Salafi fundamentalists competing with Hamas for hearts and minds
GAZA CITY — The Hamas regime has been alarmed by a new Islamic
revivalist movement that eschews politics.
The movement, known as Salafis, was said to receive funds from the Gulf
as well as sources within the Gaza Strip. The Salafis, who appear to
resemble the Taliban and Al Qaida, have established a mosque and religious
school and were believed to number up to 50,000.
"They have become the new rival of Hamas and are supported by very
powerful sheiks in the Gulf," a Palestinian security source said.
The source said the Salafis have become established in every major town
in the Gaza Strip. Salafi members, dressed in robes and long beards, spend
their evenings going from door to door in efforts to recruit Muslims to
mosque on a daily basis. The Salafis have their own mosque, A-Sahabah, as
well as an elementary and high school in Gaza City, Middle East Newsline reported.
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The Salafis have urged Gazans to live a modesty lifestyle and throw away
their television, alcohol, pictures and cosmetics. Recruits to the movement
have been encouraged to spread these principles and influence mosques,
schools and the work place.
Hamas has sought to limit the Salafi influence. Palestinian sources said
Hamas security forces raided mosques under the influence of the Salafis.
Several militias have derived their inspiration from the Salafis. They
include the Army of Islam and the Army of the Nation -- the former sponsored
by the Dughmoush clan and the latter comprised of former members of Hamas
and Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian sources said the Salafis were said to have participated in
inspired a series of strikes on Internet cafes and cellular phone stores
around Gaza City. They said Salafis were also involved in a grenade strike
at a United Nations-sponsored festival in Rafah in 2007.
"Hamas has been very careful in dealing with the Salfis, fearing that
any crackdown will anger its supporters in Qatar and the United Arab
Emirates," the source said.