ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday urged Muslims to throng to the Temple Mount in a show of solidarity with Palestinians as he issued a string of challenges to Israel, which he called “racist and discriminatory.”
“We, as Muslims, should be visiting Al-Quds more often,” he said, referring to Jerusalem by its Arabic name.
“Each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us,” he added, at the opening ceremony of the International Forum on al-Quds Waqf in Istanbul, Turkey’s Hurriyet news reported.
Erdogan said increased Muslim visits to the Jerusalem holy site “would be the greatest support to our brothers there.”
“Both in terms of our religion and historical responsibility, Al-Quds and the fight of our Palestinian brothers for rights and justice is of great importance to us. We will keep making efforts for Quds to turn into a city of peace,” Erdogan said.
In the blistering speech, which also criticized Israeli legislation and US plans to move their embassy to Jerusalem, Erdogan also called Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians “racist and discriminatory” and said the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip “has no place in humanity.”
Israel blockades the Strip in an attempt to keep weapons from reaching the Strip’s Hamas terrorist rulers.
Israel reacted quickly and angrily to Erdogan’s comments, calling them “baseless slander.”
“Anyone who systemically violates human rights in their own country, should not preach about morality to the only democracy in the region,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Israel strictly adheres to protecting full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians — and will continue to do so despite this baseless slander,” the statement said.
Erdogan also warned Israel against the planned Muezzin Bill meant to limit the volume on Muslim calls to prayer, saying he would not allow mosque loudspeakers to be silenced.
“The fact that such an issue is even coming to the agenda is shameful,” he said. “The fact that those who talk about freedom of thought and faith at every opportunity actually approve this step by remaining silent is noteworthy. Inshallah, we will not allow the silencing of prayers from the heavens of Jerusalem,” Erdogan said.
Israel is pushing a bill that would ban religious institutions from using loudspeakers at certain hours, a move seen as targeting Muslim mosques who issue a pre-dawn call to prayer.
Critics say the bill is anti-Muslim, but proponents say it is about noise control and quality of life for people who live near mosques.
But Erdogan issued a challenge to Israel, saying that to move against the mosques would be a strike against freedom of religion.
“Why are you afraid of the freedom of faith if you believe in your faith? I am now reminding Israeli administrators: If you believe in your faith, then why are you afraid of the sound of our prayers?” he said.
Erdogan also spoke about the debates over the possibility of moving the US embassy In Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying they are “extremely wrong” and should be dropped.
US President Donald Trump had promised during his campaign to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, whose status is one of the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Erdogan said everyone should be careful on issues that concerned the status of Jerusalem, warning that even “relocating a stone” in the city could have serious implications.
“The debates over the possibility of US moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem are extremely wrong and should certainly drop from the agenda,” the Turkish president said.