Visiting Jerusalem is a sovereign decision that Organization of Islamic Cooperation member countries must decide on individually, the group’s secretary general said.
Some member countries have relations with Israel and allow their citizens to visit Jerusalem, whereas other countries don’t, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.
Ihsanoglu also highlighted the necessity of supporting the Palestinians of Jerusalem and their right to live in the city. He said Muslims who can’t visit the city can still offer support to its Palestinian residents and their institutions.
He stressed supporting Jerusalem by all means, so long as it still suffers from the dangerous violations of Judaization policy.
Ihsanoglu referred to a joint agreement consummated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem, held in Doha in late February. The agreement prioritizes joint efforts to support the strategic plan for developing vital sectors of the city.
“We in the organization spare no effort in offering support to Jerusalem,” Ihsanoglu added.
Abbas had called on Arab leaders during the conference to visit Jerusalem. His remarks contradicted with a famous edict by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, prohibiting non-Palestinians from visiting Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque so long as they are under occupation.
Hamas, the resistance movement and political organization governing the Gaza Strip, rejected Abbas’ call, considering it a de facto recognition of Israel’s right to exist and normalization of relations with the Jewish state.
But last February, Palestinian Authority Religious Endowments Minister Mahmoud al-Habash called on Qaradawi to step back from his edict.
“This edict is wrong, violates the Quran and Sunnah, and renders a free service to the Israeli occupation that wants to isolate the holy city from its Arab and Islamic surroundings,” Habash said, adding that visiting Jerusalem is an Islamic duty and a political necessity.
Ihsanoglu added that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation had sent a delegation to the Vatican to halt an agreement with Israel that would, among other things, have Israel regulate Catholic holy sites. The Vatican positively responded and confirmed the importance of separation between the two countries, he said.