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My Father Is an Imam in Gaza. Hamas Kidnapped Him for Refusing to Be Their Puppet.


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The Free Press

Last weekend, twenty masked men dragged my father away. His crime? He refused to brainwash his people with their politics.

Ala Mohammed Mushtaha

January 4, 2024

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Mohammed Mushtaha, imam at Dhu ‘l-Nurayn mosque in Shuja’iyah in Gaza, was kidnapped by Hamas last week. (Photo courtesy of the author)

RAFAH—On Saturday, December 30, our front door was busted down, and twenty masked men barged in and took my father, a widely respected and deeply learned imam here in Gaza.  

One dragged him by his head, and another grabbed him by his beard. My younger brother tried to intervene and reason with the kidnappers, but they beat him. I have a medical condition that makes it hard for me to breathe, so all I could do was watch as the horror unfolded.

I know that if Hamas kills my father, they’ll say that the Israeli army did it. But my father was very keen that even if he died, we should make known the despicable demands they made of him. It was his last request to us, literally as he was being carried out of the door, that should he die, we should publicize the real reason for his death, and it is this: 

He wouldn’t preach what Hamas told him to. He refused to tell Gazans that violent resistance, and obedience to Hamas, is the best way out of our current hell.

This story starts before October 7, and even before 2007, when Hamas took control of Gaza. 

Our family has lived in Gaza for generations. Before 2007, my father worked for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. After Hamas took over, they forced him out of his position. This was a hard time for my family; my father was the sole breadwinner. Finally, after three long years, he came back to work first as a mosque servant, then a mosque guard, then an employee of the ministry and finally, he was appointed as a mosque imam. (My father is known throughout the Gaza Strip. He has a doctorate in sharia from Cairo’s storied Al-Azhar University, and is well-respected by his peers.) 

For Hamas, being Muslim means supporting Hamas, and people who do not support Hamas aren’t Muslims. If you don’t abide by what Hamas tells you, you’ll lose your job or worse. To keep my father in line, ensuring that he would deliver only Hamas-approved Friday sermons and allow Hamas to use his mosque as a clandestine weapons depot, they arrested my brother and me at least ten times between 2016 and 2019. Sometimes they would speak politely, sometimes they would ask us to comply “for the sake of your sisters,” but always the threat of violence loomed in the background. And several times we were beaten and humiliated in front of our father. They beat him, too, once nearly blinding him.

He was forced to do things for Hamas; move money around, store things, keep their secrets.  

(Snip)

They do all this brainwashing to make you think the cause of our suffering is Israel. But I see very clearly who causes our suffering. 

Whereas most aid in Gaza is only accessible to Hamas’s loyalists or those who toe the movement’s line, my father would collect and distribute zakat alms to those who actually needed it. Some congregants would donate food, furniture, and household goods; and many among Gaza’s neediest would come to my father, who would see that they were distributed fairly. My father also strove to give pious Muslims unbiased spiritual guidance, not the propaganda Hamas clerics deliver. 

(Snip)

I don’t know where my father is. I don’t know if I will ever see him alive again. My hope in telling this story to the public, and putting my name to it, is to somehow offer my father a measure of protection. Hamas may wish to release him and show the world that they would never harm an admired mosque preacher. God alone knows the future, but what I know is that, under no circumstances, would my father want to become a propaganda tool.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Jan 24, 2024
On January 24, 2024 several online sources posted videos of displaced Gaza residents demonstrating against Hamas. Protesters held up posters calling to release the Israeli hostages held by Hamas. They chanted: “The people want to end the war!” and “We want to go to our homes.” A woman said that the people of Gaza are the victims of the war. The demonstration took place near the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in Deir Al-Balah.

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