population ready to use violence. By humiliating the Catholics in his sermons and letters and by assembling large numbers of Protestants ready to engage in violence with the Catholics, he stylized the Protestant community of Belfast as ready to defend their position and defy Catholic aspirations for equal rights as citizens. Thus, he transformed a religious ritual into a political message with a strong possibility for again turning it into extreme violence and further inciting the already strained relations between both groups in the city.

Moreover, with respect to the urban space of Belfast, Rev. Hanna’s decision to preach at the Custom House is significant in several aspects: Firstly, place and time were chosen with the aim to reach a large audience of Belfast’s citizens from all social and confessional backgrounds. Secondly, although the place consisted of an open space, the available area was limited and with the high number of worshippers and onlookers assumed to be attending, it would have become very crowded and not easy to pass through.[20] Thirdly, as the violence was usually concentrated in the working-class areas of the city, the decision to use this central location in the city center for a contentious ritual performance was a way of transferring the battleground to the best parts of the town. Hence, it can be assumed that the location was deliberately chosen for maximum publicity and to further Rev. Hanna’s aim to guide the public eye – not only of Belfast but of the whole of the United Kingdom – towards this purported assertion of Protestant rights in Ireland. This he managed quite successfully through newspaper coverage and the evidence he gave before the royal commission of inquiry. While the report of the commission conclusively agreed with the Catholic and Liberal interpretation of events,[21] it gave Rev. Hanna the opportunity to present his opinion to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and ultimately both Houses of the British Parliament. In Belfast, the Reverend was catapulted from his formerly minor position to prominence among the conservative Protestants[22] and continued to play a significant role in further conflicts between the communities. Eventually he became a symbol for Belfast’s Protestants, who erected a statue for him shortly after his death, which remained so controversial that it became the target for a Provisional IRA bomb in 1970.[23]

Jerusalem as a city was of no particular political or economic significance in the Ottoman Empire until the mid-19th century. Its relevance as a “holy city” for the three large monotheistic world religions, though, cannot be underestimated and initiated successive and simultaneous waves of sacralization of urban space by the different religious groups throughout its history. Jerusalem also held a very important position in the minds of the British public in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In that period, the city had great appeal for Europeans and Americans, who undertook organized pilgrimages and travels to the “Holy Land”. Jerusalem was strongly associated with the awaited Second Coming of Christ for different Christian Churches and particularly messianic groups, for which the gathering of the Jews in the land of Israel was a main prerequisite.[24] In the United Kingdom, the evangelical Anglican movement of the Restoration of the Jews to Palestine exerted significant influence in government and society and, as Anita Shapira suggests, the notion was even accepted by Jewish circles, influencing the further development of Zionism.[25] Ultimately, the basic idea of the return of the Jewish people to Palestine was taken up by a larger public in Great Britain and provided the basis for British support of Zionism in the early 20th century.[26]

Map of Jerusalem (1917). Click on the image to enlarge it; see here for copright details.

By then, Jerusalem had grown into a large city, extending far beyond the walled Old City, with mixed and exclusively Jewish quarters in the New City as a result of Zionist immigration, but also population growth of native Palestinian Arabs.[27] The British gained military control of Palestine after World War I and established a military administration. In 1920, they prepared for the official establishment of the Palestine Mandate by the League of Nations, which they held until 1948. Based on the promise they made in the Balfour Declaration (1917), the British facilitated Zionist immigration to Palestine but also (unsuccessfully) tried to uphold the status quo between the religious communities and integrate the Palestinian Arabs into their reorganization of the country. From the beginning, the British regarded the communities only in religious terms, ignoring all other identities and bonds,[28] thereby reducing the very heterogenous groups to “Jews” and “Arabs” (mostly equaling “Muslims” and ignoring that Christian Palestinians also had a significant impact on Arab nationalism and mobilization). The early stage of the British Mandate of Palestine in the 1920s was characterized by communal conflict between immigrating Zionists and native Palestinian Arabs as well as criticism of British policies. In this phase, religious rituals had a significant role in triggering violence, e.g. processions, celebrations of holidays, prayer services held in contested spaces, or the erection of new religious places of worship to increase the range of religious soundscapes and disturb the rituals of the other community. This culminated in smaller violent events and larger riots in 1920, 1921, 1928 and 1929. Gradually, rivalling forms of nationalism became increasingly important for the groups and were merged with religious elements. The conflict could increasingly be read in terms of national identities and contestation over who belonged to the country. It also gained a strong anticolonial character and was progressively directed against the British as can be seen in the riots of 1933, the Arab revolt of 1936-1939 and the Jewish insurgency of 1944-1948.

In this blog post, I will concentrate on the religious procession of the Muslim Nabi Musa festival that initiated the riots of 1920. The Nabi Musa (Prophet Moses) festival has a long tradition in Palestine. According to legend, it was introduced by Sultan Saladin at the end of the 12th century to counterbalance the Christian and Jewish pilgrimages to Jerusalem during the Orthodox Easter and the Jewish Passover, which is supported by the fact that it is not fixed to the Islamic but the Greek Orthodox calendar.[29] The shrine of Nabi Musa, at the place of the supposed tomb of the prophet seven kilometers southeast of Jericho, was founded by the Egyptian Mamluk Sultan Rukn al-Din al-Zahir Baybars in 1269. Therefore, it might be reasonably assumed that the origin of ritual activities and the ziyara (ritual pilgrimage) lies in this time. As Halabi has pointed out, the ziyara to the shrine underwent a significant transformation in the second half of the 19th century and became a weeklong mawsim (festival), centered on Jerusalem. This must be seen in a wider context of Ottoman modernization and changing power hierarchies that were manifested in this new form of the traditional festival.[30]

Nabi Musa Procession April 1920. See here for copyright details.

In 1920, the festival was taking place in a charged political atmosphere. Arab nationalist agitation in Palestine was at a peak as Palestinian Arabs were mobilized by the Muslim-Christian Association and strongly criticized the decision for a British Mandate, British support of Zionism, and the proposal to appoint the British Jew Herbert Samuel as High Commissioner of Palestine. There was a strong feeling of deception and disappointment towards the British government[31] after the diverging interpretations of the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence (1915/16) concerning Arab independence and especially the publication of the Balfour Declaration. There was wide support for the incorporation of Palestine into an independent Arab state under the rule of King Faisal. Large political demonstrations were held in February and March in different cities in Palestine, two of them in Jerusalem. The report by the British commission to investigate the causes of the riots in Jerusalem later stated that during the second demonstration on March 8, 1920, the day when Faisal was declared king of an independent Syria and Palestine by the Syrian National Congress, the demonstrators were in a “decidedly nasty” mood and that “speeches were of a violently political character and there was a good deal of shouting against the Jews”.[32]

The Nabi Musa festival was anticipated to attract a large number of Muslim pilgrims from the surrounding villages to Jerusalem. Also, the Jewish Passover (April 2-10) and the Christian Catholic and Orthodox Easter (April 4/April 11) were celebrated with large numbers of participants that year. The Muslim pilgrims assembled the Friday before Easter in Jerusalem, and the report of the commissioners describes the usual proceedings of the mawsim:

The feature of the pilgrimage is the assembling of pilgrims, bearing their local banners from the surrounding villages at Jerusalem. […] The proceedings start with a reception by the Military Governor of the Sheikhs of the Haram el Sherif with their flags; a procession is formed and proceeds to the house named Dar el Kebireh in the city, where the flag of Nebi Musa is kept. The flag is taken out, the procession proceeds to the Haram el Sherif where prayers are said and at the close of the service the procession proceeds through the city debouching by St. Stephen’s Gate. At the bifurcation of the Jerusalem – Jericho, Jerusalem Abu Dis roads, a tent is erected, where the Administration officials, notables and guests await the procession. After the ceremony a portion of the pilgrims proceeds to the tomb of Nebi Musa, which is midway between Tilaat el Demin and the Dead Sea; the rest camp or return to their villages if near by, or to Jerusalem. No ceremony is performed on Saturday, but on Saturday and Sunday the main body of the Hebron pilgrims comes along; they are late owing to the distance they have to come. Monday is the big day at the tomb of Nebi Musa itself and all the pilgrims reach the tomb that day. The pilgrims return on Thursday.[33]

The first part of the festival went without incident. When the last group of pilgrims arrived on the morning of Easter Sunday, April 4, 1920, all pilgrims gathered and were received by a large number of urban notables, Muslim sheikhs and citizens of Jerusalem.[34] The following procession to the Haram al-Sharif, numbering about 60.000-70.000 participants,[35] did not follow its usual route down the Jaffa road, then east along the city walls and through the Damascus Gate into the old city and from there through predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Instead, the participants followed Jaffa Road further down and stopped at Jaffa Gate, the municipality building at Jaffa Road, and the Arab Nationalist an-Nadi al-Arabi Club. Here they heard inciting political speeches by prominent advocates of Arab nationalism, among them the mayor Musa al-Husayni, a young Amin al-Husseini (who later became Grand Mufti) and Sheikh Arif al-Arif, a journalist and newspaper editor.[36] The commissioners describe this as an innovation of practice only introduced recently:

It is said that the practice of delaying the procession to hear speeches came in for the first time last year. Prior to that the ceremony was purely religious as were the songs of the pilgrims. On this occasion, however, the speeches were of a flagrantly political character, culminating in the exhibition of the portrait of Emir Feisal, who was greeted as “King of Syria and Palestine”. The portrait was later carried in the procession with the flags. The crowd at this point was gradually worked up into a highly inflammatory condition and it seems extremely probable that there were agents provocateurs intermingled with them here awaiting their opportunity.[37]

The commissioners, Palestinian Arab newspapers as well as Israeli historians point to evidence that there were also provocative elements among young Zionist spectators, who shouted insults, threw stones and in one case spat on a religious banner.[38] These were probably members of a group of young Zionist volunteers, trained and armed by Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who had them drilling publicly in Jerusalem for the past weeks.[39] The main fault, however, lay with the British authorities, who dispatched far too few policemen to accompany the procession and turned the crowd towards Jaffa Gate into the Old City instead of forcing them back around the city walls to Damascus Gate. When half of the procession was already through, several smaller incidents with Jewish onlookers led to scuffles. The situation soon escalated further, also involving the crowd already within the Old City. Several Jewish residents retaliated by firing on the rioters from the roofs of houses. In the course of the riots, fire was laid to a Jewish yeshiva and two synagogues.[40] Although the British military administration imposed a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am, completely closed up all passages to and from the Old City and finally declared martial law,[41] the British police and military needed until April 7 to restore calm. About 250 people, many of them Jewish residents of the Old City, were wounded and five Jews and four Arabs were killed.[42]

The decision to change the route of the procession is significant not only as it is a deviation from the established ritual practice, but it also brought the participants directly to the secular centre of the city, with the municipality building and the clock tower as symbol of Ottoman modernity. I argue that the spatial configuration of the city was used to transform the festival from a purely religious ceremony into a political demonstration. Correspondingly, the temporal practice to delay the procession for political speeches with an Arab nationalist character shifted the religious ritual into the political sphere. The gathering of tens of thousands of pilgrims was utilized for nationalist agitation, anti-British and anti-Zionist mobilization. The following decision by the police to let the pilgrims enter the Old City through the Jaffa Gate was obviously a severe error in judgement, many representatives of the Yishuv claimed it had been by design.[43] In any case, this change of the ritual procession’s route facilitated the assaults on Jewish areas in the Old City, an invasion of residential space regarded as safe by its inhabitants. The attacks on the yeshiva and the synagogues can be interpreted as symbolic acts of disregard and contempt for the Jews as a community, not only the political aims of the Zionists, and serves the purpose to symbolically hurt the “other”.

In both cases I discussed in this blog entry, we can see how a religious ritual, practised before without any discord or conflict, was transformed into a highly politicized event, mobilizing the masses, and inciting them to violence. It is obvious that both incidents were organized and performed to generate a large local and even international audience for the cause that was promoted by the responsible actors. In both cases, the organizers of the events are groups that fear their position diminished by newcomers to the city. Interestingly, in the case of Belfast it is the Protestant settlers that make up the majority in the city but the minority in Ireland as a whole, and who feel their supremacy dwindling in the wake of more liberal British policies which start granting the Catholics more rights. In the case of Jerusalem, however, we have at that point in time already a noticeable Jewish majority in the city – especially the New City where the immigrants of the first three Zionist Aliyot[44] settled.[45]

I argue that in Belfast as well as in Jerusalem, the politization of religion through British policies of rule created the basis for the conflict between the communities, indirectly encouraging the actors to politicize religion and ultimately utilize religious rituals for political means. The rituals constituted a political message as well in the way the participants made use of the urban space. In contrast to previous performances of the ritual practice, the actors now symbolically appropriated central space to publicize their grievances and to confront the “others” with a provocative demonstration of numbers, dominance, and bellicosity in the most public spaces of the respective cities. The actors did not only use physical violence but also caused symbolical injuries by invading residential spaces of the other group and, in the case of Jerusalem, attacked sacralized spaces. Therefore, the riots in themselves can be seen as violent performances and rituals of displaying political and territorial domination by symbolically asserting control over the urban space.

Mara Albrecht is Research Associate for History of West Asia at the Department of History, University of Erfurt, Germany. She was Deputy Director of the Orient-Institut Beirut, Lebanon from 2019 to 2020 and a fellow of the KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” in the winter semester 2021/2022.

[1] Cf. Said, Edward: Orientalism, London/New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1995 (1978). As a form of stereotyping and prejudiced othering, it was also applied to the Irish, who were regarded as irrational, boisterous, savage, and prone to violence.

[2] Cf. Doyle, Mark: Communal Violence in the British Empire: Disturbing the Pax, London: Bloomsbury, 2016, pp. 2-4; 37-38.

[3] Cf. Bardon, Jonathon: The Plantation of Ulster, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2011.

[4] Cf. Royle, Stephen A.: Workshop of the Empire, 1820-1914, in: S. J. Connolly (ed.), Belfast 400: People, Place and History, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012, pp.199-236; Sweetnam, Robin: The Development of the Port, in: J. C. Beckett (ed.), Belfast: The Making of the City 1800-1914, Belfast: Appletree Press, 1983, pp. 57-70.

[5] Hepburn, A. C.: Contested Cities in the Modern West. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, pp. 164-165.

[6] Cf. Hill, Jacqueline R.: National Festivals, the State and ‘Protestant Ascendancy’ in Ireland, 1790-1829, in: Irish Historical Studies, 24(93), 1984, pp. 30-51, here p. 35-39.

[7] Elsewhere, I have analyzed two funeral processions and other ritual performances that were of great significance for the riots in Belfast 1886 and in Jerusalem in 1929. Cf. Albrecht, Mara: Ritual Performances and Collective Violence in Divided Cities – The Riots in Belfast (1886) and Jerusalem (1929), in: Political Geography 86 (2021).

[8] Cf. Holmes, Janice: The Role of Open-Air Preaching in the Belfast Riots of 1857, in: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 102X(3), 2002, pp. 47-66, here pp. 53-59.

[9] Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the Origin and Character of the Riots in Belfast in July and September, 1857; together with Minutes of Evidence and Appendix; P.P. 1857-58 [2309] xxvi, p. 8.

[10] Ibid., p. 11.

[11] Cf. National Archive of Ireland (NAI), CSORP/1857/6165, 1857.

[12] Cf. Report, Belfast 1857, p. 12; for further information on the Protestant ministers see Budge, Ian/O’Leary, Cornelius: Belfast: Approach to Crisis. A Study of Belfast Politics, 1613-1970, London/Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1973, pp. 78-80.

[13] Placard Posted on the 5th of September, in: Report, Belfast 1857, Appendix, No. 5, pp. 253-254.

[14] Cf. Report, Belfast 1857, Minutes of Evidence, Rev. Hugh Hanna, p. 166, l. 7870-7874.

[15] Report, Belfast 1857, Minutes of Evidence, Rev. Hugh Hanna, p. 167, l. 7888.

[16] Report, Belfast 1857, p. 12.

[17] The Ulsterman, 7 September 1857, p. 1.

[18] Report, Belfast 1857, p. 13.

[19] Rev. Hugh Hanna’s First Letter. To the Protestants of Belfast, in: Report, Belfast 1857, Appendix No. 3, pp. 252-253.

[20] The Reverend explicitly told his followers to leave a path open and suggested to “[c]all that clearance the “Pope’s pad”, clearly intended as a humiliation for the Catholic population. Ibid., p. 253.

[21] Cf. Morris, R.J.: Reading the Riot Commission: Belfast, 1857, in: Irish Historical Studies, 43 (164), 2019, pp. 194-219.

[22] Cf. Holmes, Role of Open-Air Preaching, p. 59.

[23] Cf. [2022-07-07].

[24] Cf. Schölch, Alexander: Europa und Palästina 1838-1917, in: Helmut Mejcher (ed.), Die Palästina-Frage 1917-1948. Historische Ursprünge und Dimensionen eines Nationenkonflikts, Paderborn 1993, pp. 13-48.

[25] Cf. Shapira, Anita: Israel: A History, Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2012, p. 15.

[26] Cf. Kamel, Lorenzo: Imperial Perceptions of Palestine: British Influence and Power in Late Ottoman Times, London: Tauris, 2015, pp. 97-118.

[27] Cf. Barron, J.B.: Palestine. Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922, Jerusalem: Greek Convent Press, 1922, p. 15.

[28] Michelle Campos, Salim Tamari, and others have shown that many identity frames beyond the religious one played a significant role in late Ottoman Jerusalem, such as belonging to a social class, being an Ottoman citizen, sharing of a common Arab culture or the self-definition of being an urban, cosmopolite Jerusalemite. Cf. Campos, Michelle: Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in early Twentieth Century Palestine, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011, pp. 5-11; Tamari, Salim: Jerusalem’s Ottoman Modernity: The Times and Lives of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, in: Jerusalem Quarterly, 9, 2000, pp. 5-27, here pp. 23-24.

[29] Cf. The National Archive, London (TNA), WO 32/9614, Report of the Court of Enquiry into the Riots in Jerusalem during Last April, Jerusalem, 1920, p. 58.

[30] Cf. Halabi, Awad: The Transformation of the Prophet Moses Festival in Late Ottoman Jerusalem (1850-1917): From Traditional Pilgrimage to Civic Ritual, in: Journal of Ritual Studies, 32(2), 2018, pp. 1-15, here pp. 1-3.

[31] Cf. TNA, FO 371/5114, Report by Major-General Bols, Chief Political Officer and Chief Administrator O.E.T.A. South, Jerusalem, to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Office, London, 7 June 1920 (Document 6914; 15492-15520).

[32] TNA, WO 32/9614, Report, Jerusalem 1920, p. 56.

[33] TNA, WO 32/9614, Report, Jerusalem 1920, p. 58-59.

[34] Al-Quds al-Sharif, 13 April 1920, p. 2.

[35] Cf. Segev, Tom: One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate, London: Abacus, 2002, p. 128.

[36] Cf. Ibid., p. 128 and TNA, WO 32/9614, Report, Jerusalem 1920, p. 62.

[37] TNA, WO 32/9614, Report, Jerusalem 1920, p. 62.

[38] Cf. TNA, WO 32/9614, Report, Jerusalem 1920, p. 63; Al-Quds al-Sharif, 13 April 1920, p. 2; Segev, One Palestine, p. 128; Wallach, Yair: A City in Fragments: Urban Text in Modern Jerusalem, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2020, pp. 206-207.

[39] Cf. TNA, WO 32/9614, Report, Jerusalem 1920, p. 68-69. Jabotinsky, an author and journalist, was the co-founder of the Jewish Legion of the British Army in World War I and became a prominent Zionist leader, who developed the Revisionist Zionist thought that advocated the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state in the whole territory of Palestine and Transjordan.

[40] For a detailed description of the riots see TNA, WO 32/9614, Report, Jerusalem 1920, pp. 62-65; Segev, One Palestine, pp. 127-144; Meinertzhagen to Allenby, April 14, 1920, TNA, FO 371/85/3928; Bols to Allenby, April 14, 1920, TNA, FO 371/85/3928.

[41] Cf. Meraat al-Sharq, 14 April 1920, p. 2-3.

[42] Cf. Al-Quds al-Sharif, 13 April 1920, p. 3 (numbers according to announcement of British administration).

[43] Cf. TNA, WO 32/9614, Report, Jerusalem 1920, p. 62.

[44] Sg. Aliyah, Hebrew for “Ascent to Zion”, immigration waves to Palestine since the late 19th century.

[45] Cf. Barron, Census of 1922, p. 15: “Mohammedans” 13,413; “Jews” 33,971 (5,639 “Within the Walls”, 28,332 “Without the Walls”); “Christians” 14,699. There are no exact numbers for 1920.

Cite this blog post
urbrel (2022, August 3). Open-Air Preaching and a Muslim Festival: Religious Rituals, Violence, and Urban Space in mid-19th Century Belfast and early-20th Century Jerusalem. Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from

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