June 27, 2007 Special Dispatch No. 1633

Fears in PA: Gaza May Turn into Taliban-Style Emirate

June 27, 2007
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 1633

During the Hamas takeover of Gaza, the movement's leaders made statements in support of an Islamic state, expressed hope for the victory of Islam over the infidels, and called to build a mosque in place of the PA offices and to kill Fatah members. Hamas gunmen ransacked a Catholic convent and school.

Fatah members, most notably PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, accused Hamas of attempting to transform the conflict from a national-political confrontation into a religious-sectarian one, and of sanctioning the killing of Fatah members. Some Fatah members also expressed fear that Hamas would turn Gaza into a Taliban-style Islamic emirate with Iranian and Syrian support.

The following are excerpts from statements by Hamas and Fatah members:

Hamas Official: The Secular Era in Gaza Has Ended; Islam Will Triumph Over the Infidels

Hamas official Nizar Rayyan promised to turn the headquarters of the National Security Forces in Gaza into a big mosque and to deliver a sermon at the presidential headquarters. In addition, he said: "In a few hours, the secular era in Gaza will end without leaving a trace... Today heresy ends. Today the struggle is between Islam and the infidels, and it will end with the victory of the faith. [Once victorious], Hamas will open its arms to the members of the security forces, so that they will return to the faith, [for] Islam is generous with infidels [who repent]. We hold the truth and they [represent] falsehood... How can we not fight against those who desecrate the sanctity of Allah, execute clerics and sell out the Palestinian cause – those who blasphemed in houses of worship, burned mosques, Korans and [Islamic] education facilities and executed jihad fighters? We will hold dialogue with these [people] only through the barrels of our guns."[1]

Concerns About Persecution of Christians in Gaza

The most serious manifestation of the Islamization of Gaza were the attacks on Christians during the Hamas takeover of Gaza. On June 19, 2007, masked gunmen looted and torched the Rosary Sisters convent and school.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades and the Executive Force for looting and torching Christian facilities, describing these acts as crimes and as barbarism that may disastrously undermine the unity of the Palestinian people. "The torching of the convent," he said, "is one of the rotten fruits of this black coup perpetrated by the Hamas militias. Blinded by fanaticism... they broke the law and desecrated the holy places and houses of worship of our Christian Palestinian [brothers]." Abbas called on the Palestinians "to stand firm against those who wish to drown our people in an ocean of blood and darkness – [those who wish to] transform the conflict from a national-political confrontation into a religious-sectarian one, to destroy the unity among the [various] sectors and sects within the Palestinian people... and to impose a culture of hostility and takfir."[2]

Yousef Al-Qazzaz, a senior Palestinian Broadcasting Authority official, wrote: "The hands drenched in the blood of Fatah members and security forces members have [also] torched a library in a Gaza church."[3]

Following the attack on the Rosary Sisters convent, Christian citizens in Gaza expressed fear of being targeted as well. A citizen who asked to remain anonymous, said: "We are afraid of being attacked... If I get the chance to leave the country, I will not hesitate to do so. Someone from the [Hamas] Executive Force tore the crucifix from my neck, saying: 'That is forbidden.' Then he added: 'Islam is the solution.'"[4]

Fears of a Taliban-Style Emirate in Gaza

Fatah officials and columnists in the PA dailies were skeptical of the Hamas' declarations that it would not try to impose Islam upon the citizens in Gaza. They said that the acts and statements of Hamas – destruction of monuments, attacks on Christians and calls to establish an Islamic emirate – portended a Taliban-like reality. Yousef Al-Qazzaz said: "[Hamas] members destroyed the monument of the unknown soldier [in Gaza] just as the Taliban destroyed archeological sites and monuments in Afghanistan."[5]

Fatah official Samir Mashharawi said to the London daily Al-Hayat: "Hamas aims to establish a mini-state in the Gaza Strip modeled on the Taliban [state] in Afghanistan."[6]

Al-Ayyam columnist Hassan Khadhr wrote: "Countries in the region and in the world are now [concerned] that the Gaza Strip may become an Islamic emirate, especially since the Hamas spokesmen have not hesitated to feed these fears , for instance [by stating that] 'the era of justice and Islamic rule has arrived,' as a Hamas spokesman [recently] said."[7]

Another Al-Ayyam columnist, Abd Al-Nasser Al-Najjar, wrote: "How will the mini-state of the new Taliban [i.e. Hamas] manage the affairs of the Gaza Strip under a suffocating international siege?... Will they implement the laws of Islam?... An Islamic state [ruled by] the new Taliban has become a reality in Gaza, although most of the citizens [in Gaza] are not Hamas [supporters]... On the international level, [only] one or two countries [like] Syria and Iran will recognize this mini-state, and even if they do not recognize it, they will assist it as long as it serves their interests."[8]

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida columnist Omar Hilmi Al-Ghul wrote that Hamas' claim that it would not impose Islam on the citizens is nothing but an empty promise, since "those who want to preserve the social and national fabric and [to defend] the freedom of the citizens and the political [forces] do not destroy [national] monuments. The monument of the unknown soldier [that was destroyed by Hamas] was not a religious [monument] but a symbol of national struggle. Are there no monuments [of this sort] in Iran, Pakistan and other Arab and Muslim states? The destruction of this monument takes our people in the direction that Nizar Rayyan was heading towards [when he] expressed... a wish to establish an Islamic Emirate... Why did [Hamas members] torch a convent? Does that reflect a policy of preserving the social and national fabric?"[9]

Black Images of Islam

In an article titled "Black Images of Islam," Al-Hayat Al-Jadida columnist Bakr Abu Bakr described a series of incidents which, in his opinion, had severely damaged the image of Islam. The first of these was the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons, the second was the crowd shouting Shi'ite victory slogans at Saddam Hussein's execution, the third was the Afghan boy who laughed with glee as he beheaded a Westerner in Afghanistan, which was, Abu Bakr says, a striking demonstration of "glorious Islam" – and the fourth was the Gaza coup.

Abu Bakr characterized the coup as "the victory that the bloodthirsty Hamas movement tried to present on its TV channel after [Hamas members] murdered 18 innocent Muslims at the security headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, which they call 'the heretic and collaborating authority. They [even] held a prayer [at the headquarters]. I do not understand why they give thanks to Allah and why they are praying... The sight of the black-clad masked [men] – bloodthirsty [gunmen] who accuse others of heresy – praying at the headquarters of the Preventive Security Apparatus was such a disgraceful sight that one of my friends in Gaza said that it made him feel ashamed to be a Palestinian, an Arab and a Muslim like those [men]."[10]

Palestinian columnist Omar Hilmi Al-Ghul wrote: "The PA, the security forces and even Fatah have made mistakes and [have all been guilty of] corruption, but the question is how these phenomena should be dealt with. [Is it correct to respond by starting] conflicts, accusing fighters of heresy and spreading false accusations and internal strife? [Is it right to respond] with benighted incitement on the media, calling on Palestinians to kill Palestinians in the name of religion? Where is this Paradise that they talk about? Isn't it disgraceful that a Hamas MP said, 'We want the struggle between the Believers and those who have given their loyalty to the Jews to be decided by the force'? [The same MP] continued his benighted incitement, saying, 'We smell the fragrance of Paradise and victory.' Can there be victory in a criminal civil war?"[11]

Responding to Nizar Rayyan's statement that the secular era has ended, Abu Bakr wrote: "If all the Muslims and leaders were like you, religion would have expired long ago... Let the Hamas movement enjoy its leaders who level accusations of heresy and treason at their own people."[12]

[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), June 15, 2007.

[2] Al-Ayyam (PA), June 18, 2007.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 20, 2007.

[4] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 20, 2007.

[5] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 19, 2007.

[6] Al-Hayat (London), June 13, 2007.

[7] Al-Ayyam (PA), June 15, 2007.

[8] Al-Ayyam (PA), June 16, 2007.

[9] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 19, 2007.

[10], June 16, 2007.

[11] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 13, 2007.

[12] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), June 17, 2007.

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