This year, al-Aqsa Day falls on Friday, 21st August 2009, in all likelyhood, a day before the blessed month of Ramadhan which begins on Saturday. What is the significance of al-Aqsa Day and what is the background to it's commemoration/remembrance? The date has been chosen by the Malaysian government as a mark of brotherhood and solidarity with the Palestinian people and to renew her commitments to the Palestinian cause. This brings the next question? What is the significance of 21st August that it was specifically earmarked as the al-Aqsa Day?
The background to this is the occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank when the zionist army overran these territories apart from the Gaza strip, the Sinai peninsular and the Golan Heights in 1967. The United Nations Security Council convened and unanimously adopted resolution 242 on 22nd November in the same year which condemns Israel and demanded the withdrawal of Israeli forces back to the Green line of 1949. Such illegal occupation as the consequence of the so-called six day war of 1967 however remain to this day, except for the return of the Sinai peninsular to Egypt as part of the Camp David peace agreement signed between Egypt and Israel in 1978. Since then, Egypt and Israel became peace partners and Egypt is to ensure that the Palestinian issue will not in anyway jeopordizes the security of Israel. Under such humiliation, Egypt closed the Rafah crossing, preventing aid reliefs into Gaza and even denying injured Gazans from seeking medical treatment in the wake of the Israeli attack early this year.
The occupation of 1967 has lead to numerous threats to the al-Aqsa mosque and other religious symbols and places of worship in and around East Jarusalem. Extremist jewish groups has been calling for the demolition of the al-Aqsa mosque and the takeover of the Haram al-sharif for the construction of the Solomon's temple (Haikal Sulaiman). Jewish settlers have been incited to dispense their religious duty to finance and lobby for the construction of the temple on the ruins of al-Aqsa mosque. Arab properties were expropriated to rid of Arab residence in the neighbourhood of al-Aqsa to make way for more kibbutz or jewish settlements. In the name of archeological excavations, tunnels were dug around and beneath the Haram as-Shariif in search for the ruins of the temple razed during the Roman period. The excavation works has apparently affected the foundation of the Usmaniah mosque. These tunnels were dug in secrecy but their cover was blown when it was discovered by Syeikh Raed Salah who brought to the attention of the muslim world the predicaments of Islam's third holiest mosque. They also took over the al.Maghariba gate, the main entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque.Other places of worship were also not spared by the the zionist sacrilage and these include the church of the holy Sepulcher (the church of al-Qiamah) and the Greek orthodox church.
To deal with these threats on the future of al Aqsa, 23 Islamic countries convened at Kuala lumpur in April 1969 and passed a number of resolutions to safeguard the sanctity of Jarusalem and it’s vicinity. However such international efforts to allay everyone’s fear for the safety of al Aqsa was dashed on August 21st when an Australian national by the name of Michael Dennis Rohan set the sacred mosque ablazed. A report in the Jewish media Yediot Aharanot alleged that a temple will be built on the exact spot where al Aqsa is on August 21st suggesting that the arson was a deliberate act orchestrated by the Zionist higher authority. Dennis Rohan was put on trial, declared insane by the court and immediately deported to Australia. In a more recent tragedy when a group of worshippers were gunned down during the dawn prayer at the Ibrahimi mosque (Hebron) by a lone jewish gunman, the court also found the latter mentally unfit to stand trial.
The tragedy has triggered a summit meeting of muslim countries in Rabat from the 22nd to 25th September, 1969. Three muslim leaders played a pivotal role in calling for the summit; YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al Haj, King Faisal of Saudi and King Hassan of Maghribi. A key resolution was reached i.e. any peace effort to end the conflict that does not include the restoration of Jerusalem back to it’s status prior to the 1967 Israeli war of aggression will not be acceptable. A permanent secretariat was established in Jeddah and YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia was appointed as the first Secretary Genderal. These events which can be traced back to the Kuala Lumpur initiaves in April 1969 have paved the way for the birth of OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) as we knew it today. Following the summit, YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman attended the 23rd United Nations General Assembly held in November of the same year, carrying the aspirations and demands from the summit meeting in Rabat. YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman successfully convinced the General Assembly to again recognize and to reinstate the question of Palestine in the UN agenda after it has been dropped in 1952. As a result resolution 2535B (XXIV) was passed on 10th December 1969, which reaffirms the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people towards their homeland and the rights for self determination. The instrumental role of YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj should be given a special place in the history of the international struggle for the liberation of Palestine.
Since 1969, Kuala Lumpur has officially chosen 21st August as a day to strengthen the solidarity with the Palestinian people and to renew her commitments towards the liberation of Palestine. Pos Malaysia has issued commemorative stamps on 21st August in 1978 and again in 1982 to garner national and international support for the Palestinian cause. Over the years, al Aqsa day seems to have lost it’s fervor. It was a commendable effort especially by the students at the higher institution of learning to revive 21st August during the last couple of years and to rebrand it as the ROQ (Remembrance of al Aqsa). We urge the government to relive this legacy of the late YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj by again reinstating the al Aqsa Day of 21st August as a national day of observance to strengthen our solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Assoc Prof. Dr Hafidzi Mohd Noor
(Palestine Centre of Excellence)
21st August 2009