Israeli man’s selfies at Masjid-e-Nabwi spark outrage on social media

Medina: Social media erupted in anger at images of an Israeli citizen who took photos of himself in the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Mosque in Madina (Masjid-e-Nabwi).

BBC reports that Russian born Ben Tzion has a history of posting images 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.

In a Facebook post, he wrote: “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”, another of his posts stated.

In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, he 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 has stressed. Tzion, who is a citizen of both Russia and Israel, did not disclose which passport he travelled with but stressed that he has always travelled legally and with the appropriate paperwork.

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

However, the backlash against the images of Tzion at Masjid-e-Nabwi has prompted an Arabic hashtag, “A Zionist at the Prophet’s Mosque” to go viral in the last space of 24 hours. Commentators expressed their frustration at seeing such images.

The negative backlash by social media users on his images also prompted Instagram to delete Tzion’s account. According to the BBC, this controversy has emerged at a time when relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia are improving on the back of similar strategic concerns regarding Iran. The head of the Israeli army, Major-General Gadi Eizenkot has said that Israel as willing to share “intelligence information” with Saudi Arabia.