Since sweeping the Palestinian parliamentary election in January, Hamas has been badgered to transform itself. The same refrain is sung by President George W. Bush, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Israel’s acting prime minister Ehud Olmert and even Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov – in the name of the Middle East Quartet. The Palestinian Islamist terrorist organization must rewrite its platform, recognize Israel, repudiate terrorism and honor previous agreements.
Is there any chance of these demands being met?
No way, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Islamic experts.
Total rejection comes from the horse’s mouth almost daily
It was reaffirmed this week in a 220-page volume that Hamas released entitled: Participating in Political Life in the Shadow of Contemporary Regimes.
It was written by Musheir al Masarai, Hamas spokesman and member of the Palestinian legislature, and sponsored by the Hamas Shura religious council.
The book is essentially a compendium of all the dos and don’t’s binding the movement in its political life.
The feature that strikes the Western reader as odd is that, in some respects, the work treats the political dynamic of a Muslim society as compatible with the Bush vision of Middle East democracy. Where they diverge sharply is on objectives which, in Hamas’ case, owe nothing to the Western democratic ethic, but accord strictly with the ways of the Prophet and his dictates
The book opens with a directive to Hamas to follow the Prophet’s 7th century example when it concludes temporary pacts (with non-Muslims) to gain an opportunity for strengthening and expanding Islam. Why temporary? Because, in the course of time, when Hamas is strong enough and reaches the right path, it will be free to violate those accords, as the Prophet did.
The writers lay down pre-conditions for Hamas to achieve success.
1. The preservation of internal unity is mandatory. Loss of unity leads to disintegration.
2. The conclusion of accords is not an end in itself or permissible in all circumstances. For instance, Hamas is prohibited from contributing to the strengthening of tyrannical regimes.
All pacts with non-Muslims are temporary
3. Under any accord signed, Hamas must ensure that the Dawa, i.e. the principles of Islam, can thrive. The movement must reserve the right to veto any proposition or action that contradicts Islamic tenets. This rule is paramount for Hamas.
4. Pacts may only be entered into with strong forces in circumstances that lend strength to the Islamic movement. It is forbidden to strike accords with marginal elements.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly comments that this precept refers to the chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, which are deemed weak in Hamas’ eyes.
5. When allied with an outside force, it is essential to preserve tight internal and organizational discipline within the movement. Lack of discipline will undermine the movement’s leaders and bring about its downfall.
6. Politics are an inseparable part of religion and faith.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly: This is a key clue to Hamas’ intentions. It means that the conduct of political life must be designed as a step toward the ultimate imposition of the laws of the Sharia, the Muslim codex.
After laying down these rules of conduct, the writers of the book discuss ways of adapting modern concepts and laws to the Muslim faith. The Western reader is in for a surprise in this section.
A. Elements of new age democracy dovetail substantially with the principles governing the Shura. The Islamic practice of consultation and decision-making does not shut out ideas and principles that do not originate in Islam, as long as there is no contradiction.
B. The principle of political freedom is consonant with Islam, including the free right of a nation to elect its ruler.
C. Islam permits a multi-party system and a multiplicity of Islamic sects. It also allows competition and discourse among the Muslim faithful. Therefore, not only may a Muslim party stand for election against rival Muslim parties, but partisan plurality is desirable.
At the same time, the writer stresses, such practices are applicable only in the early steps along a political path.
D. Like temporary pacts, pluralism in its further stages becomes conditional on all parties accepting the Sharia as the sole guideline for the nation’s constitution and daily life.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly: This means that even if Hamas accepts the secular Fatah as a partner in a national unity government, in the course of time, the ruling party will annul the partnership and oust its partner.
Joseph too adapted to Pharaoh’s Egypt to provide for his tribe
E. Hamas representatives may take their place in parliament, such as the Palestinian legislative council, because it is a means of curtailing secular parties’ capabilities for war against Islamic factions.
F. This final clause is the core of the treatise because it touches on the religious dilemma innate in integrating Hamas in the Palestinian Authority administration, which is an avowed non-religious entity that does not follow the precepts of the Sharia.
The writer acknowledges the religious dilemma Hamas faces. But he goes on to explain that the compulsions of the modern era force the movement to adapt itself to alien mores and show flexibility. It is therefore permissible for Hamas to participate in a non-Muslim government, provided it benefits the people and so helps to inculcate Islam, albeit in stages.
Two examples are offered to illustrate this point:
One draws on the Muslim version of Joseph’s biblical migration from Canaan to Egypt. In Islamic tradition, Joseph is an important prophet. He is described as having looked around him in Egypt and realized that the Pharaonic regime’s ways and religion were utterly contrary to his beliefs. But he saw that to get ahead and find a sanctuary for the Jewish tribes in flight from their famine-struck land, he had no choice but to make his way in the ruling government.
The same fate befell the Prophet Muhammed and his comrades, when they escaped to Ethiopia – only to find a country under Christian rule. To survive, he and his friends followed Joseph’s example and threw their weight behind the rulers to create a new base of operation.
The problematic nature of this set of rules and precepts is clear. Hamas is willing to be flexible only on one condition: when flexibility serves its ultimate objective of imposing Muslim law in all the lands it rules – and those lands it aspires to expand. Hamas will therefore accept even long-term ceasefires or non-belligerency arrangements as long as such deals offer the Islamist organization a chance to enhance its strength.
Western hopes for Hamas to undergo a change of its nature and renounce its goals during a period of calm are vain. Like al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Jihad Islami and other fundamentalist organizations dedicated to jihad, Hamas cannot and will not change its faith, Islam.