Masjid al Aqsa is the first Qibla of the Muslims and the third holiest site in Islam. Referred to as Al-Haram al-Sharif (the noble Sanctuary), the compound houses the Aqsa Mosque (aka Qibli Mosque), the Dome of the Rock, and several madrassas and zawiyyahs. Allah says in the noble Qur’an that He has blessed its environs (15:01).
Its sanctity for Muslims is, therefore, well established. Its protection is the collective responsibility of all two billion Muslims wherever they may reside, not just the Palestinians living around the noble sanctuary. The Palestinians have carried a much greater burden of defending it from Zionist extremists that regularly violate the sacred space, in contravention of rabbinical proclamation.
The latest act of sacrilege occurred on May 22 when scores of Jewish extremists accompanied by Israeli police stormed the Aqsa Compound. As a prelude to this latest violation, Muslim worshippers under the age of 45 were prohibited from entering Masjid al Aqsa for Fajr (early morning) prayer. It is not difficult to understand why the Zionist occupiers took this step.
Palestinian youth and able-bodied men can and will resist, even with bare hands, such illegal encroachments. This was evident during this past Ramadan. Hundreds of Palestinians, among them women and children, were injured in firing by the occupation forces while they desperately tried to defend the noble sanctuary.
The question that Muslims, particularly Muslim governments must ask themselves is, will they fulfill their role in defending Masjid al Aqsa? The threat to the noble sanctuary is real. Allah forbid, if it is destroyed, what would they do; shed tears?
Let us consider the reaction of Muslim governments to the most recent Israeli attacks on Masjid al Aqsa including the police barging inside the Masjid, trampling on prayer rugs polluting them with their filthy boots, firing tear gas and stun grenades as well as shooting worshippers with rubber-coated steel bullets blinding several and injuring hundreds.
The largest Muslim body is the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Established in the aftermath of an arson attack on Masjid al Aqsa in August 1969, it has 57 Muslim countries as members. As Israeli bombardment of besieged Gaza Strip was in full swing, the OIC on May 15 called for an immediate halt to what it described as Israel’s barbaric attacks. It blamed “systematic crimes” against the Palestinians.
The OIC statement was issued after a virtual meeting was opened by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. It urged the ‘global community’ to end the escalation in violence and ‘revive peace negotiations based on a two-state solution’. The appeal to global community and a two-state solution will be addressed shortly but first let us consider what other OIC members said or did.
Aware that the UN Security Council is dominated by the US and any attempt to censure Israel is vetoed by Washington, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei issued a separate statement. Tweeted by Malaysia’s prime minister, it called for an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly where no member state can exercise a veto.
An interesting proposal came from Turkey. Turkish foreign ministry sources said Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for an international protection mechanism for Palestinian civilians and told the OIC that Israel should be held accountable for war crimes and that the International Criminal Court could play a role. In a commentary on May 10, Crescent International had called for a peacekeeping force from Muslim countries that would include Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and several others, to protect Masjid al Aqsa as well as the Palestinians.
The Turkish proposal is welcome but it needs practical steps. Turkey must take other measures to show its sincerity. To start with, Ankara must recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv. It was distressing to see the Turkish envoy having iftar parties with the Zionists while the latter were busy killing Palestinians. Second, Turkey must end trade relations with Israel and stop Israeli tourists from visiting the country. President Recep Tayip Erdogan wants to revive the Ottoman Sultanate but he must remember that the last Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, had categorically rejected selling any land in Palestine to the Zionists even if he were offered all the gold in the world.
The Saudi appeal to the ‘global community’ to help end the violence and ‘serious peace negotiations for a two-state solution’ are non-starters. There is no such animal called the ‘global’ or ‘international’ community. What this means is the US and its Nato allies. Are the Saudis unaware that the Western regimes they are appealing to for help are the ones that finance, arm and enable the Zionist regime in Occupied Palestine to continue its brutal policies? Besides, the Saudis maintain close ties with the Zionists behind the scenes while their allies—Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan—have established relations with and are normalizing links with Israel.
The only Muslim country that has offered tangible help and support to the Palestinians is the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was publicly acknowledged by leaders of Islamic resistance movements in Palestine (see here and here). The Arabian regimes have indulged in their customary rhetoric in public while privately continued to expand relations with the occupying Zionist regime.
Their hypocrisy and cowardice have no bounds.