Consequences of a Christian torching Al-Aqsa Mosque | By Sultan M Hali

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Consequences of a Christian torching Al-Aqsa Mosque

ISRAELI atrocities against Palestinians continue unabated. A raid was carried out on the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the final ashra (last ten days) of the holy month of Ramadan this year, in a bid to evict the worshippers from the holy mosque, which left over 200 injured.

Last week, three Palestinians, including a senior armed resistance commander, were killed by Israeli forces during a raid on the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

The Palestinian health ministry has informed that the Israeli army surrounded a building in the Old City on 09 August, where Ibrahim al-Nabulsi – the commander of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, had barricaded himself in.

A gunfight lasted several hours in which Al-Nabulsi, 19, was killed along with Islam Sabbouh, 32 and 16-year-old Hussein Jamal Taha, while more than 60 others were wounded, four of whom were in a critical condition.

Protests by Palestinians resulted in a violent crackdown.Israel launched what it called a “preemptive” aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in the Gaza Strip.

Ultimately, an Egypt-brokered ceasefire ended three days of intense fighting that killed 46 Palestinians, 16 of them children, and wounded 360, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Amidst the reports of the inhuman treatment of the Palestinians, we should remember one ominous date—August 21, 1969—because on this day, Denis Michael Rohan a Christian Australian citizen, started the Al-Aqsa Mosque fire.

Rohan torched the pulpit of the Qibla-e-Awal, the third holiest site in Islam, situated in Jerusalem.

The flames of the fire fuelled by kerosene, destroyed an intricately designed 12th-century minbar (pulpit), known as the Minbar of Salahuddin Ayyubi.

This gross act plunged the Middle East into its worst crisis since the June 1967 Arab-Israel War.

The pyromaniac, Rohan was arrested for the arson attack on 23 August 1969. He was tried, found to be insane and hospitalized in a mental institution.

On 14 May 1974 he was deported from Israel “on humanitarian grounds, for further psychiatric treatment near his family”.

Subsequently transferred to the Callan Park Hospital in Australia, he reportedly died in 2011.

The rationale presented by the arsonist for his malicious act was that Rohan considered himself “the Lord’s emissary” and that he tried to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque acting 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.

Rohan mistakenly believed that the Al-Aqsa Mosque occupied the site of the temple, when in fact the Dome of the Rock did.

The mosque was instead built on the foundations of a Herodian basilica called the Royal Stoa.

The fire at the mosque in 1969 remains a pivotal point in the Middle East history. In 1969, there was an Islamic political consciousness, but it wasn’t well organised.

None of the Muslim countries could even agree on getting together to talk about anything. Because of Rohan’s atrocious deed of attempting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque, only a month later, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was established as the “collective voice of the Islamic world”.

It is an intergovernmental organization comprising 57 member states. The mission statement of the organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony”.

According to its charter, the OIC aims to preserve Islamic social and economic values; promote solidarity amongst member states; increase cooperation in social, economic, cultural, scientific, and political areas; uphold international peace and security and advance education, particularly in the fields of science and technology.

The emblem of the OIC contains three main elements that reflect its vision and mission as incorporated in its new Charter.

These elements are: the Kaaba, the Globe and the Crescent. The OIC also has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.

Over the years, the OIC has faced criticism that it has not been able to safeguard the welfare of Muslims in troubled spots.

Kashmir, the Rohingya Muslims, Afghanistan and Palestine have often been quoted as examples of where the OIC could have been more effective.

OIC has also been criticised by many Muslims for its lack of real engagement and solutions for Muslim countries in crisis.

It is said to have made progress in social and academic terms but not politically. Earlier this year, on occasion of Pakistan Day, Islamabad hosted the OIC’s 48th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) under the theme (Building Partnerships for Unity, Justice and Development).

The meeting successfully reviewed the important activities, projects and programmes of the General Secretariat, in addition to the OIC’s post-CFM plans but also addressed many topics and the activities of the OIC General Secretariat on implementing the resolutions adopted on various issues in the Islamic world, including the issue of Palestine, Al-Quds Ash-Sharif and the dangerous developments since the last CFM in Niamey 2020.

The burning issues of the humanitarian consequences for the Afghan people and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir were also highlighted.

However, the fire that had been ignited by Rohan in 1969, continues to erupt. In 1984 Jewish extremists planned to blow up the mosque by tunnelling underneath the rock.

The evangelical leaders of the US Christian Zionist Movement also want to reclaim the Temple Mount and they’ve formed close alliances with Jewish religious groups.

In 2019, the American Christian Zionists who were closely connected to the Trump Administration, were singing praise for the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Muslims, Christians and Jews consider Jerusalem as a holy site. The Jews are keen to build the Third Temple, while the Christians would like to welcome the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is exactly what Denis Michael Rohan wanted in 1969. OIC which came about in the aftermath of the heinous crime, needs to get its act together and promote peace.

—The Author is a Retired Group Captain of PAF, who has written several books on China.

 

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