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The fires of Al Aqsa “still burning” 51 years later

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This week marks the launch of a global campaign initiated by the Mimbar Al Aqsa Forum to remember the anniversary of the Masjidul Aqsa arson attack. August 21st will mark the 51st anniversary of the 1969 arson attack on Masjid al-Aqsa, a turning point in Palestinian history.

The incident, which occurred just two years after Israel illegally occupied East Jerusalem, incurred significant damage to Masjid al-Aqsa and destroyed the historic minbar of Nur ad-Din Zangi, installed by Salah ad-Din Ayyubi after his liberation of al-Quds in 1187. It also gutted the mosque of Umar, the Mihrab of Zakariyya, the Maqam al-Arbain and three colonnades stretching from the south to the north inside the hall .

Rohan claimed upon his arrest that what he had been accused of was carried out because of a prophecy in the Book of Zechariah, and that he was acting as an envoy of God. The Israeli Occupation authorities had Rohan face trial with a large media contingent present. He was announced to be mentally unstable and hospitalised at a mental institution. He was later seen in the kibbutz he was residing at prior to his arrest, and eventually deported frin Israel in 1974. Following this incident, there were widespread Palestinian protests against the Occupation. There were also impassioned reactions in the Arab and Muslim world.

Though it absolved itself of blame for the incident, the fact that the Masjid was attacked under its watch, and the Occupation emergency services were notably delayed in their response raised questions about the veracity of the official version, and the involvement of the Occupation in the attack.

In the decades that have passed since then, Masjid al-Aqsa has been the subject of numerous attempts to damage or destroy it. The attacks have been abetted by official Israeli Occupation policies controlling access to the mosque, Judaizing Jerusalem and aiding settlers in their provocative intrusions into the Masjid.

Of late, the Israeli Temple lobby has gained unprecedented ascendancy and has become most brazen in its calls for imposing full Israeli sovereignty over the Masjid and altering its historical status quo as a Muslim-only place of worship.

In remembering this fateful event, as well as acknowledging the present dangers facing the Masjid and the wider Palestine, the South African chapter of the international Minbar al-Aqsa Association is spearheading a series of activities from August 18-22, 2020, to reassert the centrality of Masjid al-Aqsa and highlight its challenges.

Planned undertakings include social media campaigns, radio shows, webinars, a day of fasting and a national Friday Khutbah. Ulama, community leaders, journalists and the wider public are urged to participate in the planned activities, as well as utilise their respective platforms and circles of influence to amplify the message of this cause.

The campaign has been endorsed by the United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) and a host of other NGOs and solidarity organisations.


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