TEL AVIV – Hamas-linked militants kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam a female Christian professor in the Gaza Strip, according to the professor’s family and officials from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization.
Hamas members denied the accusations, accusing rival Fatah of spreading lies even though the professor, Sana al-Sayegh of Gaza City’s Palestine International University, has indicated she was converted against her will.
Sayegh, head of the university’s Science and Technology Department, disappeared June 24, failing to show up at work where she serves as the Gaza Strip’s only female doctorate in her field.
After several days, co-workers and Sayegh’s parents informed Gaza security officials of the professor’s disappearance.
According to sources close to her family, about five days after she disappeared Sayegh caller her parents to say she was being held against her will in order to marry a Muslim man, who was also a professor at the university.
Sayegh’s family declined to speak to WND directly, explaining interviews about the matter could endanger the professor.
“Sayegh said she couldn’t talk,” said a source. “It was very clear she had been abducted and was made to do things she didn’t want to do.”
A few days later, the family said it received a copy of a conversion document certifying Sayegh had become a Muslim. The document was signed by two witnesses, as required. One witness was Zaher Khail, president of the Palestine International University, who, according to Palestinian security officials is an Islamist close with Gaza-based terror groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Fatah officials say Khail assisted in kidnapping Sayegh, whose family stated she would “never” convert willingly to Islam. Fatah officials also accused Hamas leaders directly of overseeing Sayegh’s “forced” conversion.
Sayegh’s family and Gaza-based Christian leaders attempted to meet with former Hamas-led PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, but the Hamas leader declined a personal meeting. Instead, according to sources close to Sayegh’s family, a delegation of Hamas militants was sent to the Sayegh household to inform them the professor had converted “willingly” and that Sayegh no longer wanted to associate with her family unless they all converted to Islam.
Sayegh yesterday showed up to work at the university but has not been in touch with her parents. Sources close to her family and Fatah officials speculate she was threatened against contacting her family again. Calls by her family to Sayegh’s new husband and his family were not returned.
Christians warned: Accept Islamic law
Hamas in June seized complete control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah amid widespread fears Hamas may impose hard-line Islamic rule in the territory, and that life for Christians there might deteriorate.
About 2,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of over 1 million.
Immediately after Hamas’ Gaza coup, a Hamas-allied militant leader told WND in an exclusive interview, 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.
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, told WND Christians in Gaza who engage in “missionary activity” will be “dealt with harshly.”
Jihadia Salafiya is suspected of a slew of Islamist attacks including an attack in May against a United Nations school in Gaza after the school allowed boys and girls to participate in the same sporting event. One person was killed in that attack.
“[Now that Hamas is in power,] the situation has changed 180 degrees in Gaza,” said Abu Saqer, speaking from Gaza. “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.
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.”
‘West can learn from Islamic values’
In response to the accusations Hamas may impose hard-line Islamic rules, 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 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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