The Hamas terrorist organization’s second in command, Mousa Abu Marzook, blasted the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa Thursday over the latter’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday. According to Marzook, the mufti’s Jerusalem trip served only to legitimize Israel’s control of “Palestine.”
Abu Marzook’s was only the latest in a series of furious responses to the visit. And that Hamas condemnation, along with angry Egyptian reactions to the mufti’s visit, revealed a deep disrespect for the authority of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has repeatedly highlighted the importance of visiting Jerusalem in past months.
The question of visiting a Jerusalem under Israeli control has been debated in the Arab world for years. But Gomaa’s visit comes in the midst of a high-profile tug of war between Abbas — who recently called on Muslims to flock to Jerusalem — and Egyptian-born cleric Youssef Qaradawi, who banned such visits according to Islamic law.
Gomaa was invited to Jerusalem by the Jordanian royal family to inaugurate an Islamic research center, AP reported, but took the opportunity to pray in Islam’s third holiest mosque. He defined the visit as “unofficial,” while his spokesman called it a “scientific, not a political visit.” That, however, did not suffice for Arab commentators Thursday.
“This is a dangerous visit in all respects as it serves the interest of the false Israeli propaganda while claiming respect for freedom of religion,” the lead editorial of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, an internationally distributed Arabic daily that focuses on Palestinian issues, said. “We do not understand how Mufti Gomaa will justify this normalizing visit, which may encourage some to follow suit.”
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood also condemned Gomaa’s visit. Osama Yassin, co-chairman of the movement’s Freedom and Justice party, said the visit was “a real catastrophe and a blow to the national struggle which succeeded in thwarting all attempts at normalization throughout the past years.”
Another Muslim Brotherhood member said an apology by Gomaa would not suffice to set things straight.
“Apology alone is not enough and he must be punished,” Sheikh Saad Fiqi, a member of Egypt’s Ministry of Endowments, told the Muslim Brotherhood website. “Normalization with the Zionist enemy is forbidden because the land is still plundered.”
On April 4, Jordan’s Prince Hashem bin Hussein, half-brother of King Abdullah, visited Al-Aqsa as part of a Jordanian delegation. A well-known Yemeni preacher, Habib Al-Jafri, was also criticized for visiting the mosque in April. In his visit on Wednesday, Gomaa was escorted by another Jordanian royal, the King’s cousin prince Ghazi bin Muhammad.
But while most Egyptian commentators viewed the pilgrimage as a form of treason, Palestinian Authority newspapers celebrated it as a political victory.
PA mouthpiece Al-Ayyam led its front page with coverage of the visit, quoting the head of the Jerusalem endowment department, Azzam Khatib, as saying the visit “supported Al-Aqsa and supported the residents of Jerusalem.”
Gomaa stressed that he did not request Israel to grant him an entry visa nor was his passport stamped, adding that the entire visit was organized under the auspices of the Jordanian Royal Court, Al-Ayyam reported.
Gomaa cut his Middle Eastern tour short and returned to Cairo on Thursday to rebuff the flurry of accusations against him, independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.