Thursday, November 8, 2007
Funded by Western donors, Nablus's independent Islamic Centre for Sufism -- a mystical form of Islam -- holds classes to train prospective preachers and imams.
"It is wrong to convince people that religion is Hamas and Hamas is Islam," said course director Saed Sharaf, a clean shaven imam who says his wife prefers him without the beard that is often the badge of Hamas followers and their clerics.
Every Saturday, some 30 Muslims -- many of them women who cover their heads and wear long tunics -- gather at Sharaf's centre for lessons on Sufi spirituality and preaching tips.
One of Sharaf's students, 40-year-old Abdul Aziz, says he plans to use his new-found religious expertise to preach in mosques.
He denies any links to Fatah, though his comments about defeating Hamas-style political religion echo the party's line:"Islam is not violent," he said. "I want to preach good Islam -- moderate and non-partisan."
[Picture: Panorama of Nablus. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nablus].