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11 August 2007

Hamas leaning on Christians to adopt

a1dce0e20544f6a76cd1a5e1895c873d.jpgGAZA CITY — The Hamas regime is pressing Christians to convert to Islam, officials here said.

Fatah representatives asserted that leading Christians in the Gaza Strip have come under pressure to either convert to Islam or leave the area. The representatives said at least one Christian was abducted and converted against her will, Middle East Newsline reported.

About 3,000 Christians live with more than 1.5 million Muslims in the Gaza Strip Publicly, Hamas has promised Christians that they would not be harmed," a Fatah official said. "Privately, Christian professionals who had been working in the PA have been told that they would no longer feel comfortable in a Muslim society."

Since its takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Hamas has provided incentives for Palestinians to adopt Islamic tenets. On Aug. 6, the Hamas regime announced that inmates could reduce their sentences by one year if they memorize five chapters from the Koran. Officials said the new directive was so far limited to Gaza's main prison — with 350 inmates, 30 of them on death row.

"This new program encourages them to behave according to the Islamic law," Col. Abu Al Abd Hamid, the prison warden, said.

The Fatah representatives said single Christian women have come under the greatest pressure to convert to Islam. They said a Christian professor, Sana Al Sayegh, was abducted by Hamas and forced to convert to Islam.

Ms. Al Sayegh has been dean of the Science and Technology Faculty at Palestine University in Gaza City. The representatives said university president Zaher Khail as well as aides of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh facilitated the abduction and conversion of the Christian professor.

"The case of Professor Al Sayegh is a personal one and does not reflect the policy of the university," the university, which confirmed that Ms. Al Sayeh, converted, said.

The Fatah representatives said Ms. Al Sayegh, the only female Palestinian scientist in the Gaza Strip, disappeared in late June. Two weeks later, the representatives said, her family was summoned to the home of a Hamas official where relatives met Ms. Al Sayegh and were told that she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim.

With Hamas gunmen surrounding her, Ms. Al Sayegh acknowledged that she had converted to Islam. Hamas also displayed documents that the professor had wedded a Muslim faculty member, Izz Al Arab Awur. Later, the relatives said, Awur denied any marriage to Ms. Al Sayegh.

The tiny Christian community in Gaza City has sought to win the release of Ms. Al Sayegh. The Fatah representatives said Haniyeh has refused to meet Christian leaders.

"She challenged everyone and did what she was supposed to do — become a devout Muslim," Ala Aklouk, a senior Hamas-aligned Muslim cleric, said.

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