Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In The Police Non-State: Pray the PA Way or Face Arrest

By Mel Frykberg

"RAMALLAH, Jan 27, 2010 (IPS) - The Palestinian Authority (PA) is using West Bank mosques as a new battleground in its political offensive against its opponents within Hamas as well as critics from its own Fatah party.

Earlier this month, PA security forces raided several mosques in Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron before assaulting and arresting a number of Friday worshippers.

The confrontations broke out after dozens of worshippers hurled abuse - in one case shoes were thrown - at imams reading a prepared sermon attacking critics of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The sermon, which was authored by the PA's Ministry of Religious Affairs, was given to the imams who were then ordered to read it by PA officials prior to Friday prayers.

The PA has been dictating the imams' speeches for about a year but Friday's controversial sermon followed an attack on Abbas by the Egyptian-born but Qatar-based Sheikh Youseff El-Qaradawi who is sympathetic to Hamas.......

The fear on the street was palpable as IPS tried to speak to a number of people outside the Gamal Abdul Nasser Mosque in Ramallah, one of the mosques where PA security forces were seen beating up and arresting worshippers.

Several people refused to talk or just shook their heads and claimed ignorance of the whole affair.

One young man who started talking to IPS stopped when a police car drew up and a PA security man armed with a two-way radio spent an inordinate amount of time examining the clothing the young man was selling.

Another young man Saleh Amin (not real name) told IPS, "The only reason I'm talking to you is because you are foreign. If you were Palestinian I'd be suspicious immediately."

"There are mukhabarat (detectives or plain-clothed security agents) listening and watching people in the street all the time. Anybody who is critical or suspected of dissenting is arrested and investigated," said Saleh......."

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