Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hamas versus Al-Qaeda

To compare Hamas with Al-Qaeda is both illogical and baseless, writes Saleh Al-Naami from Gaza

She looked right and then left before crossing the intersection leading to the university. The traffic was being directed by four members of the special forces affiliated with the Interior Ministry, all from Hamas. Gawaher Ghadir, 21, is one of very few female students who doesn't wear a head scarf at the Al-Azhar University in Gaza. Nobody, either from Hamas or the security services belonging to the Hamas administration has ever asked her to do so. And she doesn't think that anyone is going to.

Ahmed Ghannash, who sells music tapes and CDs from a stand on Al-Mukhtar Street, the thoroughfare that divides Gaza city into two, said that he resumed business after Hamas gained power. In the past, unknown gunmen threatened to burn his stand unless he stopped selling music recordings.

Islam Shahwan, police spokesman at the Foreign Ministry, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the attacks on music merchants and Internet cafés are now close to zero, down from about 35 attacks per month in the past. In the six months before Gaza fell into Hamas's hands, an Islamic extremist group calling itself the Islamic Swords of Justice -- a group believed to embrace some of Al-Qaeda's ideas -- was particularly active in Gaza. That group called for the closure of Internet cafés and music shops. It attacked some of the parties organised at various wedding halls in Gaza and torched some of the educational institutions run by Christians. The group once threatened to harm female presenters working for Palestine Television unless they covered their heads.

Father Manuel Musallam, head of the Latin community to which many Gaza Christians belong, said that his congregation feels more secure under Hamas control. He added that relations between his community and Hamas are very strong. Musallam goes regularly to visit Ismail Haniyeh, who briefs him on current developments.

It is noteworthy that the Hamas parliamentary group includes one Christian deputy, Hossam Al-Tawil. Hamas appointed one Christian minister in its new cabinet, formed one week after the movement took control of Gaza. Haniyeh made it absolutely clear that his government wouldn't hesitate to confront all forms of religious "coercion" and would punish anyone "depriving the people of their right to act freely as long as they did not break the law."

Complete Article

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