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PSG’s Muslim soccer stars criticized for Al-Aqsa Mosque visit

Paris Saint-Germain players Idrissa Gana Gueye, Presnel Kimpembe and Abdou Diallo are accused by some of ‘normalizing’ the conflict after posting pictures from Jerusalem holy site

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Palestinians visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, on April 10, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinians visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, on April 10, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Three Muslim players from the French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) have faced criticism from fellow Muslims for visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the team’s visit to Israel over the weekend.

PSG players Idrissa Gana Gueye, Presnel Kimpembe and Abdou Diallo decided to visit the Muslim holy site before leaving Israel after beating French Cup winner Nantes 4-0 to win the French Super Cup at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

The top international players posted pictures of themselves at the site, which also houses the Dome of the Rock shrine, on social media. Gueye captioned his post on Twitter with the words “God is in control.”

But while many comments were supportive of the players and their visit to the flashpoint site, others were critical, arguing that by visiting the site, they were normalizing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people.

“Did you know that Palestinians can’t move freely in Jerusalem? You should be ashamed!” One comment read.

“You’ve normalized and whitewashed the Zionists’ crimes and now you speak of God?” another read.

Some Jewish Israeli fans were unhappy with the visit as well.

“Go to a synagogue instead,” one Israeli user commented on a photo posted on Kimpembe’s Instagram page.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews, as the site of the biblical temples, and Al-Aqsa is the third holiest shrine in Islam, turning the area into a major flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians claim the site and East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Israel, which captured the Old City, along with East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War, has annexed East Jerusalem and claims the whole city as its undivided capital.

The players were in Israel for the French Super Cup final, held in Tel Aviv on Sunday. The game marked Israel’s second year hosting the French tournament after the season opener was brought to the Jewish state last year by billionaire Sylvan Adams.

Separately, Israel hosted on Saturday a pre-season friendly match between England’s Tottenham and Italy’s AS Roma that ended with a 1-0 score in favor of Roma.

Ahead of the game, Roma stars were seen taking time last week to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, with some praying at the site and placing notes in the wall.

Fans of the Italian club have been subject to abuse from their cross-town rivals Lazio, who have frequently directed antisemitic and Holocaust-related abuse at the Roma fans, most recently posting images of Anne Frank in a Roma jersey alongside slogans such as “Roma fans are Jews.”

AS Roma’s Argentinian striker Paulo Dybala places a note as he prays by the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 29, 2022 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

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