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Tour operators urged to connect Umrah with pilgrimage to Al-Aqsa mosque
Monday January 5, 2015 10:42 PM, IINA

Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Iyad Ameen Madani on Sunday renewed invitations for Muslims from all over the world to visit Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

At the opening of a fair on Jerusalem held in Ramallah, the West Bank, he also called on travel and tourism agencies to provide the opportunity for Muslim tourists who want to visit Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Madani called for connecting Umrah season with the pilgrimage to Al-Aqsa mosque, saying that he hopes to attract 200,000 visitors to Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa in the first year.

The OIC chief also announced Jerusalem as Capital of Islamic Culture for 2015.

The Exhibition titled "Jerusalem in memory," was inaugurated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Exhibition, which was organized by the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), and the Palestinian Ministry of Culture, displays mainly historical pictures of Jerusalem.

"To those who feel afraid of visiting Jerusalem, I say: visiting the city accentuates our right to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem," Madani said.

"Regardless of the challenges visitors might encounter on their way to Jerusalem, their presence would deliver a message that they were not ready to abandon the historical city and Al-Aqsa Mosque which is a core part of their faith", he added.

The OIC chief unveiled his intention to invite ministers of tourism from Palestine and Jordan to convene a meeting to work out a plan, which can connect the travel agencies in both countries, in preparation for promoting tourist destinations in Jerusalem and its Islamic holy sites.

He explained that this process can be completed by connecting the travel agencies in Palestine and Jordan with Umrah tour operators during the period when Saudi Arabia receives more than 6 million pilgrims a year. He pointed out that he seeks through this meeting to find a practical approach which can connect the movement of pilgrims with Jerusalem.

Regarding the exhibition, Madani expressed that this exhibition embodies the opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of Jerusalem and how it was before, as well how it highlights the coexistence throughout the centuries, noting that it is the first cultural events in the Member States of the OIC to support the rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem, as well as to highlight its link to the Muslims.

Madani explained that what the OIC is doing now only represents a small part of the role to be played by the Palestinian people to regain sovereignty over Jerusalem as the capital of an independent state.

He pointed out that the OIC held earlier four meetings at the level of Foreign Ministers for the Palestinian cause, mentioning at the same time that this month there is another initiative to visit the influential countries in the world to convey the organization's message to Jerusalem.

He added: "The OIC follows closely with concern the Israeli aggression against Al-Aqsa Mosque, and we warn against the continuation of these intrusions and the desecration of the mosque, considering this as an attack on the Muslim nation and a provocation to the sentiments of believers."

Madani also called for a move to prop up efforts toward an independent state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. The exhibition includes historical photographs of Jerusalem, selected from the Sultan Abdul Hamid II albums (1876 m - 1909) and the archive of "IRCICA."

Speaking on the occasion, Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated the determination of Palestinians to go ahead with their plans to approach the UN Security Council again to get approved the resolution for the Palestinian statehood.

Abbas added: "We have not failed in the Security Council. But the Council has failed in our cause. So we have decided to join all international conventions, at the top of which is the International Criminal Court."

"There is no alternative for Palestine except Palestine. There is no alternative for Jerusalem except Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. There will be no peace, security and stability for the Palestine state without Jerusalem as its capital," he said adding that the first priority of Palestinians is the reconstruction of Gaza and there won't be any compromise on achieving the national unity and the unity of all Palestinians.


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