Christians In Gaza Feeling Pressure To Convert


Reuters is reporting that the small Christian community in Gaza is feeling pressure to convert to Islam. According to the report:

REUTERS 07/28/2012 08:39  Two conversions that a Christian family says were forced have strained relations between a tiny Palestinian Christian community in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Muslim majority. Hundreds of Christians have staged protests in Gaza’s main church in the past week, demanding the return of members of their community of 2,500, whom they said were kidnapped by Islamist proselytizers and forced to convert to Islam. Hamas has run Gaza since its forces seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007, ousting security services loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah movement. Hamas officials reject the church’s accusations, saying two Christians, a man and a woman, converted freely to Islam. The woman, who had left her husband, brought along her three daughters aged 12, 9, and 6 who are now being taught the Koran. The 24-year-old man told reporters he had become Muslim of his own free will and wanted to go back to his family, should they accept him as a Muslim. A day later, he returned home. It was not possible to speak to the newly converted woman, Hiba Daoud, but in a video clip made by a pro-Hamas news website she tells her family it was her decision to become a Muslim. ‘We are living with a (Muslim) family, they bring us all we need, they teach us how to pray and everything,’ said Hiba, wearing a full Muslim dress and a scarf covering her hair. ‘I love you all, I hope no one feels upset with me, it was my decision which I made months ago.’ But her aunt, Fatin Ayyad, says Hiba spoke under duress. ‘We are increasingly worried about our sons and daughters. If those people joined Islam of their own will it would not have been a problem. But they were under pressure,’ she said. Only nine Gaza Christians are known to have converted to Islam in the past half-dozen years, an insignificant number. Yet the church and some congregants see the latest conversions as the thin end of the wedge and say they are being targeted. ‘There is a big split in relations now,’ said Ayyad. ‘Some groups want to spread division between Muslims and Christians.’ 

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A post from last week reported that Hamas had begun deducting zakat (Islamic charity donations) from businesses and individuals during Ramadan. Another recent post reported that Hamas will be dominating Gaza summer camps this year after the U.N ran out of funds for the programs. In March of 2011, the U.K. based Daily Telegraph published an article titled “Gaza’s Elected Islamist Rulers Crack Down On Secular Community” which reported on the Islamization of Gaza under Hamas rule. A series of posts have also discussed the treatment of women under the Hamas regime in Gaza including the ban on men in women’s hairdressing salons and the ban on motorcycle riders from carrying women on the back seat and in May, an Israeli journalist reported further details on the treatment of women under the Hamas regime in Gaza. 

The Hamas charter states that it “is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine” and in July 2011, Egyptian Brotherhood leader Dr. Essam al-Arian acknowledged the relationship between the Brotherhood and Hamas stating “The Muslim Brotherhood Group as a public Islamic organization is the umbrella for many Islamist movements, including Hamas”  In June 2007,  a Hamas journalist acknowledged the role that the “international Muslim Brotherhood” has played in providing funds for the purchase of weapons for the organization.The Global Muslim Brotherhood supports Hamas through the Union of Good, a worldwide coalition of charities headed by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi.

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