The Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah has ordered all mosques to join its campaign in support of Abbas and the PA’s bid for UN membership.
An official letter posted on the website of the PA’s religious affairs ministry, in Arabic, and dated 20 September 2011, states the following:
Pursuant to the instructions of His Excellency, brother Dr. Mahmoud, Sidqi al-Habbash – may God save him – the Minister of Awqaf [Islamic foundations] and Religious Affairs, the following instructions should be issued to the muezzins [those who make the call to prayer], to praise God immediately after the completion of the expected speech of His Excellency President Abbas/President of the State of Palestine on Friday, 23 September 2011.
This is to express thanks to God for His favors, imploring Him to grant success to the Commander President Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, and to guide his steps on the path to realizing the hopes of our people and the return of all our legitimate rights by the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
The letter is signed by Sheikh Khamis Mahmoud Abada, who is identified as “Assistant Undersecretary for Islamic outreach and guidance.”
In recent years, supported by the United States and Israel, the PA has imposed a strict regime of control on all West Bank mosques. This was supposedly to stop “extremists” – particularly Abbas’ rival and erstwhile coalition partner Hamas – from using the mosques for political purposes.
How ironic then that the supposedly “secular” PA so blatantly uses the mosques to promote a political leader who lacks any democratic legitimacy and accountability and to give his policies that enjoy no national consensus a veneer of divine legitimacy instead.
The misuse of mosques in this manner comes on the day when the PA staged a rally in downtown Ramallah in favor of the UN bid, instructing – according to media reports and eyewitnesses – PA employees to take paid time off work in order to attend.