JAFFA, Israel – Hamas forces on Tuesday arrested a Shi’ite cleric, a representative of a newly arrived and as of yet incipient Muslim denomination in the Gaza Strip.
The detainee, Mithqal Salmi, a resident of Shati refugee camp and neighbor of former Hamas Premier Ismail Haniyeh, has been arrested on suspicion of insulting Sunni sages on Facebook.
He allegedly lambasted Sunni principles and criticized Hamas’ education system for not giving children access to Prophet Mohammed’s full biography, specifically his relationship with his cousin Ali, whose followers would later establish the Shi’ite faith.
He also expressed his dismay at Hamas and other Sunni groups for following the “damned” Ibn Taymiya, one of the most prominent Sunni theologians.
On a different occasion, he ridiculed Bukhari, also an eminent Sunni theologian, and denigrated the Saudi royal family as descendants of the 7th-century Jewish Salul dynasty.
Meanwhile, he praised Iran and Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
His remarks caused a significant backlash, which was apparently the trigger for his arrest.
Last month, Brietbart Jerusalem reported on a controversy that erupted after the cleric was seen in the predominantly Sunni Gaza, dressed in traditional Shi’ite garb.
Recently, at Iran’s behest, several dozens out of Gaza’s two million inhabitants have converted to Shia, while a militant organization of Shi’ite creed and Iranian backing, called Al Sabireen, has been gaining influence.
In December, Breitbart Jerusalem conducted an exclusive interview with Mahmoud Abu Alnada, a top Al Sabireen commander and former Islamic Jihad militant.
Inspired by Hezbollah, the most influential Shi’ite group in the region – which is funded by Iran – Al-Sabireen has won many hearts and minds among radical Gazans and is widely considered the next standard bearer in the so-called armed struggle against Israel. The group reportedly broke away from the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad.
Spokesmen for Al-Sabireen deny any affiliation with Shi’ite ideology, though they clearly ally themselves with Iran’s ideological and political stance, and the group’s symbols are similar to those of Hezbollah.
Gaza is dominated by Sunni Islam, although numerous Sunni terrorist groups are financially backed by Iran.
Last December, Al-Sabireen took responsibility for an attempted roadside bombing of an Israel Defense Forces patrol along the Gaza border.
In October, Israel reportedly eliminated an Al-Sabireen commander, Ahmed Sharif Al-Sarhi, blaming him for numerous cross-border shooting attacks.