The forums are ablaze with postings regarding the 14 August 2009 Hamas attack on the Ibn Taymiya Mosque that Jund Ansar Allah (JAA), a group espousing Salafi-jihadi ideology, controlled. Hamas assaulted the mosque in response to JAA leader Abd al-Latif Musa, AKA Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi, declaring an Islamic emirate in Gaza and general JAA criminal activity. Not surprisingly, commentators are condemning Hamas’s actions and linking these actions to a larger Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian conspiracy to combat Salafi-jihadis.
Akram Hijazi claimed that Hamas has distorted the facts surrounding Salafi-jihadi groups. He maintained that through its violent targeting of Salafi-jihadis like the Army of Islam, whom Hamas also largely destroyed in September 2008, and now the JAA, Hamas is effectively practicing takfir against its fellow Muslims. In regards to the declared Islamic emirate, Hijazi stated that anyone who “read the emirate announcement well” knows that it was very general, for all of Palestine, and did not threaten Hamas’s authority. Hijazi exonerated JAA from any accusations Hamas has made against the group and he declared Hamas as the real criminal group in Gaza.
Hijazi also railed against Hamas in a second article stating that the Salafi-jihadis are not against pious Hamas members, but rather they are against Hamas hypocrites and liars. He used Ahmad Yassin and Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi, both former Hamas leaders who Israel assassinated in 2004, as examples of good Hamas members. He went on to claim that the Salafi-jihadis were the first to attack former Fatah chief in Gaza Muhammad Dahlan, the Oslo Accords, and Mahmud Abbas.
These assertions are important because Hamas members consider Yassin and al-Rantisi good leaders, but now Hijazi is linking these leaders with the Salafi-jihadi movement, of which Yassin and al-Rantisi were not a part. In short, Hijazi is attempting to hijack the legacy of these leaders from Hamas to the Salafi-jihadi cause, giving latter more credibility. His comments about Dahlan, Oslo, and Abbas reiterate this point because Hamas is famous for its opposition to these Fatah symbols, not the Salafi-jihadis who played a minor, if any, role in opposing Fatah and its goals.
Hijazi was not the only commentator who attempted to lure rank-and-file Hamas members towards Salafi-jihadism. Hani Siba’i, a radical preacher in the UK, claimed the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have strayed from the right path and true Islam. He encouraged ordinary Hamas members to turn against the group by adjusting its slogan of “death in the path of God” to “death in the path of the man-made parliament.”
It is not surprising that jihadi commentators are condemning Hamas for its attack against the JAA. However, their attempts to exploit this event to their advantage by luring Hamas members away from the movement are interesting. To do this, propagandists are linking Hamas symbolism and achievements to Salafi-jihadism and reaching out to rank-and-file members. As long as Hamas remains in control of Gaza, this attempt will not likely achieve many results. However, if Hamas starts to lose control, either physically or ideologically, Salafi-jihadis may see a boon in recruitment, which will mean more violence in Gaza and against Israel.