After the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) decided last June to name Jerusalem as the "capital of Islamic tourism" for 2016, the OIC on Thursday said its secretary general will visit eastern Jerusalem next Monday and stop at the Temple Mount.
The secretary general, Iyad Madani of Saudi Arabia, is to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Mount after first meeting Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, reports the Associated Press.
When the OIC named Jerusalem as "capital of Islamic tourism" back in June, PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash called it a means of "breaking Israel's siege" of the 3,000-year-old Jewish capital.
The PA and Hamas have been divided over the issue of Muslims visiting Jerusalem. Muslim leaders in Jordan issued a "fatwa" (religious edict) last April 30, ending a ban on visits to Al-Aqsa Mosque despite it being "under Israeli occupation" - it is in fact run by the Jordanian Waqf (Islamic trust).
Hamas rejected the ruling, saying it gives the appearance of recognizing the rule of the "occupation," and constitutes a de facto normalization with Israel. The terrorist organization called on Muslims not to visit Jerusalem.
Madani was appointed to his position last January; his Saudi-based OIC represents 57 Muslim countries, making it the largest such bloc.
Back in May last year, Madani encouraged Muslims to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and "confirm that this mosque is a part of their faith."
Despite being the holiest site in Judaism, Jews are banned from praying on the Temple Mount (as are other non-Muslims) by the Jordanian Waqf that enjoys de facto rule at the site. Jewish activists have decried the discriminatory status quo, and have faced severe hostility and violence from Muslim extremists in response.
Islamic literature up until the 20th century CE consistently referred to the Mount as the site of the Jewish Temple of Solomon, but Arab opposition to the growing return of Jews to Israel sparked a wave of revisionism. Today, the Waqf and PA deny that the Temple Mount was ever Jewish, and actively seek to erase any traces of its Jewish past by destroying precious artifacts.