Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday of “waging war on Islam and Allah” by detaining and firing hundreds of imams and banning the recitation of the Koran over loudspeakers on mosques.

The allegation followed a series of measures taken by the PA against Hamas supporters and institutions in the West Bank.

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It also came in response to the PA government’s decision to ban mosques from broadcasting recitations of the Koran ahead of the call to prayer by the muezzin – a practice that has existed for decades.

Hamas said the decision to ban the Koran recitation had been taken at the request of Jewish settlers who complained about the loud noise from the minarets.

“We warn the Fatah authority in Ramallah against waging war on religious people and institutions in the West Bank,” read a statement issued by Hamas. “Those who are waging this war on Islam and Allah will have to bear the consequences of their actions.”

Hamas sources said the PA’s Ministry for Wakf (Islamic trust) Affairs had shut down hundreds of centers for teaching the Koran in the West Bank over the past few months. The centers used to operate inside mosques, which are directly controlled by the ministry.

PA security officials said the centers were being used as bases and meeting places for Hamas supporters.

Hamas, on the other hand, said the centers had functioned as schools for teaching young men and women to recite the Koran by heart.

Hamas also accused the PA of firing hundreds of mosque imams under the pretext that they were affiliated with the Islamist movement.

Earlier this week, the PA government issued an order banning Sheikh Hamed Bittawi, a senior representative of Hamas in the West Bank and a leading Islamic scholar, from delivering sermons during Friday prayers.

Bittawi, who has frequently criticized the PA government’s policies in his sermons, said the decision to ban him from delivering sermons was tantamount to a “declaration of war on Allah.”

The PA security forces recently arrested two of his sons on suspicion of supporting Hamas.

The sheikh, meanwhile, said he was not the only preacher who had been affected by the ban.

“Hundreds of preachers in the West Bank have also been prohibited from addressing the believers during Friday prayers in the mosques,” Bittawi said. “The government in Ramallah wants only yes-men as preachers.”

The PA has also banned Sheikh Nayef Rajoub, the former PA minister for Wakf affairs from Hamas, from addressing worshipers at mosques. He is the brother of former Fatah security commander Jibril Rajoub.



Current PA Minister for Wakf Affairs Mahmoud Habbash, a former Hamas representative who was expelled from the movement several years ago, defended the crackdown on the preachers and imams by saying that his government had built 90 mosques in the West Bank in the past year.

“They are accusing us of waging war on Islam?” Habbash asked. “We built mosques and taught many people the Koran. We also trained many imams and Koran-readers. Unlike Hamas, we didn’t fire rockets at mosques and kill children and the elderly inside mosques.”

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