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Gaza Salafists Eye Egypt-style Electoral Win

Published: 25/01/2012 01:33:30 PM GMT
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GAZA CITY - Encouraged by a surprising electoral win by Salafists in post-revolution Egypt, Salafist groups in Gaza are aspiring to repeating a similar victory in Israel-blockaded seaside enclave."The victory of our brothers in Egypt is encouraging," Abu Hudaifa, a member of Gaza Salafist groups, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, January 23.

“We are sure that victory is approaching along with the establishment of the Caliphate.”

In Egypt's first democratic election since a popular revolution that ousted president Hosni Mubarak last  year, Salafists won nearly 29 percent of parliament seats.

The sudden rise of Egypt's Salafists has given fresh hopes to Gaza's Salafist minority to make similar gains.

The victory encouraged Gaza's Salafists to "prepare for the battle to come between Good and Evil," Abu Abdullah al-Ghazi, who leads one of Gaza's main Salafist organizations Jaish al-Umma, said.

"All the changes in the Arab world are leading up to the coming of the Islamic Caliphate," he says, indicating that his group has good relations with the Al-Nour party, the main  Salafist party in Egypt.

Taking strength from the success of his Egyptian counterparts, Ghazi said he is convinced that Palestine will be free "within 10 to 12 years".

He urged his fellow Salafists to "unite, shake off religious differences and overcome what divides them." Currently, there are at least five main Salafist groups in Gaza including; Jaish al-Islam, Tawhid wal Jihad, Jaish al-Umma, Ansar al-Sunna and Jund Ansar Allah.

The five groups have all expressed "strong support" for their Egyptian counterparts.

No Politics

Despite welcoming the Salafist electoral win in Egypt, Gaza Salafist groups were still far from involvement in politics.

"Their interpretation of religious doctrine keeps them out of power," Walid al-Mudallal, professor of political science at Gaza's Islamic University, told AFP.

"In any case, the environment in Gaza is different from that in Egypt due to the resistance to the occupation," he said.

Disdaining election, the membership in Salafist groups in Gaza has rapidly grown over the past few years, according to a March 2011 report by the International Crisis Group.

The report pointed that the growing proportion of Salafists in the territory were former Hamas members angry about the movement's participation in elections, failure to implement Islamic law and various ceasefire deals with Israel.

Hamas won the parliamentary elections in 2006.

While Salafist rhetoric may have won over some disgruntled Gazans, Mudallal said he remains skeptical the groups can upend the political hierarchy in Gaza, "where Islamist movements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have a significant presence."

Yet, some analysts said the rise of Egypt's Salafists could protect their Palestinian counterparts.

Egypt's Salafists will extend "an umbrella of protection," Naji al-Shurrab, a professor of political science at Gaza's Al Azhar University, said.

"So Hamas will show a degree of flexibility and adaptation towards the Salafists in Gaza."

Reproduced with permission from