This report examines an upsurge of anti-Israel events, antisemitism, and statements in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Pakistan-controlled Azad Jammu & Kashmir and in Indian Kashmir and other cities of India, during the holy month of Ramadan, starting March 23, 2023. An exhibition organized in Herat by the Cultural Center of the Consulate General of Iran as part of month-long Al-Quds Day celebrations also advocated “nuclear extinction” of Israel, while a Pakistani columnist called nuclear Pakistan an antidote to “the cancer named Israel.”
These events were associated with the Israeli raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque in the first week of April 2023, but mainly Al-Quds Day, an annual event sponsored by the state of Iran, launched by late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini. The event is celebrated generally on the last Friday of Ramadan, which this year was on April 21, to emphasize the call for the liberation of Jerusalem. However, Al-Quds Day was marked this year on both April 14 and April 21, the former perhaps in expectation that it might have been the last Friday of Ramadan. In South Asian countries, Eid Al-Fitr was celebrated on April 21 and April 22, 2023.
A review of events – especially in Afghanistan where the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban jihadi organization) has been in power since August 2021 – indicates that anti-Israel events had begun as soon as the fasting month of Ramadan commenced in South Asian countries from March 23, 2023, days before the Israeli raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque on April 4 and after.
For example, Afghan news portal Watan24.com reported on March 29 that futsal (a modified football game played with five players each side) competitions were organized in support of the oppressed Palestinian people between teams from Herat, Ghor, and Farah provinces. According to the report, these competitions, under the title of Ramadan Cup Quds, were organized “in support and solidarity with the Palestinian people and the condemnation of the Zionist occupation.” The main tournament was held at Quds Sports Hall in Herat.
Similarly, the Afghan Voice Agency carried a Dari-language report dated March 23, the first day of Ramadan, showing some Afghan youths in Kabul city expressing solidarity with “the people of the occupied Palestine” by gathering and cleaning Al-Aqsa Mosque of Kabul city. According to the report, the youths chanted slogans such as “We will break our fast in Quds [Jerusalem].”
Al-Quds Day Events In Afghan Cities
In Herat province of Afghanistan, Shi’ite leaders marked Al-Quds Day on April 14. According to a Dari-language news website, Allama Hojatoleslam Ahmadi, the head of Herat’s Shia Ulema Council, addressed a gathering in Herat city where he said: “Israel will not continue as a state, this being a divine promise. On the other hand, oppression never lasts, and oppressed nations are definitely winning the field one day by resisting and standing up to criminals.”
The event was organized at the Hosseiniyeh Kazemiyeh mosque in Herat where different Islamic clerics stressed the need for unity among Muslims for the restoration of dignity of Islam in the world. “The vision of the Ulema and the People of Afghanistan to realize the ideal supremacy of the Palestinian people shows that we are also moving towards a strong divine string,” Allama Hojatoleslam Ahmadi said, adding: “Islam clearly guides its followers toward victory but this can only be achieved by resistance and standing against aggression.”
An event was organized in Herat city by Shura Ulama-e-Shia Herat to mark Al-Quds Day on April 14, 2023 (image: watan24.com)
At another event in Herat following the weekly Friday prayers on April 14, a group of protesters chanted slogans such as “Death to Israel” and marched in support of Palestinian people. According to the report, the protesters, holding the Palestinian flag in hand, demanded an end to the occupation of Palestine by Israel. In Herat city, a pictorial exhibition was also organized in an open street to highlight the cause of Palestine and Israeli operations in Palestinian areas.
In Herat, Shi’ite leaders also sponsored a competition under the title “Third Haram” – referring to Al-Aqsa mosque, which is the third holiest site in Islam. As part of this competition, a complete recitation of the Quran during Ramadan was organized at different places in the province “for offering prayers to martyrs of Islam and for freedom for occupied Palestine.”
The main events were held in Sahib al-Zaman and Imam Jafar Sadiq mosques of Herat. At an event, Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar, a member of the Islamic Emirate (the ruling Taliban organization), said that Shi’ite and Sunni people should get together in the holy month of Ramadan and pray for the Islamic Ummah and for the freedom of Palestine. Prominent Shi’ite cleric Mohammad Taher Najafi said that the plans to complete the recitation of Quran and hold the competition were part of Al-Quds Day events worldwide.
Iran has more influence in Herat province, which borders Iran, than it does in other parts of Afghanistan. An event was also organized by the Cultural Center of the Consulate General of Iran in Herat. As part of it, a special seminar was organized titled “Media Terrorism – The Sinister Tools of the System of Domination and Arrogance” while a photo exhibition titled “Quds is Ours” was also held. On this occasion, Majid Khaliqnia, the head of Consulate General of Iran in Herat city, said: “In this program, there was a discussion about the media terrorism of the occupier regimes of Israel, and America and its allies in different periods when it invaded the territory of Islamic countries.”
On March 23, the first day of Ramadan, Afghan youths clean the Al-Quds Mosque in Kabul city as part of an event to express support for “the people of occupied Palestine” (image: avapress.com)
A conference of Islamic religious scholars was also organized in the western neighborhood of Kabul. According to an Afghan Voice Agency report, the theme of the conference was “Palestine – the Axis of Unity of the Islamic World, Jerusalem on the Verge of Freedom.” The conference was attended by Sunni and Shi’ite scholars, schoolteachers, pedagogues, and the Taliban government officials, while the speakers expressed support for Palestinians and urged Muslims to educate their children about the issue of Al-Quds.
At an event in Kabul, noted Afghan Shi’ite leader Sayyed Esa Hossenini Mazari condemned Israeli raids in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Sayyed Esa Hossenini Mazari, who is the head of the Tebyan Cultural and Social Center, said: “I strongly condemn this unforgivable crime of the occupiers of Al-Quds Al-Sharif [Jerusalem]. And I ask all the free people of the world, especially Muslim fighters, revolutionaries, and mujahideen not to hesitate in supporting the rights of the Palestinian nation and the freedom of Al-Quds Al-Sharif.” Urging the Taliban government in Afghanistan to also hold such events, he added: “The Islamic government of Afghanistan is also expected to organize demonstrations in support of Palestinians for the first time.”
The Iranian government has handed over the Afghan Embassy to the Afghan Taliban whose government in Kabul is yet to be recognized by the international community. Abul Jaber Ansar, a diplomat based in Iran, strongly condemned the raids in Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli forces and dubbed the Israeli actions as “inhuman and immoral.”
On April 5, 2023, the ministry of foreign affairs of the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, published a Pashtu-language tweet condemning “the brutal attack by the Israeli forces on the worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque” and saying that such anti-human acts against Palestinians and the desecration of holy places were a clear violation of international, Islamic, and humanitarian laws, and an insult to Muslim values.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman of the Taliban government, also shared a statement on Twitter calling “the attacks by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian worshipers” in Al-Aqsa Mosque “crimes against humanity” and urging Muslims to support the rights and demands of the oppressed Palestinians and prevent further atrocities.
An exhibition was organized by the Cultural Center of the Consulate General of Iran in Herat city as part of the month-long Al-Quds Day events (image: Watan24.com)
In a statement, Saeed Rezazadeh, an Islamic religious scholar and one of the prominent personalities of Herat province, said that the line of resistance has been formed in Palestine. “For 70 years, Palestine has been occupied by the fake Zionist government that is Israel with the support of the colonialist countries of America and some other countries while the Palestinian people are fighting for freedom of Jerusalem, and in this way they have given many martyrs,” said Saeed Rezazadeh according to a Dari-language media report.
On April 11, 2023, former mujahideen commander and emir of Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar tweeted in Pashtu that Al-Aqsa is the case of entire Muslim Ummah, and all Islamic countries must defend Al-Aqsa together. Condemning the Israeli riads in Al-Aqsa Mosque, Hekmatyar stated that desecration of Al-Aqsa by Israeli soldiers is “the desecration of the entire Muslims” and this is happening “because Muslims have no single leadership” and unity.
In an earlier tweet dated April 6, Hekmatyar condemned the Israeli raids accusing the West, hypocrites, and aiders of the oppressors for supporting them while “the cowardly rulers of Islamic world” have left the Palestinians alone. “Today, our orphan nation needs another believer and courageous leader like Salahuddin. We do not know who will receive this great honor, but we have complete faith and certainty on it that this day will come.”
Al-Quds Day Marked Across Pakistan
Across Pakistan, several events were organized to mark Al-Quds Day on April 14 in the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and others. According to a report, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan stated in a message: “Today, Al-Quds Day, we express solidarity with the Palestinian people against the violence and oppression by occupation Israeli forces.”
Mohammad Abdullah Hamid Gul, the son of late Lt-Gen. Hamid Gul (the former chief of Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence), wrote an article in the April 11, 2023 issue of the Urdu daily Roznama Dunya lashing out at Israel and saying that media reports about alleged Pakistan-Israel trade, whether “direct or indirect,” will be “illegal and a treason with Palestine and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
His column, titled “Recognizing Israel – A Treason With The First Qibla [Jerusalem],” followed media reports that goods manufactured in Pakistan were being sold in the markets of Tel Aviv, leading to allegations that an indirect trade was taking place between Israel and Pakistan, which do not have diplomatic relations.
Mohammad Abdullah Hamid Gul, though examining occasional reports in the past decade about moves for diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Israel, stated: “This century’s mega project of the Jews is ‘Greater Israel’ and Pakistan is the biggest obstacle in its path. Pakistan’s nuclear assets trouble Hindus and Jews because at this time Israel does not face any threat in the Arab world.” Mohammad Abdullah Hamid Gul further stated: “There is no doubt that [nuclear] Pakistan is the antidote to the cancer named Israel.”
According to a report in Roznama Jang, Islamic scholar Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, the chairman Pakistan Ulema Council, addressed a press conference where he expressed concern that no country is raising voice against Israeli atrocities on Palestinians and Indian crimes in Kashmir.
On the Mall Road of Lahore, a large public rally was organized by a Shi’ite organization called Tehreek-e-Bedari Ummat-e-Mustafa (“Movement for the Awakening of the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad”) under the leadership of Shi’ite cleric Agha Syed Jawad Naqvi. The rally witnessed the participation of a large number of burqa-clad Shi’ite women. Although the theme of the demonstration was Al-Quds Day, the Pakistani Shi’ite leaders linked the event to the issue of Kashmir so that it would resonate with the wider Sunni audiences in Pakistan. The banner at the Lahore event, billed as “Jerusalem is Ours” carried the words: “Freedom of Quds [Jerusalem], Unity with Kashmir.”
We are the lovers of War against Israel,” declares a banner at a larger public rally in Karachi organized by Shi’ite leaders to mark Al-Quds Day on April 14, 2023 (image: Twitter.com highlightsnews1)
In Karachi, a public demonstration was organized by Shi’ite leaders to mark Al-Quds Day on April 14. At the rally, a large banner on the stage declared in Urdu: “We are the Lovers of War against Israel.” Images and video clips available on Twitter show that the protesters trampled upon the Israeli and American flags, condemned Israel, and expressed support for Palestine.
At an event marked “Quds is Ours” in Gilgit Baltistan province, protesters trampled on Israeli and American flags. At an event organized in Islamabad, protesters read held placards that read: “Israel must be destroyed”; “We condemn the atrocities underway in Palestine and Kashmir”; “Jerusalem is Ours.” The Imamia Students Organization (ISO), the largest association of Shi’ite students and youths in Pakistan, organized scores of Al-Quds Day events in different parts of Pakistan, especially in Peshawar, Parachinar and other smaller towns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
At an event in Peshawar, Israeli and American flags were burned to express support for Al-Quds Day. The Cultural Center of the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar also organized an iftar (evening breakfast during Ramadan), a photo exhibition, and a conference on April 16. According to a media report, speakers at the conference said after the restoration of Iran-Saudi relations, every Muslim expects that the two countries would adopt common policies on other issues, including the freedom of Al-Quds and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In an April 7, 2023 statement, the jihadi group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or the Movement of the Pakistani Taliban) – which describes itself as a branch of the Afghan Taliban – condemned the Israeli operation on Al-Aqsa Mosque, saying: “The Israeli police, while repeating the brutal history of their forefathers in [Islam’s] third holiest place, Al-Aqsa Mosque, raided the mosque, injuring a dozen worshippers and arresting a lot more.”
Noting that the Israeli raids occurred at the time of prayers, desecrating three aspects of Islam, being Ramadan, the mosque, and prayer, the TTP wrote: “We want to remind the Israelis that your forefathers, bereft of religion, had to bear shame and dishonor due to such acts of desecration, and it was announced by the Lord that shame, dishonor and divine punishment will remain for them till the Day of Judgment,” the TTP said.
It added: “Unlike the Jews, this Muslim Ummah is not barren and cowardly; rather even now in the veins of this Ummah, the feelings of honor sparked by the victor of Jerusalem and Persia, Umar ibn Khattab, are alive…”
Al-Quds Day Events In Kashmir Region
In a Facebook post, the Imamia Students Organization’s (ISO) branch in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir claimed that the ISO had held more than 200 events on Al-Quds Day across Pakistan. On April 16, it posted a Facebook comment: “Al-Quds, we swear by your greatness; we will liberate you.”
In Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Azad Jammu & Kashmir, the Muslim Students Organization held a public walk in Kashmir university on April 10 as part of Al-Quds Day events. “This was a resistance walk in which voice was raised against the Israeli aggression,” the Urdu-language daily Roznama Sada-e-Chanar reported.
In Indian part of Jammu & Kashmir, several large events were organized to mark Al-Quds day. Perhaps the biggest rally was organized on April 14 in Magam town of Budgam of Kashmir in which thousands of women took part. The organizers belonged to the Tanzeem-ul-Makatib and Jammu Kashmir Shia Association. Members of Shi’ite and Sunni communities attended the event.
In Leh, the capital of Ladakh, which is in Kashmir along the China border, Shi’ite community leaders organized public demonstrations to express support for the Palestinian cause. It seems the main protest rally as part of Al-Quds Day was organized by Anjuman Imamia Youth Wing of Leh, while meetings were also held by Shi’ite religious scholars in mosques.
Al-Quds Day Events In Indian Cities
Events were also organized in India by Shi’ite leaders to mark Al-Quds Day. In Mumbai, Shi’ite leaders led a march from Khoja Mosque to Kesar Baug Hall in Dongri area and another from Zaib Palace to Chai Coffee in Andheri – both in Mumbai.
According to a media report, rallyists at Haideri Jama Masjid on Mira Road of Mumbai “shouted slogans against the Israeli apartheid regime and its supporters in the U.S. and UK.” The report quoted Ehsan Haider Raza, a participant, as saying: “The ongoing genocide of Palestinians is a cause of concern for the global community. Governments from around the world need to sit up, and take notice of the daily killings taking place in occupied Palestine.”
In the northern Indian city of Lucknow, an event was organized by Shi’ite leaders to mark Al-Quds Day. Maulana Syed Raza Hussain Rizvi, the imam of Waqf Sajjadiya Alam Nagar of Lucknow, addressed the people to explain the importance of the event. “More than 70 years have passed and even today Palestinians are being targeted with violence and atrocities. And the world is a silence spectator,” Rizvi told the audience, according to a report in the Urdu newspaper Roznama Sahafat.
In Indian city of Lucknow, Shi’ite religious scholars organized an event against Israel on Al-Quds Day, April 21, 2023 (image: etvbharat.com)
The Urdu daily also noted that the event is marked every year in which “support for Palestine and condemnation of Israel and the oppressor Zionist” is expressed. Maulana Syed Raza Hussain Rizvi – speaking at the event alongside Shi’ite religious scholars such as Maulana Hasan Imam, Maulana Tafseer, Maulana Ameer, Maulana Hassan Jaafar and others – declared: “We will continue to defend Palestine.”
At another such event at Lucknow’s Asafi Mosque, Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawwad Naqvi, the general secretary of the Majlis Ulama-e-Hind, addressed protesters who held banners with slogans such as “Death to Israel, America,” “Free Palestine,” etc. However, Sunni Muslims, generally speaking, did not participate in the event. At the event, the Shi’ite leaders stressed a message that the Islamic organizations in India should spread among Muslims, which is: “Muslims have the first right on earth. We cannot abandon this right.”
Addressing the rallyists, Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawwad Naqvi stated: “Very soon, Israel will be obliterated, the prophecy about which has proven to be correct because the blood of the oppressed will never go in vain.” Maulana Syed Raza Haider Zaidi, the deputy imam of the Asafi mosque, also addressed the gathering, saying: “The issue of Palestine cannot be imprisoned in geographical limits. Palestinians, living on their land, are oppressed, and Israel is continuously committing atrocities against them.”
In the southern Indian city of Hyderabad – whose Muslim rulers in the pre-Independence India had strong ties to the Ottoman Caliphate – Tanzeem-e-Jafaria, a Shi’ite organization, marked Al-Quds Day by organizing a rally. Some of the placards held by the rallyists read: “Israel must never be recognized,” “Down with America, Down with Israel,” “Freedom for Palestine,” etc.
Following are photos of Al-Quds Day events organized by Shi’ite community leaders from across South Asia: