Photo Credit: Majdi Fathi/TPS
Empty streets in Gaza City during a weekend lockdown amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Gaza, Dec 12, 2020.

A plan to build the Khalil al-Wazir Mosque in the Sheikh Ajalin neighborhood on the beach in the Gaza Strip is provoking a great deal of criticism on in Gaza.

The animated film of the construction plans released in Gaza is causing a stir due to the innovative design of the mosque, which is an unusual in the Gaza landscape.

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The mosque, with it’s very luxurious design, taken from the Emirates’ luxury buildings or even computer games, as described by residents of the Gaza Strip, is generating criticism of the Hamas administration’s priorities, which is not hesitating to spread money on the “eye-popping” mosque.

On the Gazan Street, there is harsh criticism from residents who called on Hamas to invest money, including donations, in hospitals, Coronavirus treatment centers and schools or distribute them to the poor and young.

“It is impossible that while Gaza suffers from 80% unemployment and poverty, the administration has decided to distribute donors’ money to eye-popping luxury mosques,” residents wrote on social media, attacking the Waqf’s decision in Gaza to build the mosque.

Azzam Abdallah from Gaza called on the families of the Shahids to make their voices heard regarding the mosque following the violation of their rights. Fayez al-Wad wrote that “we are all in favor of innovation but we must recognize our limitations.”

One surfer wrote that such an overpriced mosque “will probably also include a tennis court and pool tables” and another writes that “this is a more luxurious mosque than Europe’s seaside resort hotels.”

“I thought it was the Khalil al-Wazir Hotel, it turned out to be just a mosque,” wrote another, and a resident of the Gaza Strip joined the criticism, writing that she goes to work from early morning until evening for ten shekels, while the Hamas administration spills millions of dollars on fancy mosques.

The original Khalil al-Wazir Mosque was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge. The mosque in the Sheikh Ajalin neighborhood is now expected to be built with donations raised by the Aman Palestine Foundation, which operates from Malaysia and has a branch in Indonesia, and is responsible for collecting donations from Muslims in Asian countries.

Muhammad Hassana, a Palestinian official who worked in the Gaza Strip and visited Indonesia, wrote on his Facebook page that it is true that the contract for the construction of the mosque was signed in 2018 between the “Aman Palestine” Foundation and the Gaza Strip, but it was signed following the request initiated by the Waqf. Hassana contradicts the response of the Waqf office, which now claims that the construction of the mosque is the will of the donors and they are responsible for the design and costs.

Hassana added that directing budgets to build a magnificent mosque is also an injustice to the poor donors in Malaysia and Indonesia and testified that many of them sometimes donate gold earrings and assume that their donation will reach the poor in Gaza.

The Waqf office in Gaza issued a statement following public criticism and clarified that this is foreign funding that is not part of Hamas’ budget in the Gaza Strip.

In his statement, the Waqf claimed that the IDF destroyed 110 mosques in the Gaza Strip during the fighting, including 94 mosques that were restored, and added that it intends to build another 16 mosques.

The Wakf, with the intention of repelling the criticism, added that the Sheikh Ajlin Mosque will also have a public clinic and a center for memorizing the Koran, noting that it distributed more than $10 million in aid to residents last year.

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Baruch reports on Arab affairs for TPS.