Islamic Group Condemns Attack on Mosque, But A Double-Standard Emerges

By Patrick Goodenough | December 14, 2009 | 5:09 AM EST

Palestinian students hold up the Koran, banners and flags as they protest on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009 inside a mosque that was vandalized near Nablus on Friday. (AP Photo)

( – The Organization of the Islamic Conference is condemning the attack on a mosque in the West Bank, but the Saudi-based body often is silent when Islamic sites are attacked by other Muslims – even when scores of people are killed.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday ordered security forces to track down those responsible for the incident in the village of Yasuf the previous day, and bring them quickly to justice.
The perpetrators set fire to a mosque, destroying Islamic texts and leaving behind graffiti in Hebrew, which indicates that the arsonists probably are Israeli settlers angered by Netanyahu’s recent decision to temporarily freeze construction work at settlements in disputed territory.
Palestinian locals angered by the attack clashed with security forces, but the protests ebbed amid widespread condemnation by Israeli leaders, ministers and lawmakers and visits by Jewish rabbis with gifts of replacement copies of the Koran.
Even leaders of the reviled settlement movement – Israelis who live in towns built in areas claimed by the Palestinians and so viewed as illegal by the international community – spoke out against the incident.
“Whoever did this is not helping the settlements,” Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities, was quoted as saying. “This is a wrong and foolish act.” He said he hoped police would catch the perpetrators.
The Organization of Islamic Countries, a bloc of 56 Muslim states leading a campaign at the United Nations against the “defamation” of religion, particularly Islam, issued a statement Saturday expressing outrage at the “profanation of the mosque.”

Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. (Photo: OIC)

OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the incident “confirms the urgent need for the international community to intervene in order to compel Israel to put an end to its aggressions and comply with the stipulations of international law and the Geneva Convention.”
Scores of Muslims killed, mosques desecrated, OIC silent
Ihsanoglu typically issues more than 300 public statements a year. But a review of archived statements over the past three years shows that he does not respond consistently to attacks by Muslims targeting Islamic places of worship, even in cases where bombings have killed dozens of people.
On December 3, militants stormed a mosque crowded with 150 men, women and children in Rawalpindi, Pakistan’s garrison city near Islamabad. After throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately, two suicide bombers detonated their charges.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least 36 people and wounded 75.  The OIC Web site shows no reaction from Ihsanoglu.
Shi’ite mosques in Iraq have been a particularly popular target for terrorists in recent years, with many of the attacks occurring around the busiest times, such as Friday prayers. They include the following:
-- On October 16, at least 11 people were killed and 70 others were injured in a suicide bombing of a Shia mosque near Mosul during Friday prayers. Ihsanoglu did not issue a statement.
-- On Friday, July 31, a string of bombing targeting Shiite worshippers at mosques across Baghdad killed 29 people and wounded more than 136. Ihsanoglu issued a statement on that occasion, expressing “indignation and repulsion,” and stressing that “Islamic principles … sanctify human life.”
-- On June 20, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden truck as crowds of worshippers were leaving the Shiite al-Rasul mosque in Taza, near Kirkuk. At least 73 people were killed and more than 250 wounded. Ihsanoglu did not issue a statement about the attack (although a week later he did issue a general one about “the upsurge of violence” in Iraq, but with no reference to the mosque being targeted or desecrated.)
-- On June 19, a car bomb exploded in front of the Shiite Khilani mosque in central Baghdad, killing around 80 people, and wounding 200. Ihsanoglu did not issue a statement.
-- On April 28, one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam, the Imam Abbas mosque in Karbala, was bombed as people headed to evening prayers. At least 58 people were killed and more than 160 injured. The OIC released no statement.
-- A fortnight earlier, on April 14, a car bombing at the Imam Hussein shrine, also in Karbala, killed 47 people and wounded more than 160 others. Ihsanoglu again did not issue a statement.
-- On April 7, the Buratha mosque in the north of the city was targeted by three suicide bombers, at least two of them dressed as women, after Friday prayers. The attack left 85 people dead and 160 injured. Ihsanoglu issued no statement.
-- On February 22, the golden dome of one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, was destroyed in a bomb attack. The OIC did not comment publicly. (On June 13, 2007, the same building was targeted a second time. Although no deaths were reported, the mosque’s two ten-story tall minarets – which had survived the first attack – were destroyed. This time Ihsanoglu did issue a statement, urging Muslims “to shun all causes of discord among Islamic doctrines.”)
‘All possible forms of pressure’
By contrast, Ihsanoglu issues regular statements condemning Israeli actions in the Old City of Jerusalem, the location both of Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, and the third most revered location in Islam, the al-Aqsa mosque.
Arabs rioted in Jerusalem in the fall, amid anger at Israeli archeological digs in the vicinity of the Temple Mount and rumors that a group of Jews were planning to enter the compound near the mosque to pray.
During September and October, the OIC head issued several strong-worded statements on the situation in the city.
On Sept. 29 he “expressed his vigorous condemnation of the incursion by Israeli extremists under the protection of Israeli occupation forces into the courtyard of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque … [and] warned against the dangerous ramifications likely to emanate from such grave attacks on the sanctities of Muslims.”
In an Oct. 7 statement he “vigorously condemned the escalation of Israeli aggressions against Al-Aqsa Mosque” and called for “all possible forms of pressure on Israel to put an end to the attacks that could bear grievous ramifications in the event Islamic sanctuaries continue to suffer arbitrary aggressions and Muslim feelings are continually provoked.”
On Oct 20, he issued a statement complaining about “the judaization” Jerusalem – the Islamic claim that Jews are trying to tighten their grip on the city by highlighting an invented Jewish heritage. (Ihsanoglu calls the site of the historical first and second Jewish Temples “the alleged Temple Mount.”)
The following day, in a fresh release, Ihsanoglu protested a “raiding by Israeli special forces,” calling the incident “a blatant attack against Islamic sacred sites and sanctities” and saying the Islamic community had to take a firm stand “to defend its holy sites.”
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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