Prayer services took on a political tone Friday at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, when thousands of worshipers were met with a huge banner showing the image of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Individual worshipers were also seen carrying photos of the deposed Islamist leader, according to Palestinian media.
Friday was the first Friday in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, marked by devout Muslims with praying and fasting.
The independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports:
Worshipers were asking who raised the photo, why Palestinians were intervening in Egyptian affairs, and what Mursi has done for al-Aqsa that motivated them to raise his photo in the holy mosque.
Witnesses told Ma’an that dozens of worshipers raised Mursi’s photo as they marched inside the mosque compound in solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood and their ousted president.
“Muhammed Morsi: you are not only President of Egypt alone, you are the leader of the entire Arab and Muslim world,” read one of the large placards.
Other worshipers marched around the site holding up signs with Morsi’s photo and the Egyptian flag.
Al Jazeera quoted a pro-Hamas website that blamed Morsi’s ouster on “an Israeli-American conspiracy taking the form of a military coup.”
While Hamas had close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in next-door Egypt, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas praised the Egyptian military for ousting Morsi from power.
Ma’an also reports that one of the preachers was kicked out of the mosque on Friday after he gave a speech defending Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Palestinian Minister of Endowments Mahmoud al-Habbash told Ma’an that Palestinians should be focusing on their own problems, not “wedge” issues of their Arab neighbors.
“We have one basic plight, which is the Palestinian cause and so all platforms should focus only on confronting occupation,” he said.
Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf accused Hamas of loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood and not to Palestine.
Assaf told the news agency that Palestinian priorities are to “free” the al-Aqsa Mosque and to establish a Palestinian state, not to fight “marginal battles.” A photo of Yasser Arafat should have been raised in the mosque instead, he said, because Arafat “died defending al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The al-Aqsa Mosque is situated on Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, believed to be the location of the First and Second Temples. The Western Wall is one of the few structures that remained standing after the Second Temple’s destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D. Jews worldwide mark the destruction of the Temple with prayers and fasting on Tisha B’Av, which is this Tuesday.
Besides Friday’s show of support for Morsi at the prominent mosque, more than 2,000 Arab citizens of Israel demonstrated in support of Morsi on Saturday.
Like the pro-Hamas website, speakers at that rally accused the U.S. and Israel of playing a role in the Egyptian military coup.
The rally was held in Kafr Kanna in the Galilee in northern Israel. Raed Saleh, who heads the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – an ideological ally of the Muslim Brotherhood – accused America, Israel and Iran of devising “plots” to oust Morsi.
“Oh Morsi, you are the president,” marchers shouted, according to the Times of Israel which added that they “waved flags of the Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian flags, and even Syrian rebel flags, and carried posters featuring Morsi.”
Saleh has served several prison sentences for charges ranging from funding Hamas to assaulting a police officer.