Love al-Aqsa: Online event returns to celebrate Jerusalem's iconic mosque
Aqsa Week, an event celebrating the historic importance of the mosque in Jerusalem, has returned for a sixth year to raise awareness and highlight the plight of the Palestinian people.
The event, which this year runs from 24 February to 2 March, is a global initiative organised by the UK-based non-profit NGO, Friends of al-Aqsa (FOA).
'It's just amazing how ordinary people, young people, people of different faiths are really getting together to do something - that has been really humbling'
- Ismail Patel, Friends of al-Aqsa
Those taking part are encouraged to engage in workshops, talks, and activities as well as share content on social media using the hashtag #LoveAqsa.
Several events will be open to the public, streamed live online on the FOA social media accounts.
FOA has called upon university societies, mosques, local councils, and parliaments around the world to take part and hold events, and this year is expected to be the largest Aqsa Week on record.
Ismail Patel, the founder of FOA and one of the organisers of the event, commented on its growing popularity, saying “Aqsa week has become global over the past two years.
“This year we have organisations from 50 different countries participating. So there is huge growth,” Patel added.
Symbol of resistance
For Muslims, al-Aqsa is the third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. According to Islamic belief, Prophet Muhammad visited al-Aqsa during his miraculous night journey to the heavens, called “al-Isra wal-Miraj”.
In fact, Aqsa Week coincides with the anniversary of the prophet’s night journey which is observed by different countries on various days throughout that week.
“Masjid al-Aqsa has played a pivotal role in the daily lives of Muslims throughout Islamic history - it belongs to every Muslim throughout the world. We need to revive that history and heritage,” Patel said.
“It is a symbol of resistance and unity for all Palestinians of all faiths and no faiths.”
For those taking part in the event, the rising tensions in Jerusalem, especially in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah where numerous Palestinians face evictions from their homes, have proved the necessity of Aqsa Week.
“Jerusalem has always been in the limelight, but the recent attacks in Sheikh Jarrah and during last Ramadan on Masjid al-Aqsa itself has brought to attention the acute need for civil society to rise up and talk about it,” Patel told MEE.
“People need to understand the danger that Palestinians are facing in Jerusalem and the danger to Masjid al-Aqsa itself.”
One talk taking place this year, hosted by King’s College London’s Palestine Society, is titled “Love Aqsa: virtues and significance” and aims to give greater insight into the importance of the mosque religiously and also as a symbol of Palestinian resistance.
Children are also encouraged to take part. For the third year running, FOA is presenting “Aqsa Week Kids” to coincide with Aqsa Week.
Children as young as five are able to enter a competition to answer why they love al-Aqsa by either designing a poster, making a model or writing a poem.
Recently, social media has played a large role in the heightened social consciousness regarding Palestine. In light of this, Patel told MEE that he hopes more media partners will take part in Aqsa Week to increase the impact of the event.
“It's just amazing how ordinary people, young people, people of different faiths are really getting together to do something - that has been really humbling,” he said.
Last year, panels delved into a wide array of topics including politics, Muslim identity, and history.
One talk titled "US/UK policy towards Jerusalem", discussed the impact of former US President Donald Trump’s controversial "deal of the century" policy on Palestinians.
Many past Aqsa Week discussions are available to watch on the FOA YouTube channel.
FOA is also known for organising other popular events which attract thousands of people including the annual Palestine Expo which covers a range of topics including Palestinian culture, history, food, and art.