Friday, January 27, 2006

Palestinian Christian responds to Hamas

Palestinian Christian responds to Hamas
The absence of Palestinian Christian voices in all the coverage of today’s PA elections makes this report in Toronto’s Globe & Mail stand out. A Christian pharmacist in Ramallah shares his fears:

"We're all afraid. We're worried about the future, that we'll become a second Iran."
It's a common sentiment in Ramallah, especially among the city's dwindling Christian community. Where Christians once made up an about 10 per cent of the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the share is believed to have fallen to less than 2 per cent as many left to escape both the rising Islamicization of society and the constant violence.

While Hamas has worked hard to moderate its message during the campaign -- stressing that its primary goal is ending corruption within the Palestinian Authority, and even dropping some of its rhetoric about destroying Israel -- many Palestinian Christians are still nervous about being governed by a movement that proclaims "Islam is the answer" in response to tough questions about the collapsed Palestinian economy and prospects for future statehood.
Will the election results spark more Christians to leave?

I'm worried about my daughters, my sisters, my wife. I'm worried about their liberties. I don't want my wife to have to wear a head scarf. I don't want Islam to rule my life," said Abu Harb, the 40-year-old owner of a shop in Ramallah's Christian district. For fear of retribution, he didn't want his full name used or his store identified.

A Fatah supporter, he said Hamas was too inflexible to govern. "You can't argue with them. They just use the Koran to escape from any debate."

It's a sentiment that has spread well beyond the tiny Christian community. Many liberal-minded Muslims say they're just as worried that Hamas, if it does well enough to shape the next government, will try to force its social values onto Palestinian society.

Liberals point to the strictly conservative atmosphere that hangs over the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is most popular, as an example of what worries them. Where Ramallah has a reputation for the best nightlife in the West Bank, alcohol is no longer sold in Gaza, and few women there venture outdoors without donning a head scarf.

Soccer Dad found a related summary in National Review. Hamas is already trying to impose it's agenda on Christians and other non-Muslims in Bethlehem:

  • Might the exercise of political power have a moderating influence on Hamas extremists, as the starry-eyed hope?
  • In an interview published in the Wall Street Journal just before Christmas, Bethlehem city councilor and local Hamas leader Hassan El-Masalmeh advocated a special tax on non-Muslim residents of the future Palestinian state. The tax, known as al-jeziya, is required by the Koran for dhimmis, second-class Jews and Christians.

  • "We in Hamas intend to implement this tax someday," he told an interviewer,
  • "We say it openly — we welcome everyone to Palestine but only if they agree to live under our rules."

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