World

RIYADH – An Israeli globetrotter faced the ire of social media after he posted selfies captured inside the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Mosque in Madina (Masjid-e-Nabwi).

The Russian born Ben Tzion holds a history of uploading images on social media handles, captured at religious locations across the Middle East, from Iran to Jordan.

The image of him inside Masjid-e-Nabwi was posted on his Facebook page with captions raising eyebrows of social media buffs.

‘People of Saudi Arabia would stand with the Jewish nation side by side. Peace in the Middle East with respect and love towards each other’, he said in his posts.

The image captured inside the holy mosque bore a caption:

Every #Jew has always Remember that He/She is an integral piece of the entire #Jewish #Nation, even in the middle of 2nd most #Holy #Masjid of #Islam #Faith after Al-Haram in #Mecca, and Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem comes 3rd. #Prophet Muhammad originally build this #Mosque in #Medina near his House in 622AD and is burried here as well in 632AD. #Peace in the #MiddleEast with #Respect and #Love towards Each other (sic).

When an Israeli newspaper inquired about his tours, Tzion referred to his penchant for visiting Muslim countries as “a hobby” and reiterated his “respect for other cultures and faiths”.

‘While non-Muslims are banned from entering the city of Makkah, religious sites in Madina are open to the public’, Tzion stressed.

Tzion, who is a citizen of both Russia and Israel, did not disclose which passport he travelled with but asserted that he had always travelled legally and with the appropriate paperwork.

‘No-one in the Arab world ever approached me with hostility, they tell me they love Israel and the Jewish people’ he said.

The social media activity of Russian-Israeli citizen ignited the social media with an Arabic hashtag, “A Zionist at the Prophet’s Mosque” garnering tweets in droves in the last space of 24 hours.

Though Facebook did not remove the picture, however, Instagram took action and deleted Tzion’s account.

The controversy has emerged at a time when relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia are improving on the back of similar strategic concerns regarding Iran.

It bears mentioning that there are disputes about whether a non Muslim can enter the holy cities of Makkah and Medina or not.

Renowned Scholar Zakir Naik contends that non-Muslims cannot enter the premises of both the cities while Javed AHmed Ghami argues that the embargo only applies to the polytheists and not to the whole non-Muslim community