Hamas soldiers to preach in Gaza’s mosques
By: Orouba Othman
Published Thursday, April 3, 2014
Step by step, fascism is making its way into Gaza. After Hamas imposed several strange laws on the external appearance of its residents, the movement has now launched a new campaign calling for the replacement of mosque preachers with soldiers.
Gaza - Gaza had been inundated with a flood of disciplinary campaigns initiated by the resigned [Hamas] government. But this time, it has planned a special type of campaign. In the past, the government had employed its security apparatus to chase after individuals wearing baggy pants, or with unusual haircuts. Today, the security apparatus is intruding on something else that is supposed to be sacred and kept away from militarism and security matters.
Recently, the Political and Moral Guidance Committee of the Ministry of Interior and National Security launched a campaign titled "Officers on the Podiums of God's Messenger." According to the campaign, officers and soldiers will deliver the Friday sermons from mosque podiums in their military uniforms.
This is a peculiar and extraordinary situation, especially since so many are vocalizing the need for sheikhs to stop intervening in the political and personal sphere. But the Interior Ministry came up with this campaign, which creates a confusing role for the military, and opens the door to its blatant involvement in religious affairs. Unarmed soldiers will replace religious preachers inside mosques and will take up arms outside of them to provide protection and security.
The Political and Moral Guidance Committee's justification centers on breaking the barrier between the people and the security forces and improving their image. This is assuming that fear of the security apparatus could be broken by a sermon in a mosque.
"Interior [Ministry] officers are part of the clergy and part of the security regime and intellectual security," explained Khalil Abu Julaidan, the committee's director in Rafah. "The police and security cadre's work is not limited to policing the homeland. It also extends to intellectual and moral protection and controlling the prevalent culture inside society." Abu Julaidan's comments hint that the security regime will be given more powers to permeate holy places, which should safe from the security treatment and political control.
Surprisingly, community groups are not yet aware of the significance of the dangerous course taken by Gaza's Interior Ministry. Even human rights activists, who sounded the alarm when al-Aqsa University imposed "sharia dress" on its female students and banned women from smoking hookah in public, were not disturbed by the issue and have not yet adopted a clear position.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Issam Younis, the head of the Mizan Human Rights Center, justified not releasing any statement on the issue by saying he receives a large number of cases and complaints related to Hamas imposing their religious views on people's personal lives. The latest such undertaking was when the Health Ministry issued a circular obliging women employees to wear a head cover, but its implementation was hindered by rights groups. Younis pointed out that human rights organizations have not yet received any complaints about the new campaign, saying that people have not yet grasped its serious repercussions.
A few Palestinians, however, got the message and delved into its content and implementation. "It seems we are in the process of going back to before modern civilization," some said. "We are trying to take away the control that sheikhs have on our modern civil life, which is the civil state established by the Prophet. How can we accept a soldier becoming a mosque preacher? Shouldn't the preachers correct the politicians? Or should it be the other way around?"
But it is unlikely for the campaign to give rise to the militarization of mosques, writer and analyst Akram Atallah opined. "The campaign aims to instil the ideology of Hamas in all aspects of life," he said, "especially since Gaza's ruling movement believes security is its lifeblood." He maintained that Hamas associates all its actions with a religious dimension, leading it to muddle the issues and fail to separate between preaching and security. Atallah rejected linking religious work with security, especially in light of calls to separate religious organizations from civil life.
But why didn't the campaign provoke civil society? Atallah explained that "Hamas' previous campaigns directly touched people's lives, so popular anger came to the surface. However, this campaign targets Hamas' security cadre, even if its impact extends to the general public since not all mosque attendees are in Hamas."
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This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.