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The secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an international grouping comprising 57 Muslim countries, has blasted Israel's excavations at Jerusalem's Mughrabi Gate, saying they are akin to the actions of the ousted Taliban government in Afghanistan.
"When the Buddhist statues were being demolished in Bamiyan, the whole world rose up against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan," Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told the Saudi daily Arab News. "But not a word is being said against what Israel is doing to the Aksa Mosque. Nobody utters a word against the Israeli aggression. Nobody is really taking any action. There is silence all over," he said.
Ihsanoglu's remarks came on the eve of Thursday's emergency summit meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where foreign ministers from the conference's member states are meeting to discuss the situation in Jerusalem.
The summit was announced just three days previously, on Monday, and is aimed at galvanizing support among Muslim nations for taking steps to stop Israel's excavations alongside the Temple Mount.
Among the countries slated to attend the gathering were Malaysia, Qatar, Senegal, Yemen, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The Palestinian Authority was also scheduled to take part.
In his interview with the Saudi paper, Ihsanoglu also revealed that the conference is taking action to try to thwart the construction of the planned Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, which is a project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, saying that the proposed site is a Muslim graveyard.
During a meeting two weeks ago in Paris with UNESCO officials and ambassadors from OIC countries, Ihsanoglu said, "We discussed the Israeli move to establish the so-called 'Museum of Tolerance' on Ma'amunallah Graveyard in Jerusalem."
"It is a mockery to have a museum of tolerance on such an important Muslim site. I have already sent a letter to the director-general of UNESCO asking him to take action, and in my meeting with OIC ambassadors, I asked them to follow up the matter," he said, noting that similar efforts were being undertaken at the United Nations in New York.
These developments, Ihsanoglu insisted, are part of Israel's long-standing policy to "Judaize" Jerusalem. "This has been the case ever since Israel occupied Palestine," he said. "The Jewish state has always wanted to change the nature of Al-Kuds and the holy site. It wants to alter the city's demographics and Islamic identity... So this is nothing new."
He said that the conference will issue an appeal to all Muslim states to halt Israel's activities. "It is a call to member countries to take action and work out measures to stop this aggression," he said.