As a religious-social movement confined to the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas has to date focused primarily on implementing a domestic socio-religious program. However, Hamas' victory in the 2005 municipal elections and 2006 parliamentary elections, and its subsequent takeover of Gaza, have raised questions regarding the future orientation of the movement's political activities.
The issue most frequently debated is whether Hamas will continue to pursue its locally oriented agenda, or, taking advantage of its political momentum, will extend its influence beyond the boundaries of the West Bank and Gaza by becoming active in the arena of global jihad.
This paper assesses the possibility that Hamas will establish operative ties with global jihad movements, especially with Salafi movements such as Al-Qaeda, and join them in their global enterprises. Based on a consideration of its ideology, its roots in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement, and the policies it has adopted since the Gaza takeover, the paper concludes that Hamas' local orientation is grounded in its ideology, and that the movement is therefore unlikely to engage in global jihad and to take part in initiatives aimed at restoring the global Islamic caliphate, which was dismantled de facto in 1918 and officially abolished by Turkish leader Kamal Ataturk in 1924.
I. The Ideological Differences between Hamas and Al-Qaeda "The Land in Which the Laws of Allah Have Gained Supremacy is the Homeland of Every Muslim"
In examining the framework in which the Hamas ideology evolved, it is useful to start with movement's founding document - the Hamas Covenant.  Interestingly, this document contains no explicit reference to global aspirations; on the contrary, the text repeatedly stresses that Hamas is a religious-nationalist movement whose primary goal is "to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine."
This focus on the liberation of a specific Islamic land, namely Palestine, clearly sets Hamas apart from global jihad movements like Al-Qaeda, which characterize their religious motivations in universal terms, and pursue broadly defined goals such as "waging jihad until all the Islamic lands, from Spain to Iraq, are liberated and the caliphate is fully restored," [2
] or "establish[ing] a true and just state - the greater state of Islam - [stretching] from ocean to ocean." [3
Another factor which differentiates Hamas from the global jihad movements is the use of the term "nationalism" (wataniyya) which recurs frequently in the covenant. The global jihad movements deliberately avoid using this term, since they recognize no political entity other than the global Islamic ummah, and thus do not recognize individual Muslim nations and states.
Sheikh Hamed Al-'Ali, a prominent Kuwaiti Salafi scholar who supports global jihad, expressed this principle in a December 2006 article titled "In Defense of the Doctrine of Those Who Unify God..." stating: "Islam refers to countries by the [religious] doctrine [they follow], and thus divides [the world] into the Abode of Islam and the Abode of Heresy. The land in which the laws of Allah have gained supremacy is the homeland (watan) of every Muslim, based on his [religious] doctrine [rather than his ethnic origin or place of birth]." 
"If Hamas Is... Committed to Rendering the Word of Allah Supreme... [Why Does It Sit] Beneath the Dome of the Polytheist Legislative Council?"
Also highlighting the ideological difference between Hamas and Al-Qaeda is Hamas's decision to take part in the 2005 municipal elections and in the 2006 parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Authority. Hamas's choice of political participation, rather than jihad, as its primary means of spreading Islam provoked severe criticism from prominent figures in Al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan Abu Yahya Al-Libi, for example, accused Hamas of being unfaithful to its Islamic goals: "If Hamas is committed to rendering the word of Allah supreme, [why does it] adopt a lame policy, [sit] beneath the dome of the polytheist legislative council, and hold meetings with the leaders of the unbelievers?... Tell us, what Islam are you talking about? Which shari'a do you intend to implement?" 
Bin Laden deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri likewise rebuked Hamas for its political activities after it signed the Mecca Agreement in February 2007, 
just as he had rebuked the Muslim Brotherhood in January 2006 for participating in the Egyptian elections. 
Hamas' reaction to this criticism further underscores its character as a religious-nationalist movement and highlights the discrepancy between its ideology and that of Al-Qaeda. On March 12, 2007, Hamas responded to Al-Zawahiri's criticism in a communiquÃ© that stated: "Hamas is a Salafi movement of jihad and resistance, and will remain so as long as there is [even] one inch of Palestine [still] under occupation... We shall not betray our covenant with Allah, which compels [us] to proceed on the path of jihad and resistance, until Palestine - all of Palestine - is liberated... [Hamas's] decision to run in the elections, to establish a government, and to accept the Mecca Agreement was motivated by a wish to defend the interests of the Palestinian people." 
In a July 2007 statement, Hamas spokesman in Gaza Fawzi Barhoum made a similar point in response to Al-Zawahiri's accusations: "Hamas has its own history and [its own] jihad. It is fighting on several fronts, [struggling to end] the occupation, to break the [political and economic] siege [on the Hamas government], and to enlist support for a united [Palestinian] government, among its other [goals]... We strive to liberate Palestine and we shall free our prisoners. We will persist until the occupation is removed from our land and from our sacred places." 
Conspicuously absent from Hamas' reactions to its critics is any expression of commitment to the global Islamic program - a commitment which is central to the ideology of the global jihad movements. Instead, Hamas reiterates its locally oriented focus on fighting the occupation.
"Hamas Will Not Impose its Religious and Social Programs on Others"
Another difference between Hamas' position and that of global jihad movements is evident in the policies that it has adopted since its takeover of Gaza in June 2007. Ignoring the persistent demands of the Palestinian military group Jaysh Al-Islam, 
and of Al-Qaeda leaders like Ayman Al-Zawahiri, 
Hamas has refrained from announcing the establishment of an Islamic emirate and from enforcing shari'a in Gaza.
Instead, it has kept its promise from before the takeover to avoid imposing Islam on the public. 
In a 2006 television interview, Hamas Political Bureau head Khaled Mash'al promised, "Hamas will not impose its religious and social programs on others. Rather, it will present [its ideas] to others without forcing them [to accept them]. [For example,] women will not be forced to wear the hijab... Hamas [follows] the principle of 'there is no compulsion in religion' and 'religion is [embraced] by choice, not by force.'" 
Hamas MP Hamed Al-Bitawi made a similar statement in his February 20, 2006 interview with the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad: "[Hamas] is neither a young movement nor a mob. We have a long history in the Muslim Brotherhood, which is known for its moderate thinking... We will not enforce Islamic shari'a [wholesale], though we will do our utmost to adhere to the Islamic principles, which are reasonable and prescribe what is good." 
The view reflected in these statements is diametrically opposed to that of Al-Qaeda and other global jihad movements, who believe that it is their duty to impose shari'a in every Muslim country as soon as possible.
II. Do Hamas' Current Policies and Statements Reflect a Pragmatic Approach or an Ideological Stance?
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SOURCE of Article:MEMRI #412
Dr. Alshech is the director of the Jihad and Terrorism Studies Project at MEMRI.
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SOURCE of Article:MEMRI #412