15 March 2010
The Egyptian government cancelled the official inauguration ceremony for the restored Maimonides Synagogue in Cairo in response to what it called “provocative actions” by Jews in Cairo last week and restrictions placed on Muslim worshippers at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by Israeli authorities. The head of Egypt’s Antiquities Department, Zahi Hawass, and Culture Minister Faruq Hosni had been due to attend the event on Sunday, following the re-dedication ceremony attended a week ago by 150 people, including rabbis and the US and Israeli ambassadors, but not by Egyptian officials.
Citing press reports, Zahi Hawass said that the cancellation of the official opening event came after "provocative" acts during the ceremony held in Cairo's ancient Jewish quarter last week. He referred to "dancing and drinking alcohol in the synagogue, as reported by several newspapers," and said such acts "were seen to provoke the feelings of millions of Muslims in Egypt and across the world." Although the consumption of alcohol is banned in Islam, it is not unusual among Egyptian Muslims to drink it in bars and nightclubs across Cairo.
The decision was also taken at "a time when Muslim holy sites in occupied Palestine face assaults from Israeli occupation forces and settlers," Zahi Hawass said. He was referring to clashes at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, on Temple Mount, and plans to include two holy shrines in the West Bank on a list of Israeli heritage sites. Zahi Hawass said that Egypt respectsed its Jewish monuments, "the opposite of what Israel is doing in Jerusalem with Muslim monuments."
He added that Egypt took an interest in "all Islamic, Coptic and Jewish antiquities on its territory," because all were part of the country's heritage. "These projects are overseen by the Supreme Council of Antiquities without funds from abroad or from foreigners or Jews.”
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