Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dangerous conversions in Gaza-developing story!

Mustab’sirin - Gaza's Converts to Shi’ite Islam The Internet forums of Palestinian Shi’ite and Umat A-Zahra (or the nation of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad,) are sites secretly managed by groups of Palestinians who recently converted to the Shi’ite branch of Islam in the Palestinian territories. It is believed the Palestinian Mustab’sirin, or visionaries – an expression given to the newly converted to the Shi’ite doctrine – live mainly in the Gaza Strip. These people are either Hamas or Islamic Jihad members, who have embraced the Shi’ite doctrine during trips to Iran. They returned home as preachers to spread the Ja’afari doctrine – the school of Islamic jurisprudence followed by mainstream Shi’ites in Lebanon and Iran – among Palestinians living in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip Those who allegedly converted to Shi’ite doctrine include several Islamic leaders based in Gaza, such as Muhammad Shehada, Dr. Zuhair Ghazawi, and Dr. Dalal A-Sulti. But several Sunni figures have categorically dismissed such suggestions as fabrications aimed at encouraging people to convert. It is a different situation in the northern West Bank, mainly in Qalqilya, where several families, following the war in Lebanon last summer and taken with Hizbullah’s charismatic leader Hasan Na’srallah and his group’s “resistance” to Israel, converted to Shi’ite Islam. Sunnis make up about 85 percent of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims, with Shi’ites living mostly in Iran and Iraq comprising the balance. The ‘Shi’itization’, a term that also refers to Sunnis converting to Shi’ism, indicates that the strenuous Iranian efforts to widen their influence to the Palestinian scene have achieved some success and have managed to make significant headway in the Sunni-dominated Palestinian territories. In the past two years Iran has developed strong ties with Hamas. For many observers, these close ties are manifesting themselves in the links between the Iranian leadership and the group's political bureau, based in Damascus and headed by hardliner Khalid Mash’al. Iran is actively contributing funds to boost these ties. Hamas has used Iranian funds to pay wages to civil servants and members of its militia, as well as to construct military camps and to purchase weapons and explosives. For many years Iran has given financial and ideological support to radical Palestinian groups, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But "the money was not a gift…It’s not for free,” according to Ibrahim Abu Jambou, a specialist in religious studies at Al-Aq’sa University in Gaza. Recent reports estimate that Iran is committed to supporting Hamas with a subsidy of $30 million a year, additionally training Hamas fighters in camps related to its revolutionary guard in Iran. "They are expecting returns: a rise in influence among the Palestinians and compliance to their orders and political and religious agendas,” says Abu Jambou. The Hamas takeover of Gaza in mid June revealed the cooperation and coordination between Iran and the Islamic movement has become tighter and more pronounced. Palestinians, as well as many moderate Arab regimes, especially the Saudis, believed that Iran was the mastermind behind Hamas’ military ‘coup’ in Gaza to undermine the Saudi-sponsored Mecca deal last February that led to a short-lived unity government. Although Iran and Hamas share a close vision for the region, Tehran wants to develop an ideological relationship with Hamas similar to that with Hizbullah in Lebanon. This ideological relationship will enable Iran to have the "final word" on everything related to Palestinian political life and the nature of its relations with Israel, Abu Jambou says. Since its Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has made serious efforts to export its doctrine to Sunni-populated conflict areas, such as Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and eventually the Palestinian areas, Abu Jambou explains. Many political and regional observers refer to the Iranian efforts as attempts to strengthen and expand the “Shi’ite axis,” identified by American and some European commentators to include Syria, Lebanon and now the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Doctrinally, Shi’ite Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad's family, the 12 Imams, are the prevailing sources of knowledge on the Quran and Islam. Sunni Islam, however, follows the teachings of Islamic caliphs who proclaimed their leadership after Muhammad's passing, but were not blood relatives of the prophet.

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