FaithWorld

Exorcisms and charlatans flourish in impoverished Gaza

gaza koran

(A man reads a Koran in Gaza, 3 Dec 2010/Suhaib Salem)

The shabby room in a one-story house in suburban Gaza was shrouded in darkness, and only the mutterings of a bearded exorcist broke the silence. A man lay stretched on a grubby mattress, writhing, as the faith healer recited Koranic verses to chase away an evil spirit. “Get out, you demon,” the exorcist, who calls himself Sheikh Ali, threatened the spirit. “Get out or I will burn you.”

There are a lot of demons to chase in this poverty-riddled Palestinian enclave, say a growing number of Koranic exorcists who have set up shop in Gaza, offering to end the torments of their sometimes highly disturbed patients. The growth of exorcist clinics is seen by some as a sign of rising religious fervour among ordinary Palestinians. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that runs Gaza, however, is increasingly concerned that many exorcists are simply charlatans.

Nobody knows how many exorcists are here, but Hamas investigators say they uncovered 30 cases of fraud last year alone. There have also been complaints that healers are using dark magic to cast spells on their clients, and the police say they have found evidence of sexual abuses committed during these sessions.

“We caught some suspects red-handed, practicing exorcism, using magic to separate married couples and other things, under the pretext of helping people,” said Lieut. Col. Abdel-Baset Al-Masri, head of Hamas’s police investigation unit. “It was all an act of deception and exploitation. Some people handed over fortunes and one woman gave all her jewellery to one of these exorcists.”

The idea of demonic possession exists in many religions, and belief in the existence of demons and spirits, known as jinns, is widespread among Muslims, but many mainstream clerics doubt they can possess the human body, and disapprove of the work of the so-called Koranic clinics. Sheikh Ali begs to differ. He says jinns can wreak havoc on human relations, driving a wedge between married couples or causing women to be infertile, and he says his work shows they can also take up residence in a human body.

Don’t preach to us, Hamas tells secular West

hamas 1The West is floundering in immorality and has no right to criticise the Islamist movement Hamas over the way it governs the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a veteran leader of the militant group said. Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Reuters in an interview that Islamic traditions deserved respect and he accused Europe of promoting promiscuity and political hypocrisy. (Photo: Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip October 23, 2010/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

“We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion, You are secular,” said Zahar, who is one of the group’s most influential and respected voices.

“You do not live like human beings. You do not (even) live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticise us?” he said, speaking from his apartment building in the densely populated Mediterranean city.

French mosque reopens after protest disruptions

drancy map

Drancy on a map of greater Paris

A French mosque, whose imam says he has received death threats over his promotion of dialogue with Jews, reopened for Friday prayers after it was forced to close down this week due to disruptive protests.  The mosque in Drancy, a suburb to the north of Paris, has been the focus of tension for weeks with a small group of protesters keeping up a noisy barrage of criticism against the imam Hassen Chalghoumi.

“We’ve been facing really enormous pressure for five or six weeks now,” Chalghoumi told reporters before Friday prayers. “We want peace, we want calm. These people aren’t welcome here.”

As Chalghoumi spoke, a group of around 30 protesters from a group named after Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of  the Palestinian Hamas movement, gathered outside the fence of the mosque, facing off with fluorescent-vested security staff preventing them from entering.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Palestinian Non-Alcoholic Beer

taybehThe fifth annual Palestinian Oktoberfest was held on October 3rd and 4th, at the mainly Christian town of Taybeh, West Bank. Located several kilometers north of Ramallah, Taybeh, is home to the first and only Palestinian beer - Taybeh Beer. Established in 1995, Taybeh Beer can also be found abroad, being sold and distributed in Germany, the United Kingdom and even Japan.

The two-day beer festival celebrates the town's now famed beverage and markets other local Palestinian products such as olive oil, honey, and embroidery to international visitors, as an effort to boost the Palestinian economy.

This year's Oktoberfest boasted a diverse program featuring Brazilian and Greek bands and traditional Japanese dancers. Organizers expected more than 10,000 visitors, a new record.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Clash of Islamists the talk of Gaza

Ibn Taymea mosque

Coming home on Sunday after a long day at work, there was still no rest. Several of my neighbours in Gaza were escaping the late evening heat of their apartments to sit outside our building chatting about the previous two days that had seen the bloodiest inter-Palestinian fighting in two years, between forces of the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza and gunmen of an al Qaeda-style group. It left 28 people dead.

Knowing I'ma journalist, and discovering that I had been at the scene of the clashes, down in the south of the Gaza Strip at Rafah, the neighbours started bombarding me with their questions. Most of them were confused about what exactly happened between these two groups, which both endorse Islam as a political ideology.

Some of them asked whether the clashes would have a backlash and whether they should keep a distance from Hamas police stations and even restaurants to avoid being blown up by followers of the Jund Ansar Allah (the Warriors of God), whose leader had been killed in the fighting with Hamas security forces.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Negotiating with Hamas? Try an Islamic Framework

Khaled Meshaal Since Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal's interview with the New York Times last month, some analysts have sugggested that Hamas is becoming more pragmatic.

This new report from the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), which describes itself as a "nonpartisan, US Congress established and funded organization", seems well timed then.

The report - titled "Hamas: Ideological Rigidity and Political Flexibility" - explores the idea that Hamas might be influenced in negotiations by using an "Islamic point of view".