Friday, September 30, 2016   

  Home     About     Guest Editorials     Advertise     Blog     Site Map     Links     Contact      Subscribe RSS      Subscribe Email  
Home » Loonwatch.com

Gaza: The Forced Conversions that Weren’t

2 August 2012 Loonwatch.com 14 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Palestinian Christians take part in the Holy Fire procession on the eve of Orthodox Easter in Gaza City. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Palestinian Christians take part in the Holy Fire procession on the eve of Orthodox Easter in Gaza City. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Gaza: The Forced Conversions that Weren’t

The story of congregants from the Gaza‘s tiny Christian community being held against their will and forcibly converted to Islam quickly went viral all across the looniverse, and even made its way to countless mainstream news sites.

The story is false. 

First published by the Associated Press, the “forced conversion” tale gained momentum when it was picked up by Reuters, another major news service with thousands of subscribers. Now the AP’s Jerusalem bureau has refused to issue a correction. The Israeli daily Haaretz first published the story with a somewhat misleading headline, Gaza Christians protest ‘forcible conversions’, and clarification in a later story was buried under the headline, Gaza Christians fear the end of their tiny community:

Christians in overwhelmingly Muslim Gaza have long fretted in private about the survival of their tiny community.

But their fears exploded publicly when two members of the flock recently converted to Islam. Christians staged a rare public protest, accusing Muslims of pulling followers from their faith.

The converts, who had been hiding to evade angry relatives, eventually surfaced and said they voluntarily changed religions. Gaza’s ruling Islamic militant Hamas movement reiterated respect for freedom of worship and Christian institutions.[emphasis mine]

But the uproar highlighted the growing sense of vulnerability among Christians here. They are a dwindling minority among a mostly devout Muslim majority, mostly hemmed into the tiny sliver of land because of movement restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt. And they say some Muslims are doubling their efforts to convert them, emboldened by the atmosphere of Islamic fervor fostered by Hamas since it seized [sic] power [correction: through parliamentary elections in] Gaza in 2007.

Because there is so little accountability today, even in the professional media, tomorrow’s sensational headlines and misleading stories will likely continue to poison interfaith relations and demonize Islam in the public imagination. The Electronic Intifada was one of the few sites that bothered to dig up the truth:

“Forced conversion” story goes viral

As expected with a report from the highly influential AP, the “forced conversions” story and headline swept around the world including The Los Angeles TimesFox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) of Islamophobic Christian Zionist televangelist Pat Robertson.

CBN embellished the story with its own “analysis” claiming that “Forced conversion to Islam is not a new phenomenon in Gaza.”

It is also now making the rounds of virulent Islamophobic websites such as Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch and has also been disseminated by top pro-Israel official William Daroff of The Jewish Federation…

Except that the story is not true.

Voluntary conversions and no coercion

Given the highly sensitive nature of these issues, it was very important that the matter be investigated independently.

The highly respected Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said in a statement that it had pursued “the different declarations and allegations regarding this incident that may affect the Palestinian social fabric.”

It confirmed that:

On Wednesday, 11 July 2012, PCHR received a complaint from the family of Hiba Abu Dawood (31). Based on this complaint, Abu Dawood left with her 3 female children to an unknown location.  She then sent a SMS to her husband telling him that she had converted to Islam.

On Sunday, 15 July 2012, PCHR received another similar complaint from the family of Ramez al-Amash. Al-Amashhad left a letter for his family in their house telling them that he converted to Islam and asking them to accept his decision.

PCHR detailed the investigations and mediation that it carried out:

Over the few past days, PCHR held meetings with Abu Dawood and al-Amash and their families. On Thursday, 12 July 2012, PCHR met with Abu Dawood. It is clear that Abu Dawood converted to Islam under her own free will without any coercion.

PCHR also met with al-Amash on Sunday, 15 July 2012. PCHR organized another meeting on Monday, 16 July 2012, between al-Amash and his family.PCHR found out that al-Amashhad also converted to Islam under his own free will without any coercion.

According to information made available to PCHR, al-Amash went back to live with his family after they said that they will accept his decision. Today, 19 July 2012, PCHR organized a meeting between the 3 daughters of Abu Dawood and their father at PCHR’s head office.

PCHR reaffirmed that “the right to freedom of thought and religion that is guaranteed in the Palestinian Basic Law and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Christians in Gaza

The position of Christians in Gaza – as in the rest of Palestine – is precarious, not because of forced conversions, but because this is a minority and one that has had a very high rate of emigration.

Gaza Christians interviewed by The Electronic Intifada’s Rami Almeghari in April stressed the good relations they have with their Muslim fellow Palestinians and that their identity as Palestinians supersedes religious identity.

As we reported, for example:

“Anyone who dares to say that Islamists in Gaza have been repressing us Christians is absolutely wrong and false,” Kamal Tarazi, a Christian man in his forties, told The Electronic Intifada at the YMCA.

That does not mean that occasionally people do not experience some petty harassment, as we also reported:

Riham, 22, who only gave her first name, also said that she felt there had been no difference in terms of neighborly or friendly relations between Christians and Muslims in recent years. But, she said that sometimes as she walks down the street she hears comments from passersby because she does not cover her head.

Read the rest

At the time of this writing Atlas ShrugsJihad Watch, and even Fox News have failed to correct the story, and no one familiar with incidents past should be waiting with baited breath for that to change. Even if the Associated Press, which has so far refused to correct the story, does eventually relent, the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Albumunah noted bitterly:

Given the speed of information, AP has already taken too long.

And given the levels of Islamophobia in much online media, even if AP does correct, the false claims about “forced conversions” will be recycled and embellished to inflame anti-Muslim sentiment and damage Muslim-Christian relations for years to come.

Share/Bookmark




14 Comments »

  1. Of course people living in the thick of this volatile situation will say soothing, even untrue things, the least little word seems to spark off riots.

  2. “Islamic militant Hamas movement reiterated respect for freedom of worship and Christian institutions.” really? so if i go to gaza i’ll be able to build a a hindu temple? a temple to thor? i doubt it. i doubt hamas even understands freedom of worship. but they are great on history.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19091147

  3. Is there a possibility that some intimidation was involved. That perhaps years of discrimination and harrassment may have worn down these peoples ability to resist? Lets face it for Muslims its a one way street. If a Muslim converts all kinds of bad things happen to them. The Christian that ministered to him is also punished. But when a Muslim converts a Christin the attitude is remarkable different. Regardless of the claims in this article I would say this small Christian community still has plenty of reason to be upset.

  4. what? no one would ever believe that muslims would do any harm to christians. just ask the flourishing christians in iraq.

    http://www.christiansofiraq.com/christianassyrianrefugees1.html

  5. This note is for Anon.
    He asked :”“Islamic militant Hamas movement reiterated respect for freedom of worship and Christian institutions.” really? so if i go to gaza i’ll be able to build a a hindu temple? a temple to thor?”…

    Of course,it will be a Crime to allow the construction of a Hindu temple there as there is no Hindu in Palestine.

    To my mind,folks like Anon should never be welcome in Gaza as they act for creating discord among people not building peace.

    HAMAS should respect freedom of worship for Palestinians [Muslims and non-Muslims alike]Outsiders like Anon should not be included there.

  6. Criley, Mike, Anon,

    Hamas would not exist today, if the Zionists did not forcibly expel 40 million Palestinians from their homes in 1948. When the UN demanded Israel withdraw its troops behind the 1967 border they refused, up until today. Their lame excuse is Hamas wants to kill them. Well Hamas was not formed until 87 so its a bunch of crock.

    Criley,
    Perhaps you should actually read the article first. CBN, Los Angelos, and Fox are known for lying..then again what would you expect from the American Christian media? They are doing it just to keep everyone pro Israel.

    “Anyone who dares to say that Islamists in Gaza have been repressing us Christians is absolutely wrong and false,” Kamal Tarazi, a Christian man in his forties, told The Electronic Intifada at the YMCA.”

    Yes Mike,
    Great that you read BBC, but it doesn’t talk in detail. Reason why Muslims don’t believe in the Holocaust:
    1) The Talmud (Babylonian Jewish Scriptures) talk about the Jews returning to Israel 6 million less.
    http://sixmillionmyth.blogspot.com/p/six-million-myth.html

    2) Zionists have continuously and hysterically attempted to claim that six million Jews were dead, dying or in grave danger in Europe and Russia since the late 1800’s (B4 Hitler was even in power).

    Read the link above, and be amazed at how easily the Zionists like Pat Robertson will feed you lie after lie.

    Also btw, the majority of Iraq is unstable right now after a certain Western country invaded it. It says thousands of Christians are fleeing Iraq, but it mentions millions of Muslims fleeing the country as well. Lol, there is not a single mention of Christians being treated badly because of their faith, your comment was just to vilify Muslims with ur hatred. Syria is accepting the majority of these refugees, but then again its country is also in turmoil. Hard to imagine you are really an open minded atheist and not a Christian since you seem to visiting their websites. You also a fan of CBC?

  7. M Bennett, lies and holocaust denial. Good effort, I am sure your fellow travellers are proud of you.

  8. I didn’t ask that. Mike asked that. Imho the Pals lost a lot of territory by attacking Iz. repeatedly. At this point both sides are behaving badly.

    Strange, when I was a child I heard adults talking about this. They said Iz would gradually dissolve simply by demographic pressure. By people moving in, working there, marrying there. But no. Violence is the answer…sometimes it isn’t.

  9. Mohammad Basir-ul Haq Sinha,

    “This note is for Anon.” don’t worry about it, it happens to the best of us.
    “He asked :”“Islamic militant Hamas movement reiterated respect for freedom of worship and Christian institutions.” really? so if i go to gaza i’ll be able to build a a hindu temple? a temple to thor?”…
    Of course,it will be a Crime to allow the construction of a Hindu temple there as there is no Hindu in Palestine.” a crime. thanks for your straightforward and honest answer. what if some hindus immigrated? oh wait, no “outsides” allowed. ok, what if some palestinians converted? oh yeah that is right, they would be stoned to death. i can’t build a temple just for fun? you sound like anon’s agruement against the tennessee mosque. that demographics doesn’t justify the size. ironic.

    “To my mind,folks like Anon should never be welcome in Gaza as they act for creating discord among people not building peace.” so hamas is “building peace”. maybe they should rename the qassams, “rockets of peace, brought to you by the religion of peace”. your tolerance is overwhelming.

    “HAMAS should respect freedom of worship for Palestinians [Muslims and non-Muslims alike]Outsiders like Anon should not be included there.” so you are a builder of peace? but not bridges. lol. so by freedom of worship you really only mean “people of the book” and muslims of course. dude you need a job? maybe we should make you the head of the boarder patrol?

    dee, you think mohammd is open minded? wait, my bad you can’t be critical of muslims. if you are, it means you are a bigot and full of hatre. right?

  10. sorry the other one repeats, but i messed up. two links (your blog) last time. held up in modderation.

    Bennett,

    “Hamas would not exist today, if the Zionists did not forcibly expel 40 million Palestinians from their homes in 1948.” tru dat. so their actions are justified? they also wouldn’t exist if the muslims accepted UN resolution 181. the muslims would already have a state with more land than the 67 borders.
    “When the UN demanded Israel withdraw its troops behind the 1967 border they refused, up until today. Their lame excuse is Hamas wants to kill them. Well Hamas was not formed until 87 so its a bunch of crock.” your funny. so you are saying that in 1968 the jews blamed hamas? an organization that didn’t exist? yes they now use hamas a cover for not wanting to retreat to pre-67 borders. shows the stupidity of the hamas strategy. before that they said we need buffers (sinai) between eygpt (golan heights) and syria. so you are a support of hamas?

    “Yes Mike, Great that you read BBC,” yeah you have said that before. still don’t know wht your point is. oh yeah, a jew runs the bbc so they are liars. is that your point?
    “but it doesn’t talk in detail.” why would they bring up why muslim deny the holocaust? it is accepted in western culture that the holocaust actually happened.
    “Reason why Muslims don’t believe in the Holocaust:
    1) The Talmud (Babylonian Jewish Scriptures) talk about the Jews returning to Israel 6 million less.
    a blog. ok. i’ll check it out. lol.

    “2) Zionists have continuously and hysterically attempted to claim that six million Jews were dead, dying or in grave danger in Europe and Russia since the late 1800′s (B4 Hitler was even in power).” so that is proof it didn’t happen. no gas chambers, no ovens, no trains?

    “Read the link above, and be amazed at how easily the Zionists like Pat Robertson will feed you lie after lie.” pat robertson is an idiot. oh shit, it’s me who is an idiot. lol.

    “Also btw, the majority of Iraq is unstable right now after a certain Western country invaded it. It says thousands of Christians are fleeing Iraq, but it mentions millions of Muslims fleeing the country as well. Lol, there is not a single mention of Christians being treated badly because of their faith, your comment was just to vilify Muslims with ur hatred.” yes iraqi’s shoose to turn on each other after our invasion. so you are saying that the 1 million christian where never targeted for being christians? sounds reasonable for someone who thinks the cia carried out 9/11. yeah the copts have never been targeted in eygpt either. and boko haram doesn’t exist. indonesians have never beaten people to death for their religion. article XX doesn’t exist in pakistan. no one has ever blown up a cafe in morroco, or a club in bali, or trains in madrid, or buses in london…my fingers are getting tied.
    “Syria is accepting the majority of these refugees, but then again its country is also in turmoil. Hard to imagine you are really an open minded atheist and not a Christian since you seem to visiting their websites. You also a fan of CBC?” the canadian broadcast corp? as for the link above. i googled christians in iraq and chritsiansofiraq came up first, go figure?

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2010/12/2010123174157391810.html

    is that an acceptable site?

  11. Maybe building peace just means making everybody shut up unless they express certain accepted opinions.

  12. The silly part is the Pals had more land to begin with. When they observed they were losing territory why didn’t they change strategy?

    My adults also said creation of Iz was a romantic, sentimental unworkable 19th century idea.

    In the interim, Pals developed a rep for being medacious and foolish.

  13. mendacious

  14. Bennett,

    Christians are being blown up in their Churchs by Muslims in Iraq. Just as Muslims are blowing up Christians in Churchs in Nigheria and Egypt.

Have your say!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>