October 22, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3314

Palestinian Researcher: The Islamists' Claims to Promote an Islamic Culture Are Hollow

October 22, 2010
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 3314

Palestinian researcher Dr. Khaled Al-Hroub, of Cambridge University, recently published an article titled "The Hamas Enterprise and the Talibanization of Gaza,"[1] in which he wrote that the claims of the Islamist movements regarding their promotion of an "Islamic culture" are utterly hollow, and that their actions in implementing the Islamic shari'a are detrimental to Islamic unity and women's rights.

Following are excerpts from the article:

"The Actions of the Islamic [Movements] So Far Do Not Attest to any True Accomplishment in Terms of Implementing a 'Cultural Enterprise' of any Sort"

"A popular expression that recurs in the Islamists' writings and theories is 'the Islamic cultural enterprise,' [which is presented] as one of the fundamental [goals] that contemporary Islamic movements aspire to achieve. This expression belongs to a comprehensive lexicon that abounds with expressions enticing to the general public, the best example being [the Muslim Brotherhood's slogan] 'Islam is the solution.' But these are hollow expressions that are only outwardly compelling.

"The Islamists must not be judged by the sayings and slogans they demand [to implement] – democracy allows them to voice any slogan or call. What is more important and accurate is to judge them according to their actions on the ground.

"The actions of the Islamic [movements] so far do not attest to any true accomplishment in terms of implementing a 'cultural enterprise' of any sort, or even to any [progress] in that direction. There are plenty of attempts for us to examine: Islamist movements have risen to power in [various] parts of the world, such as Iran, Afghanistan, and several autonomies in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Gaza Strip. There are [also] Islamist movements that have gained influence on lawmaking, [whether] directly (through parliament) or indirectly (by [influencing] the public and media), as seen in many Arab and Islamic states (Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Algeria)...

"Sudan is headed towards division and schism under 'Islamic rule,' because the fervor to place restrictions on society surpasses [the fervor for] national unity... The theoreticians of 'the Islamic cultural enterprise' [in Sudan] preferred war and dividing the land [to peace and unity] – and with the claim of implementing the shari'a they are persecuting women who wear pants in Khartoum and laying the foundations for an expanding stratum of exploiters and 'fat cats' from among the Islamists in the private sector...

"Anyone who visits the Gaza Strip can easily see that Hamas, in its stupidity, has followed the example of Islamists in several [other] places by devoting itself to secondary and marginal matters. The basest of these is the persecution of women at the expense of far more pressing and important matters. [In fact] even if [these matters] are dealt with, it still would not [justify] what they are forcing upon women, which must be opposed in any place and at any time..."

"The Islamization that Has Been Forced upon the Gaza Strip... Is an Egregious Deed"

"The Islamization that has been forced upon the Gaza Strip – the suppression of social, cultural, and press freedoms that do not suit Hamas's view[s] – is an egregious deed that must be opposed. It is the reenactment, under a religious guise, of the experience of [other] totalitarian regimes and dictatorships.

"Under a barbaric and inhumane siege, which constitutes a crime against humanity to which all of the world powers are party, Hamas is exacerbating the people's suffering by investigating casual meetings [between friends] and attempting to change 100-year-old habits. [Customs of] marriage, dating, and gender-mixing are a matter of social, circumstantial, and status-related conventions, in which the law should not interfere. When married or engaged couples are forced to carry marriage licenses in their pockets, out of fear that some armed [policeman] might burst in on one of their dates and inquire into [the nature of] their relationship, it is a frightening deterioration in the Palestinians' values and lifestyle, which certainly did not exist [previously]. When a [policeman on a] motorcycle pursues a family car in which a woman is sitting beside a man whose arm is resting on the back of her seat, arrests [the family] and takes them to the police [station] – it is a stupid patrol [that is detrimental] to people's lives. When a brother and sister are arrested on their way home at night because they do not have identification cards on them to prove 'their legitimate relationship,' it is expressly Taliban-like behavior.

"We are talking about a long series of deeds, from the indirect coercion of female students to wear a hijab (without administrative memos or written orders), to the persecution [of girls] in restaurants and cafes, to the ban on smoking hookahs and 'searches' for immoral pictures on private computers.

"The Taliban's technical capabilities did not enable it to [do] what Hamas's technical capabilities enable it [to do] today. Hamas – which developed a lot of these capabilities, with impressive ingenuity, in the field of rocket production and in order to use modern technology to prevent infiltration [of Gaza] by Israel – is now exploiting many of these [capabilities] in order to place restrictions on Gazan society and monitor it with repulsive patriarchalism. Why does Hamas do this when it is clear that it will [ultimately] harm it and provoke criticism against it? How can one understand their preference to enforce Islamization rather than rehabilitate Gaza after the war...?

"There are two [possible] explanations for the Taliban-like steps Hamas has taken in the social sphere. The first is the erosion in Hamas of the moderate thinking characteristic of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been replaced by radical Salafist thinking...

"The second [explanation] comprises several issues. The conditions of siege and confrontation to which the movement was subjected following its victory in the elections; the ongoing hiatus in 'resistance' after the barbaric Israeli war; the emergence of corruption among some of its senior officials; and the favoritism that accompanies any rise to power – all these led to increased criticism towards Hamas from the smaller and more extremist groups [in Gaza], as well as from [extremists] within [the movement itself], who accused it of straying from 'Islamic practice by failing to establish the regime of Allah on earth.' [Hamas] responded by intensifying the Islamization of society, in order to prove that it is more Islamist [than its critics] and more committed to its [Islamist] slogans."


[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), October 11, 2010.

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