At 9:00 in morning, on August 21, 1969, Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian citizen, set fire to the pulpit of the Al-Aqsa Masjid, in Jerusalem. Considered by many as an attack against Islam, this event continues to be remembered as part of the greater Zionist occupation of Palestinian land.
Rohan, a Christian, stated that he considered himself “the Lord’s emissary” and that his attempt to destroy al-Aqsa was upon divine instructions to enable the Jews of Israel to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount in accordance with the Book of Zechariah, thereby hastening the second coming of Jesus Christ.
In commemoration of 47th anniversary of the event, VOC spoke to renowned Palestinian activist and the former president of the Muslim Judicial Council, Moulana Ihsaan Hendricks.
Describing the event as a “very painful experience”, Hendricks explains that it had impacted not only Palestinians, but the international Muslim community.
He asserts that the attacks falls within the category of a terrorist attack and that Rohan’s deliberate placement of the bomb on the mimbar, was a direct attack on the sovereignty of al-Aqsa.
Rohan was arrested for the arson attack on August 23, 1969. After the trial proceedings concluded, he was found to be insane and hospitalized in a mental institution. Rohan was then deported from Israel on May 14, 1974, “on humanitarian grounds, for further psychiatric treatment near his family.” He was subsequently transferred to the Callan Park Hospital in Australia. In 1995, Rohan was reported to have died under psychiatric care.
In light of the finding in Rohan’s trial, Hendricks says that Zionist authorities commonly make an individual labelling of “insanity” when a non-Muslim commits acts of terrorism, while Muslims are given a blanket identity of “terrorists.”
“They will find some reason to qualify the actions of the guilty party, and in this particular instance, they attributed mental insanity to Michael Rohan. This seems to be a common reference,” Hendricks stated.
He says that while the burning of Al-Aqsa may appear to be persecuted by an individual it was, however, committed as part of “a greater authority.”
He further notes that Zionist institutions, such as the Knesset, are responsible for the directives around the Al-Aqsa compound.
“The events of August 21, 1969, were an incident that was not isolated to a particular individual, but it was part of an agenda of Zionist occupation from even prior to 1969, something we see continuously being played out in the occupied territories.”
Hendricks says Zionist rhetoric was exposed when they had initially attributed the blaze to an electric fault, only to have the actual source of the blaze exposed as an arson attack.
He adds that while the blaze was being contained, Zionist authorities cut the water supply to the compound, contributing to further destruction of the Masjid.
“What came to the rescue of the Masjid were the traditional wells that captures the water during the rain season, and that particular water facility was used to ensure that the blazing fire was to be dealt with by the Palestinian people,” he said.
Given the unfolding events, Hendricks asserts that Zionist authorities new well in advance what would transpire and, therefore, worked to ensure the destruction of the Masjid.
“This is not accidental, it not isolated, it is not an individual mentally disturbed person, but it is part of the greater agenda of Zionist occupation to ensure that Masjid Al-Aqsa remains the target.”
Given the growing surge of violence in the region, Hendricks urges the South African community to continue supporting the liberation of Palestine.
“It cannot move below the radar in the international community, so we must continue to contribute and ensure that the Palestinian people will enjoy freedom, liberation, and that the Zionist occupation will come to an end, inshallah,” Hendricks added.
He says that the actions perpetrated by Zionist forces is not adequately subjected to criticism internationally, further stating that South Africa needs to lead the freedom struggle for Palestinian liberation. While the actions of Zionist forces is considered internationally to violate international humanitarian law, Hendricks says that compromises with Zionist authorities, even by South African counter parts, create the impression that the situation is “normal.”
“We have to keep in mind June 6, 1967, on which the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai – which was eventually returned to Egypt – and the occupation of the Golan Heights occurred.”
He says that this event led to the loss of the remaining 22 per cent of the Palestinian land, which had in 1948 been reduced by 78 per cent. While a large percentage of Palestinians are Muslim, Hendricks urges individuals to keep in mind the fact that Palestinians are inclusive of Christians, who too have faced the brutality of Zionism.
“It is not only Masjid Al-Aqsa that suffers the occupation, but the church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre suffers under the occupation.”
While Palestinians have endured the suffering of occupation, Hendricks notes that at the core of occupation lays Masjid Al-Aqsa, which he says has been documented to have been attacked at least 650, from 1967 to the present.
“Many of our people that spent I’tikaaf must testify about what they have witness. But, we encourage the Muslim community to continue travelling to Masjid al-Aqsa, because what we have been taught as Muslims, according to the sunnah of Nabi (may peace be upon him), is Shad al-Rihaal, the travel to the three masjids.”
In keeping the memory of the valour of Salahuddin Ayubi alive, the Al-Quds foundation has obtained a piece of the mimbar and the carpet of Musjid Al-Aqsa that was destroyed in the 1969 fire.
Anyone who wishes to view the relics, may contact the Al-Quds Foundation on 011- 211 2529. VOC