Islamic bloc silent after attacks, except for blast at Israel

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( – The Muslim world suffered two major terrorist attacks over the weekend – in Turkey and Somalia – but the bloc of Islamic states found just one subject worthy of commenting on on Sunday – the “painful occasion” of the anniversary of a failed arson attempt at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque almost half a century ago.

By the end of the weekend, the Saudi-based secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had issued no public reaction to deadly suicide bombings targeting a wedding party in southeastern Turkey and a government building and market in central Somalia.

Fifty-one people were killed and 69 wounded in the bombing in Gaziantep, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said had been carried out by a suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14-years-old.

In Somalia, at least 20 people were killed and more than 80 injured in twin bombings for which al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.

Like its secretariat, the OIC’s media organ, the International Islamic News Agency (IINA), did also not react to the two terror attacks. IINA did carry one brief report quoting a Saudi – not OIC – official as condemning the bombing in Turkey.

The OIC did, however, release a statement on Sunday, marking the 47th anniversary of “the wanton arson attack on the blessed al-Aqsa mosque” in Jerusalem’s Old City, which Muslims revere as the third-holiest in Islam after mosques in Mecca and Medina.

The statement on the 1969 incident linked it to what it called today’s “escalating aggression, attacks and repeated crimes” by Israelis against al-Aqsa.

In the tradition of the OIC’s regular recollections of the arson attempt, the statement made no reference to the fact the arsonist was neither Israeli nor Jewish, nor in any way linked to the Israeli authorities.

The perpetrator was an Australian, a member of a quasi-Christian sect who was subsequently determined by a court to be insane and spent the rest of his days in psychiatric care in his homeland.

According to news reports at the time, Denis Michael Rohan testified that he received divine instructions to burn down the mosque, that he was a descendant of the biblical King David, and that God would set him up as king over Jerusalem and Judea.

The deranged 28-year-old’s actions triggered calls for jihad, with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO broadcasting calls for Muslims to react: “What are you waiting for? The Zionists are burning down your sacred shrines.”

The incident led the following year to the establishment of the bloc originally known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference but renamed in 2011 the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and today boasting 57 mostly Muslim-majority members.

The failed arson attempt sparked a multitude of conspiracy theories accusing Israelis of trying to destroy al-Aqsa, and the adjacent Dome of the Rock with its famous golden dome, in order for the Jews to rebuild the biblical Temples which stood on that site from almost 1,000 years before Christ until finally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Some Muslim authorities dispute the Temple’s existence on the site. In its statement on Sunday, the OIC referred to “the purported temple.”

It said the anniversary of the 1969 incident was “being marked amid growing calls for the division and destruction of the Mosque in order to build the purported temple on its ruins and amid the intensification of the Israeli policies of Judaization and ethnic cleansing of the occupied holy city, its people and sanctuaries, in flagrant violation of international law and relevant internationally legitimate resolutions.”

The Temple Mount is the most revered site in Judaism, but although the area has been under Israeli sovereignty since 1967 the closest location where observant Jews are able to pray openly is the Western Wall, a remnant of a retaining wall on the western flank of the platform.

Muslims revere al-Aqsa based on the belief that Mohammed stopped there during his “night journey” from Mecca to heaven. He is said to have tethered his legendary winged steed, al-Buraq, there while he led prayers with “Islamic prophets” including Adam and Noah.

Muslims refer to the Western Wall as the al-Buraq wall, a move that has gained support from the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO.

— Written by Patrick Goodenough