Top Islamic Institution Slams U.S. Ambassador Friedman Over 'Mosque-free' Photo of Jerusalem Temple

Al-Azhar in Egypt calls incident with Friedman a ‘Zio-American provocation’ and ‘inappropriate and irresponsible’

Muslims attend an evening prayer called "Tarawih", during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Al Azhar mosque in the old Islamic area of Cairo, Egypt, May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The al-Azhar religious institutions in Egypt, the leading Sunni institution in the Arab and Muslim world, published on Thursday a condemnation of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman because of the incident this week in which he is seen receiving a doctored aerial photo of Jerusalem with a rendering of the Third Temple taking the place of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

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“The inappropriate and irresponsible conduct that is a continuation of the policy of the Zio-American provocation and damaging the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims around the world, this conduct will not change history and Jerusalem will remain the capital of the Palestinian people and the Al-Aqsa Mosques will remain in the hearts of Muslims,” said the statement from al-Azhar.

The photo of Friedman receiving the poster was taken on Tuesday during a tour of Bnei Brak held by the Achiya organization, which aids children who suffer from learning disabilities. 

U.S. Ambassador David Friedman standing next to the controversial photo, May 22, 2018.
Israel Cohen / Kikar Hashabat

 The embassy said later that Friedman "was not aware of the image thrust in front of him when the photo was taken. He was deeply disappointed that anyone would take advantage of his visit to Bnei Brak to create controversy."

"The U.S. policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount," the statement concluded.

Achiya has issued an apology to Friedman and the embassy, saying a staff member on its behalf presented the picture to the ambassador, who was unaware of its content.

On Wednesday, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' slammed Friedman, calling him a "settler, terrorist" in response to the publication of the photo, said Mahmoud Al-Habbash, one of Abbas' chief advisors in the Palestinian Authority.