The Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, along with two Arab members in the Israeli parliament, have called upon the Arab and Muslim community to stand up to the dangers threatening the holy al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam.
The al-Aqsa Mosque, constructed in 674 CE on the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed stood as he ascended into heaven in 621 BC has come under increased threats in recent weeks as hostilities flare in the region, with extreme Jewish groups making threats to take over the Muslim holy site and destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque to replace it with a synagogue. Such an attack on the Muslim holy site would enrage Muslims throughout the world, who flock to the mosque as a site of pilgrimage.
The Israeli government has been supportive of the extreme Jewish groups, most recently by closing the Al-Magharba gate into the Mosque, by increasing military presence (Israeli forces completely control entry to the Mosque), and by allowing ‘archaeological’ digs underneath the mosque that threaten to undermine the foundations, thus causing the mosque to fall.
The Mosque is currently facing several immediate dangers: the destruction of parts of the Western wall by Israeli government-supported developers, thus destroying important parts of Islamic history, the closing of Al-Magharba gate and threats issued by extremist Jewish groups to assault the holy Aqsa Mosque on the anniversary of the destruction of their alleged temple.
Jewish religious extremists have previously attempted to blow up the mosque – three Jewish terrorists were apprehended by Palestinian guards in 1990 with a ‘backpack bomb’ that they had smuggled into the Mosque in order to blow it up. The current intifada (Arabic for ‘shaking-off’ – the current open conflict that has lasted six years) also began in relation to the al-Aqsa mosque, after then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit to the site, surrounded by dozens of Israeli soldiers and provoking protests by Palestinians in which hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets, and 19 unarmed protesters were killed by Israeli police.
In a meeting this week between Muslim leaders living inside Israel, the Grand Mufti and other leaders urged all Palestinians living inside Israel, along with those in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and all Arab and Muslim nations to play their role in defending the holy Aqsa Mosque in the light of increasing threats by extremist Jews to assault the holy site on the anniversary of the alleged destruction of a Jewish temple on the site in 63 BCE by the Romans.