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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reuters' painting Hamas as moderate

This Reuters story is ostensibly about the growing influence that Qaeda-style groups are gaining in Gaza, but the subtext is loud and clear: Hamas isn't really so bad, after all. Here's part of the article, highlighting the clearly pro-Hamas parts:
Abu Hafss is not happy.

A year after Hamas Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip, Abu Hafss is waiting impatiently to see a sword remove the hand of a thief or a woman stoned to death for adultery.

"Hamas does not implement the rule of God," the Palestinian ally of al Qaeda said. "We have seen no one have his hand cut off for stealing. We have seen no one stoned as an adulterer."

Yet for all Abu Hafss' disappointment with the approach Hamas has adopted since it routed secular rivals in Gaza a year ago, some analysts believe smaller, more radical groups like Abu Hafss' secretive Jaysh al-Ummah (Army of the Nation) have benefited from the Hamas takeover to expand their membership.

Despite an official Hamas policy of respecting the rights of Gaza's small Christian minority, there has been an increase in attacks on Christians in the past year, apparently by Islamists not content with the extent of Hamas's "Islamisation" of Gaza.

Among the outward signs of that have been a proliferation of beards on men and headscarves on some women, along with the virtual disappearance of alcohol and a ban on pornographic websites -- though Hamas officials reject accusations that they are embarked on a programme to impose Islamic law on daily life.

If Gazans are more observant of Islamic practice -- and not all in the enclave agree that this so -- that is the result of persuasion, Hamas says.

...A week of fighting with the Fatah forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saw Hamas take control of Gaza and its 1.5 million people on June 14 last year -- and saw Abbas dismiss a Hamas-led government that had been hit by Western sanctions over Hamas's refusal to renounce violence against Israel.

Within three weeks of seizing power, Hamas was quick to trumpet its success in securing the freedom of the hostage reporter, the BBC's Alan Johnston. Its spokesmen say it continues to oppose violent Islamist factions.

"Anyone who harms the public order will certainly be hunted down," Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri said, while also saying Hamas was ready to accept the aid of such groups in its fight against Israel.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad control the majority of mosques in Gaza and both groups restrict the activity of other extremist factions who tend to meet at smaller mosques or in homes where they preach their fanatic brand of Islam.

Market stalls do brisk business in selling recordings of speeches of al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri and the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as well as videos of beheadings of U.S. and foreign soldiers and personnel in Iraq.

In an environment where a tightened Israeli blockade against Hamas has increased hardships for people in the enclave, more radical forms of Islam appear to some analysts to be exercising a growing influence over some Palestinians.

A Gaza political analyst, who spoke anonymously for fear of retribution, said Hamas's influence on fostering more Islamic social behaviour in Gaza had been mixed. He argued that the fact Hamas had taken control but then did not impose more severe Islamic ways may have boosted those groups which favoured that.
The al Qassam website couldn't have done a better job in propaganda for Hamas. And the last paragraph implies that perhaps Hamas is being too moderate!