- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Jan. 31 (UPI) — An Israeli liquor company has begun selling vodka bottles with a label showing the picture of al-Aqsa mosque, a depiction that Muslims find blasphemous.

Lebanon's al-Mustaqbal newspaper on Friday published a picture of one of the bottles and said in a report from Gaza that the bottle was spotted by 35-year-old Palestinian Wassim Majzoub in a shop in Haifa.

Majzoub said the bottle, which he thought contained water, attracted his attention because of the al-Aqsa mosque picture.

When the shop owner told him it contained vodka, Majzoub bought the vodka as a proof that Israelis were harming Muslims' sentiments.

Sheikh Raed Salah, who heads the al-Aqsa Institute for rebuilding Islamic sacred places, strongly denounced the Israeli liquor company and asked its owner to remove the label and apologize to all Muslims. Islam forbids the drinking of alcoholic beverages.

The Al-Aqsa Institute and al-Mizan Association for Human Rights decided to make the case to the Israeli judiciary for immediate removal of the label and material compensation because the usage of the al-Aqsa mosque image on alcoholic beverages greatly affects every Muslim.

Sheikh Salah said such an advertisement, along with the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, indicated that the al-Aqsa mosque, one of the Muslims' three most sacred shrines, was in "great danger today."

Sharon was accused of triggering the intifada in September 2000 when he provocatively entering the al-Aqsa mosque with a number of his followers.

The Russian director of the Israeli liquor company, which imports the vodka from Ukraine, said he did not know the picture represented a mosque and refused to stop selling the labeled bottles.

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