JERUSALEM – Christians can continue living safely in the Gaza Strip only if they accept Islamic law, including a ban on alcohol and on women roaming publicly without proper head coverings, an Islamist militant leader in Gaza told WND in an exclusive interview.
The militant leader said Christians in Gaza who engage in “missionary activity” will be “dealt with harshly.”
The threats come two days after a church and Christian school in Gaza was attacked following the seizure of power in the territory by the Hamas terror group.
“I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza,” said Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a “military wing” to enforce Muslim law in Gaza.
Jihadia Salafiya is suspected of attacking a United Nations school in Gaza last month, after the school allowed boys and girls to participate in the same sporting event. One person was killed in that attack.
“The situation has now changed 180 degrees in Gaza,” said Abu Saqer, speaking from Gaza yesterday.
“Jihadia Salafiya and other Islamic movements will ensure Christian schools and institutions show publicly what they are teaching to be sure they are not carrying out missionary activity. No more alcohol on the streets. All women, including non-Muslims, need to understand they must be covered at all times while in public,” Abu Asqer told WND.
“Also the activities of Internet cafes, pool halls and bars must be stopped,” he said. “If it goes on, we’ll attack these things very harshly.”
Abu Saqer accused the leadership of the Gaza Christian community of “proselytizing and trying to convert Muslims with funding from American evangelicals.”
“This missionary activity is endangering the entire Christian community in Gaza,” he said.
Abu Saqer claimed there was “no need” for the thousands of Christians in Gaza to maintain a large number of institutions in the territory.
About 2,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of over 1 million.
Abu Saqer said Hamas “must work to impose an Islamic rule or it will lose the authority it has and the will of the people.”
His comments come after gunmen Sunday attacked Gaza’s Latin Church and adjacent Rosary Sisters School, reportedly destroying crosses, bibles, pictures of Jesus and furniture and equipment. The attackers also stole a number of computers.
The attack was the first targeting of Christian institutions since Hamas last week staged a coup against the rival Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, seizing all Fatah positions and security compounds, essentially taking complete control of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas officials in Gaza claimed to WND Fatah was behind Sunday’s church attack in an attempt to discredit Hamas to the international community.
Abu Saqer claimed he had “good information” the attack actually was a robbery aimed at the church’s school computers, even though Bibles and Christian holy objects were destroyed.
Christians, secular institutions targeted
Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005. Since then, there have been a slew of attacks there against Christians and non-Muslims.
A month before the U.N. school was targeted, Palestinians bombed a Christian book store in Gaza reportedly funded by American Protestants that exclusively sold Christian books. Two nearby Internet cafes also were bombed.
At the time, Abu Saqer, who didn’t take credit for the attack, told WND the Christian bookstore was “proselytizing and attempting to convert our people.”
“As a principle, we believe that Jews and Christians will always do everything in order to keep Muslims far from their religion,” Abu Saqer said.
Even before Hamas took over Gaza last week, some analysts here called the recent bombings of secular and Christian institutions in the territory indications Hamas may be seeking to impose Islamic rule on the Palestinian population.
Israeli officials said Hamas in 2005 established hard-line Islamic courts and created the Hamas Anti-Corruption Group, described as a kind of “morality police” operating within Hamas’ organization. Hamas has denied the existence of the group, but it recently carried out a high-profile “honor killing” widely covered by the Palestinian media.
A Hamas-run council in the West Bank came under international criticism last year when it barred an open-air music and dance festival, declaring it was against Islam.
‘West can learn from Islamic values’
In response to the uproar, Hamas chief in Gaza and former foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar told WND in a recent interview: “I hardly understand the point of view of the West concerning these issues. The West brought all this freedom to its people but it is that freedom that has brought about the death of morality in the West. It’s what led to phenomena like homosexuality, homelessness and AIDS.”
Asked if Hamas is seeking to impose hard-line Islamic law on the Palestinians, al-Zahar responded, “The Palestinian people are Muslim people, and we do not need to impose anything on our people because they are already committed to their faith and religion. People are free to choose their way of life, their way of dress and behavior.”
Al-Zahar said his terror group, which demands strict dress codes for females, respects women’s rights.
“It is wrong to think that in our Islamic society there is a lack of rights for women. Women enjoy their rights. What we have, unlike the West, is that young women cannot be with men and have relations outside marriage. Sometimes with tens of men. This causes the destruction of the family institution and the fact that many kids come to the world without knowing who are their fathers or who are their mothers. This is not a modern and progressed society,” al-Zahar explained.
The terror chieftain told WND the West can learn from his group’s Islamic values.
“Here I refer to what was said in the early ’90s by Britain’s Prince Charles at Oxford University. He spoke about Islam and its important role in morality and culture. He said the West must learn from Islam how to bring up children properly and to teach them the right values.”
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