Gaza: Islamisation continues

Submitted by Matthew on 15 April, 2010 - 5:00 Author: Dan Katz

The creeping Islamisation of Gaza continues. Hamas’ latest bans include Valentine’s Day parties and male hairdressers in female salons.

The BBC interviewed one of the “five or six” male hairdressers in the Gaza Strip who are affected by the ban. Jokingly Adnan Barakat suggested he might be forced to move to more liberal areas, “like Somalia or Afghanistan.”

Another male hairdresser was driven out of business by bomb attacks. Hatem al-Ghoul said, “They came twice in the middle of the night and blew up my salon with small bombs, once in 2007 and once in 2008.”

Al-Ghoul is not sure who attacked his business, but many in Gaza believe Islamists more extreme than Hamas are responsible.

It seems Hamas is now having difficulty keeping the Jihadi groups in check.

Jaljalat (“Rolling thunder”) has claimed to be linked to al-Qaeda. And The Soldiers of the Monotheism Brigades declared: “We will not stop targeting the figures of this perverted, crooked government (Hamas), breaking their bones and cleansing the pure land of the Gaza Strip of these abominations.”

In March Gaza Islamists fired nearly 20 rockets and mortars at Israel. Around 40 have been fired since the beginning of the year. Israel has retaliated with strikes on 28 sites in Gaza since the start of 2010. The rocket launchers appear to be a mixture of hardliners within Hamas and Islamist radicals from other groups.

And there is a simmering power struggle within Hamas, and between Hamas and more extreme Islamists. Bombs have blown up the cars of senior police officers, the mayor of Rafah, and of a leader of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ militia wing.

In the West Bank Fatah is restricting further the ability of Hamas to organise.

The Palestinian Authority’s religious-affairs minister, Mahmoud Habbash, has sent 200 new imams to manage mosques run by Hamas. He issues scripted weekly sermons and instructs censors to monitor mosques.

According to the PA all the West Bank’s 1700 mosques, including nearly 300 in conservative Hebron, are now in government hands.

When worshippers interrupted a PA-endorsed preacher in Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque and told him to speak out against Israel’s siege of Gaza, the PA’s local religious-affairs official had the crowd evicted.

On the other hand, worshippers in two of the West Bank’s main towns, Nablus and Ramallah, have ejected imams who condemned the Islamists in Friday sermons. Elsewhere official imams have had shoes thrown at them.

The PA has also dissolved the 92 charitable committees that used to provide Hamas with its patronage network. In their place the PA has appointed 12 of its own committees, which have removed the Hamas-dominated boards that offered services such as nurseries, schools, bakeries and cheap housing for the poor.

Sources: BBC, The Economist

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