Officials in the Palestinian Islamic Movement have blasted recent declaration that Israeli security officials were pushing a bill that would outlaw the presence of Muslim guards that patrol the al-Aqsa mosque in occupied Al-Quds.
“It is the occupation that is illegal, and it is the occupation that needs to be removed from Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Zahi Nujeidat, a spokesman for the Islamic Movement, was quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“It looks like [Public Security Minister Yitzhak] Aharonovitch wants Al-Aqsa Mosque to be rid of all Muslims, and that will never happen.”
Palestinian officials’ anger followed announcement about Israel’s security authorities planned bill that would outlaw Muslim ‘guards’ at Al-Aqsa mosque.
The bill, made public by Haaretz on Wednesday, is being drafted on behalf of Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, the Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service, and has been introduced to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
The guards targeted by the bill are men and women stationed near the Al-Aqsa mosque, called “Mourabitoun” in Arabic; a term which is used to describe those who protect Muslim holy sites.
According to Haaretz, Israel’s security recently claimed that the guard is being partly funded by Gulf States, Islamist parties, and extremist groups in Israel.
“The smartest thing to do is to show how we’re stopping the funding. We recently seized roughly a million shekels. We felt a drastic change on the “Temple Mount” in a matter of days, the numbers [of demonstrators] went down,” Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said, using the name Jews use to describe the compound.
“I think it’s an effective way to deal with this phenomenon,” he added during a Nov.2 meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee.
Should the bill pass, it will criminalize the guards’ presence in the al-Aqsa compound, where according to one NGO, they repeatedly stopped attempts by extremist settlers to enter the mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
Freedom of Worship
The new bill has been blasted by many Palestinian officials, who condemned it as constituting a flagrant violation of freedom of worship.
“We’re talking about Muslims who fulfill the commandment to pray and learn, and any harm done to them is harm done to freedom of worship and the right to pray,” Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, the Palestinian director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Radio Al-Shams in Nazareth, Haaretz reported.
“It’s impossible to accept this logic, by which Israel will determine which Muslims will enter and which Muslims will stay outside.
“We, as people of the Waqf who hold positions in the mosque compound do not differentiate between Muslims, and it does not interest us how they arrive, because for us it is a basic right to visit the holy place and pray. Israel as the occupying power has no right to prevent Muslims from entering the compound,” he added.
Similar condemnations were echoed by an official from the Jordanian Islamic Endowment Authority, which administers Jerusalem’s holy sites.
There was “no such thing as a Mourabitoun organization” at Al-Aqsa, the official, requesting anonymity, told The Anadolu Agency.
“Netanyahu must be referring to normal Muslim worshippers who spend time at the mosque to pray and read Quran,” he added.
Ekrema Sabri, head of the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem, a local NGO, slammed Netanyahu’s assertions.
“Netanyahu does not know that defending Al-Aqsa is in itself a form of worship,” Sabri said at a Friday prayer sermon inside the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Tension has run high in the holy city of Al-Quds over the past weeks, when Israeli authorities closed Al-Aqsa mosque compound after Glick’s shooting before reopening it a day later.
The unrest mounted further after Israeli forces killed a young Palestinian man suspected of shooting the rabbi in a raid last week on his East Jerusalem home.
Several Israeli parliamentarians have also entered the mosque complex in recent days, drawing the ire of Muslim worshippers and official condemnation from Arab and Muslim countries.
Groups of Jewish settlers, too, have forced their way into the site, prompting clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli forces.
The Palestinian foreign minister warned that the latest developments made the Arab and Muslim intervention necessary to protect Al-Quds holy sites.
Al-Aqsa is the Muslims’ first Qiblah [direction Muslims take during prayers] and it is the third holiest shrine after Al Ka`bah in Makkah and Prophet Muhammad’s Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
Its significance has been reinforced by the Islamic incident of Al Isra’a and Al Mi’raj — the night journey from Makkah to Al-Quds and the ascent to the Heavens by Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him). ONISLAM