Saturday, February 11, 2006

# Posted 10:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

INTERVIEW WITH HAMAS LEGISLATOR ABOUT CARTOONS, GAZA AND IRAN: Ahmad Mubarak is a newly elected Palestinian Legislative Council member from Hamas, gaining his seat in his party's landslide of a fortnight ago. By profession a shari'a jurist, he is former director of the Islamic court of Ramallah. OxBlog spoke with Mubarak at Hamas's Ramallah headquarters, about the Danish cartoons, Hamas's external relations and its relations with other Palestinian militant movements.

I passed on the way here your campaign poster, but now you are a lawmaker, not a candidate. Is it difficult to make the transition?

A lot of work the past days. In coming days, there is more work too. You know now, we are negotiating among us to set up a government. This subject takes our time.

We have seen outrage on the streets of Gaza and Nablus over the cartoons published in Denmark, and elsewhere in Europe. What is Hamas's position on these cartoons of the Prophet?

We Muslims, we don't make a bad picture of any religion, or any prophet, because in our religion we have to believe in all the prophets. We believe in Ibrahim, Issa [Jesus], Mohammed. Within our religion, if a person says a bad thing about any prophet, whether the prophet is Ibrahim or Issa or Mohammed, then he is no Muslim. So, we like others to respect our Prophet; we don't force anyone to believe in our religion, but at least he has to respect our religion like we respect his. So when this person makes this cartoon, he bothers Muslims all over the world.

You know, this is not the first time. George Bush, when he made war against Afghanistan, Iraq, he said it was a Crusade. Afterward, Mr Berlusconi says there is a war between two civilisations, between a western civilisation that is best and an Islamic one that is bad. After, a general in the Pentagon made some bad comment about Muslims. First, the Pentagon said it was a war against terrorism and not Islam. Now, Muslims around the world begin to see the real picture, they see it is a war against Muslims. We hope to begin things in a different way, we believe in dialogue between civilisations. We don't want to go on to religious war, it is not good for us, not good for them. We hope the U.S., the countries that make these cartoons, they will stop these actions against the Muslims. They say it is democracy, therefore they can do these things in the newspaper. But democracy does not mean freedom to make bad things about one-fifth of the world. We see when the man in France said the Germans didn't kill six million people, they killed some count less than six million, the courts judged him, they made him pay a fine, it was a big fine; so we want democracy to deal in same way with us. If you say you are a democracy, we say you are wrong, you wouldn't bother the faith of another people. We do not bother people of different faiths in the Middle East.

We don't accept what happened to the embassies, in Lebanon, in Syria. I think this is not the right way to make your opinion about these cartoons. So we do not accept bothering any guest here in the Arab world, if he is Danish or some other country.

After the attack by crowds upon the EU office in Gaza, will it be difficult for the Palestinian Authority to have relations with the EU?

Europe has to understand this reaction from Arab world. It is not easy to accept these cartoons. We don't want relations between us and European Union to go the bad way, you know. At the same time, we will not accept any bad thing about our religion, our Prophet.

Yet these crowds were not Hamas, these crowds were Al Aqsa. Is Al Aqsa attempting to outmanoeuvre Hamas, to show they will better defend religion, and seize a ground of purer resistance?

Al Aqsa, they are Muslims too. They are Muslims, they cannot accept what happened to our Prophet. Maybe some of the resistance in this way, we don't agree with these actions, but we think it is the right of any Muslims to protest.

Many have said Hamas has kept quiet during these protests. Has it?

Who said that? In Hamas, we had a rally last Friday. But you know, it is not our way to burn the building, or to kidnap the foreigner. We just walk on the street, we carry the signs, we think that is the right way to make your opinion known.

What are your relations like with Al Aqsa?

With Fateh.

With Fateh, then.

You know the night of the elections, some of them, they came here to say congratulations to us. We are discussing now to Mr Mahmoud Abbas, the president. We keep in touch, we ask them to share with us the rising government. Until now, they don't give us an answer about this matter. Maybe some leaders believe, they say they will not - but there has been no answer from Fateh until now.

These discussions are taking place in Cairo. The truce last year between Palestinian factions, the truce which led to these elections, was also negotiated in Cairo, with help from intelligence director Omar Suleiman. What is Egypt's role now?

Egypt used always to give help to Palestinian people. Now they work to make Hamas and Fateh keep close. They will talk to Fateh to share with Hamas the rising govrenment. They promise to recognise the new govrenment, and do what Egypt can do to help the new government.

But Egypt has not dealt fairly with its own Muslim Brotherhood, where Hamas originates. Does this complicate your dealings with Egypt?

Our relationship with Arab countries is not to put our hand inside their politics. We are an Islamic movement, but we are a local movement. We cannot deal with domestic politics of any other countries, we cannot take the side of the parties against the government, or government against the parties. We try to stick to the middle way.

What about relations with the EU? Are they worse after the incident in Gaza, and does this make it difficult to talk about aid?

You know, the E.U. is not talking with one tongue. There is some difference between countries. Some European countries meet our leaders, they say to us different things than what the Europeans say to the media. So we hope Europeans think a thousand times before cutting aid to us. We are a people who stay under occupation for sixty years. The British government is responsible for part of our tragedy before then, they helped Jewish people come here from other countries, gave them arms, helped them to deport six million people out of Palestine. This is a crime from the British against our people. Now they are going to make a new crime, they make our people starve. We made a resistance when Britain occupied our land, we made it when Israel occupied our land, we will not recognise occupation. We ask Britain and European Union to help us, stand with our people one time, do the right thing this one time, we are the last people who stay under occupation until now. If they want to be fair with us, the European Union and United States, they have to ask the occupying state to give us our rights, use their aid to Israel to give us our rights, they have to not leave us hungry when we are killed every day with weapons the Americans give to the Israelis, while we are the people whose houses they destroy. Yesterday, they demolished ten houses in a village near Ramallah. We wonder why the world is willing to cut aid to Palestine, while giving aid to the occupying Israelis. This is why we say it is right when people say the U.S. is enemy of the Arab world. The European Union have not to follow the U.S. example. The E.U. are different, they think different about us because they were here. They have a different view of the Islamic people.

If Europe cuts off its aid, will the Palestinian Authority turn to Iran?

Iran is an Islamic government. We recognise Iran like any other Muslim government, they are our brother. The Islamic world will not let us go hungry, we will not die if US and European Union cut our aid, but we will have the Arabic and Islamic world to turn to. I think this is the last action the US, European Union makes against us. After that, I suspect Islamic world will say enough, we will not stay looking at the Palestinian people starving. Everybody has to expect a big explosion in this area. No one can expect that not to come after this. We have to ask the US, the EU to deal fairly with us. The majority of the Islamic world is against terrorism. But if this happens, many people in the Islamic world will be with people who make terrorist actions. We don't want this to happen in the Islamic world, so we ask them to think before they take our rights. So if they want this area to remain quiet, they should force Israel to give us our rights. We have support from our people and we will make them give us our rights.

If the tahdi'a [the calming of military conflict with Israel] breaks down, will you be able to work together with other militant groups? You have spoken of uniting the factions into a Palestinian army.

It is clear from the Hamas programme that the resistance will stay until the occupation is gone. So Hamas will not stand against the resistance of other resistance parties like Al Aqsa or Al Jihad or the others. If it is possible to make a unity among resistance parties, this will be favoured by Hamas. It is preferred to have the resistance parties united. But this depends on the opinion of the other parties.

In the West Bank, Marwan Barghouthi has very warm relations with Hamas, and you frequently fought together in the intifada. But in Gaza, there is a wide space between Mohammed Dahlan and your movement, and your leaders such as Mohammed Deif. Will you be able to work together with Al Aqsa in Gaza?

There are some groups, they name themselves resistance parties, but they are not. Maybe they call themselves Al Aqsa, but they are not. They try to make resistance against the real resistance parties. The real Al Aqsa, relationships between them and Hamas are very good. You know, some groups follow someone who is not Fateh, who makes power for himself. Even within the real Al Aqsa party, there are those who work against the Al Aqsa party. Sometimes they follow people who are agents of Israeli or Palestinian security.

How does Hamas establish calm in Gaza, with so many there who fight Palestinians, not the occupation?

Hamas will be the government in Gaza and in the West Bank. Hamas will work to make quiet in Palestinian society. Hamas will put the law at the base, protect the law. Everybody will be under the law. If any group does not respect the law then there is the power which is turned through the law that will be turned against those people.

But not at first, we will talk to these people, we will negotiate with them, to make them respect the law in a way that doesn't violate the law. But if they don't respect the law, then we will make them respect the law in a way that is not outside the law.

Thank you for making time amid your new duties to talk with us, Mr Mubarak.

You are very welcome. Many journalists come here, they take a sentence or a word and use it to give a meaning that is not the true meaning. I hope you will give the whole and not just a several words, so the people have a true idea about what we are saying.
(5) opinions -- Add your opinion

Nice interview. I would like to see an exploration of his objection to the word "crusade." "Crusade" has as many non-military meanings as "jihad." I'd actually say that the words have almost identical usages.

Would he also object to people banning the use of the word "jihad?" Why does it always seem that the call is for non-Muslims to understand that "jihad" has other meanings, whereas the other meanings of "crusade" must be ignored because it gives offense.
Impressive blog journalism! :)
Mr. Ahmad Mubarak speaks with many contradictions and hypocrisy.

First he says he doesnot speak bad of any other religions. Well I know his track record with his comments about Jews has been quite evedent.

Second, why wasnt he asked about the truth about what he calls "occupation"

? The West Bank and Gaza (controlled by Jordan and Egypt from 1948 to 1967) came under Israeli control during the Six Day War of 1967 that started when Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran and Arab armies amassed on Israel’s borders to invade and liquidate the state. It is important to note that during their 19-year rule, neither Jordan nor Egypt had made any effort to establish a Palestinian state on those lands.

? Despite claims that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are the obstacle to peace, Jews lived there for centuries before being massacred or driven out by invading Arab armies in 1948-49. And contrary to common misperceptions, Israeli settlements—which constitute less than two percent of the territories—almost never displace Palestinians.

Other iinteresting facts he should be aware of:
Number of times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible: over 700
Number of times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran: 0
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