Welcome to Hamas’ Gaza: No Jobs for Mosque Outliers
By: Amjad Yaghi
Published Friday, July 26, 2013
Gaza – Mohammed Ibrahim, 25, graduated from Gaza’s al-Azhar University three years ago with a degree in social services. When he learned that a local charitable organization was in need of a social researcher, he was thrilled that he’d finally be able to secure a job in his field.
Dressed to impress, Mohammed headed to the charity center and filled out an application. During his interview, he was asked about his academic qualifications and experience, but the charity was persistent on obtaining one peculiar detail of his life: the closest mosque to his house. When Mohammed inquired about the relevance of this information, the interviewer responded: “to ask the mosque congregants about you.”
Mohammed told them the name of the nearest mosque and returned home with a sense of despair. He told Al-Akhbar he did not get the job because he has no social connection to his local mosque – he only goes there to pray. He explained that in order to get a job at this particular charity, you have to be a committed mosque goer.
Rashad Zenhom’s story is similar to Mohammed’s. He applied for a job as a radio producer at the editing department of al-Aqsa Radio. As he filled out the application, he was surprised that he had to provide the address of the mosque closest to his home. The management at the radio station was impressed with his qualifications, but the mosque question was a necessary condition for employment at the station.
Rashad said, “The mosque congregation in Gaza has become like the intelligence in the old days, that is, they provide a full report on every neighborhood resident.” He complained, “Mosques are places where Muslims gather to worship God, not write reports about people.”
Rida Ahmad’s story is a bit different from the others. Rida, 24, graduated two years ago from the al-Quds Open University with a degree in administration and economics. Unemployed since graduation, he finally went to one of his neighbors who works at the premiership’s headquarters to ask for help in applying for a government job.
The neighbor asked him if he performs his prayers at the mosque. When Rida said that he prays at home, the neighbor explained to him that if he wants to get a job, he has to regularly attend a mosque and foster relationships with its congregants. They are the ones who will be asked to provide a recommendation, which will help him nail a job.
Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform bloc MP, Faraj al-Ghoul, assured Al-Akhbar that the mosque question is only verbal and has no effect on hiring. He said that no complaints have been filed, but if one was, then the Legislative Council would take up the issue.
However, the director of the Center for Democracy and Workers’ Rights in Gaza, Nidal Ghubn, confirmed that the center has received many complaints about the employment policy of the Gaza government and Hamas-affiliated associations.
Ghubn pointed out that Palestinian society in Gaza is “diverse because we are Muslim by nature, but there are a lot of people who refuse to pray at mosques due to the rampant political and partisan polarization.”
Ghubn argued that the politicization of employment in Gaza is the highest form of corruption. He wondered how it is that mosque imams are allowed to exercise this level of control over people’s livelihoods.
Khalil Abu Shamala, director of al-Dameer Association for Human Rights, said, “What we see in Gaza proves that these parties do not want to provide employment for people who are not members of Hamas,” pointing out that approximately 95 percent of government employees are members of Hamas.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.