Gazans fear new bloodshed as Hamas, Fatah clash over assassination attempt

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (C) arrives at his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah following his return from the Gaza Strip where an explosion targeted his convoy on March 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 March 2018
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Gazans fear new bloodshed as Hamas, Fatah clash over assassination attempt

GAZA CITY: The assassination attempt on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah earlier this week has left Gazans fearful that political differences between Hamas and Fatah will erupt again into violence.
Hamdallah was traveling through the Gaza Strip on Tuesday when his motorcade was targeted by a roadside bomb. Six of his security guards were slightly wounded in the attack, which sent debris hurtling into the air and left a large crater.
Hamas was quick to condemn the incident, but people here fear it may jeopardize a fragile reconciliation deal struck between the hard-line movement and the Palestinian Authority last year.
“We are the prisoners of siege, poverty and unemployment. Now to add to this we have an assassination attempt on the prime minister in Gaza,” Alaa Mutair, a 27-year-old designer, told Arab News.
“The incident is very dangerous. I do not know who is behind it, but whoever stands behind it certainly does not have any interest in the Palestinian people and their future.”
Hamdallah is prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by Fatah and controls the West Bank. Fatah has been in dispute with Hamas since 2006, when the movement won legislative elections in the Occupied Territories by a landslide.
Tensions erupted in Gaza a year later, with both sides carrying out public executions of rival fighters. Hamas emerged victorious and has controlled the strip ever since.
While the two factions signed a reconciliation deal last October, ill-feeling persists. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum wrote on Facebook that Fatah had used the assassination attempt to launch a media campaign “steeped in hatred and exclusion of Hamas.”
Hany El-Masary, 36, told Arab News that customers at his hairdressing salon had been feverishly discussing the attempt on Hamdallah’s life.
“We seriously fear the dispute between Fatah and Hamas will continue for a long time and reconciliation will become impossible. We are lost between the two rivals,” he said
Israel has imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza since Hamas came to power in 2007. The siege has crippled the economy and caused the UN to warn that the strip faces “full collapse.”
Reflecting on this week’s assassination attempt, Abeer Lubbad, a 54-year-old housewife, said: “The fear today is that we will return to having a chaotic security situation, just like we have a chaotic economic situation.”


‘Homegrown Islam project’ could lead to new Ankara-Berlin tensions

Updated 26 March 2019
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‘Homegrown Islam project’ could lead to new Ankara-Berlin tensions

  • Markus Kerber: “What we need now is an Islam for German Muslims that belongs to Germany”
  • Germany’s new plan aims to counter foreign influence on the Muslim community

ANKARA: Germany has reportedly initiated a campaign to push German Muslims to develop a new interpretation of Islam, the Financial Times reported on Monday. 

“What we need now is an Islam for German Muslims that belongs to Germany,” Markus Kerber, the government representative responsible for relations with the Muslim community under the German Interior Ministry, reportedly told the Financial Times.

The move of Europe’s economic powerhouse is expected to influence Turkey’s state-led diaspora engagement with German-Turks as well as its state-level relations with Germany. But experts do not anticipate relations to further deteriorate as they say they are already as bad as they can get. 

Turks, mostly from the conservative section of society, have been emigrating to Germany since the early 1960s; originally as guest workers during the economic boom. They have since become the largest Muslim community in the country. 

Germany’s new plan aims to counter foreign influence on the Muslim community and provide homegrown training to all imams preaching in Germany. 

The largest Islamic organization in Germany is the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, which is affiliated to Turkey’s state directorate for religious affairs. Turkey is sending imams to Germany who are paid by the Turkish government and who are preaching in Turkish in 900 mosques funded by Ankara.

According to Yoruk Halil, a halal butcher living in Frankfurt, Germany’s new move will be beneficial for the Turkish Muslim community. 

“Those imams coming from Turkey do not benefit Turkish youth in Germany because these young people have been raised with a totally different culture and they mostly speak German, so they cannot establish a healthy dialogue with those imams,” Halil told Arab News. “In order to reach out to the Muslim community, including Turks, there is a need to use homegrown imams. 

My 15-year-old son has been going to the mosque for five years and he even told me that he has better communication with imams being trained and educated in Germany,” he said. 

There is also a continuing debate over requiring Muslims in Germany to pay a worship tax.

Turkey is against any “Germanification” of Islam and considers any redefinition of Islam for Germany against the universality of the religion. 

Germany’s move intends to further integrate Muslims’ daily routines into German society, to boost the loyalty of the 3 million members of the German-Turkish community.  It is therefore considered a move for breaking the Turkish community’s ties with their national and religious identity as well as their traditions.

Last year, German police recorded some 578 hate crimes against Muslims between January and September, while about half of Germans think that Islam is incompatible with the values of their nation, according to recent research by pollster YouGov.

“Turkey has been developing diaspora politics since the mid-2000s, and Turks in Germany have been put at the center of it,” Murat Onsoy, an expert in Turkey-Germany relations at Hacettepe University in Ankara, told Arab News. 

However, for Onsoy, the presence of imams in Germany who have been appointed by Turkey is a socialization factor for the Turkish diaspora — who show relatively low rates of crime — and to maintain their links with their home country. 

“If Germany rejects Turkish funding to these mosques, they will face serious difficulties in covering their expenses,” he said. 

Germany has a community of about 4.5 million Muslims worshipping at about 2,400 mosques, and the number is expected to rise with the refugee influx from Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Sy The German federal constitution, called Basic Law, gives autonomy to Muslim communities to receive funding and religious officials from abroad to operate mosques in Germany. 

“It is unlikely that this article of the constitution would be easily amended. Various provinces would react to such a move, resulting in widespread protests. The Turkish government would raise the issue at the intergovernmental Islamic organizations, and the German government would be obliged take a step back,” Onsoy said. 

He, however, draws attention to the timing of the debate. 

“It coincides with the upcoming local elections in Turkey this Sunday, and in the past we witnessed that such potential crises with Western countries have been used by the ruling government to consolidate its voters through engaging in international polemics and assuming the role of the defender of external Turks and ‘Islam’ worldwide,” he said. 

Ayhan Kaya, professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, said that the move in Germany to bring a homegrown reading to Islam had already been on the table since Angela Merkel’s initiative in 2006. 

“Although it contradicts with the Sunni Islam rhetoric, what Germany did is a counter-move against the lobbying strategies of Muslim countries such as Turkey, Morocco or Algeria within German territories,” he told Arab News. 

Kaya also noted that in the past Germany and Turkey developed joint projects to train imams who would be appointed in Germany by providing them with linguistic and cultural-integration skills. 

“This latest move is a dialectic result of the political maneuvers on the diasporas by countries who are sending and receiving migration,” he said.