OIC, Ankara warn Israel against using mosque as venue for wine festival
OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu strongly criticized Israel on Saturday over its plans to use the mosque as a venue for a wine festival to promote the products of Israeli winemakers.
The Be'er Sheva Mosque was built during the Ottoman reign of the region and was turned into an Islamic museum on the orders of an Israeli high court in 2011.
İhsanoğlu described the recent plan as a violation to be added to the crime of closing the mosque and preventing Muslims from praying there.
"This violation is part of a series of ongoing attacks against Islamic sanctuaries and antiquities in Palestine aimed at obliterating and desecrating them, which is a deliberate provocation of Muslims in all parts of the world," İhsanoğlu stated.
The secretary-general, whose statement was posted on the website of the OIC, holds Israel fully responsible for the continuation of these attacks on sanctuaries and places of worship and calls the act a grave disregard for the principles of international law and norms which feed the atmosphere of tension and instability in the region.
İhsanoğlu also called on the international community, rights organizations, UNESCO and the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations to take action urgently to stop these attacks and to compel Israel to respect sanctuaries and places of worship.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ also condemned the planned festival, calling it a provocation and disrespectful to Muslims.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Yozgat, Bozdağ said mosques are places of worship for Muslims. Disrespect for sacred places is a violation of human rights, Bozdağ further stated, calling on the Israel government to "stop this violation."
Religious Affairs Directorate President Mehmet Görmez also reacted negatively against the wine festival. "I would like to call on the Israeli government to act with reason and avoid such a disrespectful act against a house of worship that belongs to another religion."
Görmez said that in the globalizing world, people of different religions live together in the same communities in most countries of the world. "It is essential that the beliefs of minorities are respected for members of different cultures and civilizations to live together in peace." He said overt signs of disrespect to symbols sacred to another religion were provocative and a threat to social peace.
A group of civil society organizations representing Muslims in Israel will hold a demonstration on Sept. 5 to protest the festival.