Hamas accuses PNA of extirpating Islam in West Bank, PNA denies
The deposed Hamas government, which rules the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday accused the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) of extirpating Islam in the West Bank, while the PNA rejected the Islamic movement's accusations, Xinhua reported.
Hamas spokesman Taher Nouno told a news conference that PNA is adopting Israeli and U.S. plans to uproot Islam in the West Bank.
"We warn of the consequences of the measures that the PNA carries out against Islam in the West Bank, mainly after the statements of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad where he said that religious strictness should be confronted," said Nouno.
He said Hamas rejects the PNA attempts of imposing what it termed as "religious normalization" on Islamic nations and rejects leaders to visit in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He called on the Moslems' leaders all over the world to reject "these cunning invitations."
On Tuesday, deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya accused the PNA of waging "war" against Islam in the West Bank. His remarks came a day after the Palestinian government prevented a Hamas cleric from sermonizing in the West Bank mosques.
"The war aims at striking the religious trend in the Palestinian generation and implementing the Zionist and U.S. plans by Palestinian hands," said Haneya, adding that the PNA shut down 1,000 centers educating Quran and dissolved tens of Zakat (alms) committees.
The ban is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat attitudes Hamas and the PNA have been taking against each other since Hamas routed forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas and seized control of Gaza in 2007. Haneya said the PNA war on Islam will not succeed "because this is a war against Allah."
Meanwhile, Hamas government said that Hamed al-Bittawi, the Hamas cleric, was banned from delivering speeches at mosques " because he was a member of the parliament."
Haneya also accused the PNA of arresting and cracking down on clerics and scholars.
PNA Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habbash justified the banning decision, saying that the preachers should report to his ministry in order to be corrected or called to account in case of a mistake "and this doesn't apply to al-Bittawi because he enjoys parliamentary immunity."
Al-Habbash described Hamas accusations as "just lies and unfair incitement," adding "Hamas government is using religion to incite against the PNA and its leaders. Hamas is a political movement that uses Islam to achieve its goals."
"The PNA had built 90 new mosques in the West Bank and it has 600 centers that educate Quran, where there are 20,000 students studying at these centers," said al-Habbash, adding that throughout last year, 200 students kept the Quran by heart and 1, 700 people can read the Quran correctly."
Hamas, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since June 2007, was also accused of Islamizing the costal enclave.
Al-Habbash slammed Hamas movement, saying "this movement is claiming that it is a religious one, but in fact it is a political movement that uses religion to achieve political goals that don't serve Islam."
He accused Hamas for being behind the incitement of killing innocent civilians and targeting their homes in the Gaza Strip, referring to the time when Hamas militias fought Abbas' security forces in June 2007 and seized control of the enclave.
"Hamas has illegally seized control of the Gaza Strip, and its militants killed hundreds of innocent people during the past four years in order to carry out its dirty coup (takeover) and reinforce its power," said al-Habbash, who is originally from Gaza and a member in Salam Fayyad's government.
After Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, the enclave remained under the Islamic movement's rule, while the West Bank is still ruled by Abbas security forces and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The Palestinians have concerns that they will keep having two governments and two leaderships.
Efforts exerted by Egypt and other Palestinian mediators had failed to reach a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. The internal Palestinian rift would block the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the two areas with East Jerusalem as its capital.