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Poster of ousted Egypt leader sparks Aqsa controversy

July 13, 2013 9:59 A.M. (Updated: July 15, 2013 10:33 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) – Thousands of worshipers who flooded Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque Friday encountered a huge poster of ousted Egyptian president Muhammad Mursi.

Worshipers were asking who raised the photo, why Palestinians were intervening in Egyptian affairs, and what Mursi has done for al-Aqsa that motivated them to raise his photo in the holy mosque.

Witnesses told Ma’an that dozens of worshipers raised Mursi’s photo as they marched inside the mosque compound in solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood and their ousted president.

“Mursi isn’t only a president of Egypt, but rather a leader of the whole nation,” read one of several posters the activists raised as they chanted slogans supporting Mursi and slamming Egypt’s minister of defense Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi.

The “coup” in Egypt serves “colonization” and is never in the interest of the Egyptian people, one said.

Separately, worshipers told Ma’an that a preacher was expelled from the mosque in the afternoon because he took advantage of being in the mosque to deliver a speech defending Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Palestinian minister of endowments Mahmoud al-Habbash rejected the use of the mosque as a forum to intervene in the internal affairs of Arab countries. Regardless of who was behind it, he told Ma’an, both incidents were attempts to wedge Palestine into internal affairs of Arab nations, and this is completely unacceptable because it is against the policy of the Palestinian leadership.

He added that the ministry of endowments wouldn’t allow preachers to take advantage of mosques to address controversial issues. “We have one basic plight, which is the Palestinian cause and so all platforms should focus only on confronting occupation.”

Similarly, Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf slammed the pro-Mursi demonstration inside the mosque and described it as intervention in Egyptian affairs as well as siding with one party at the expense of another.

This partiality, he said, by Hamas and by the Islamic movement in the Arab towns in Israel, is a proof that they are loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood but not to Palestine.

Our people’s priorities, added Assaf, are to free al-Aqsa Mosque and to establish a Palestinian state instead of fighting marginal battles. A photo of Yasser Arafat should have been raised in the mosque instead because he “died defending al-Aqsa Mosque,” added the spokesman.

Assaf criticized Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa satellite TV and Islamic Jihad-affiliated al-Quds station for broadcasting special Ramadan evening prayers from the Rabia al-Adawiyya Mosque in Cairo where supporters of Mursi usually hold their protests.

"Why didn’t they broadcast prayers from al-Aqsa Mosque?" he wondered. "Has Rabia al-Adawiyya mosque become as important to Muslims as al-Aqsa Mosque? Muslims were asked at the beginning to face the direction of al-Aqsa Mosque during prayer, and the mosque is considered the third holiest place in the world for Muslims."

The ministry of endowment also criticized solidarity with Mursi inside the mosque. Director of the ministry’s Jerusalem department Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib told Ma’an the al-Aqsa Mosque should never become a forum for internal conflicts.

“We want worshipers who come to the mosque to be able to perform their prayer quietly, and we don’t side with anybody. Worshipers from all political factions visit al-Aqsa Mosque, and we can’t deny anybody entry to the mosque.”
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