Gazans Increasingly Outraged Over Money Being Used to Build Opulent Mosques

While Hamas, haters, and many others in the world love to blame Israel for the lack of basic infrastructure in Gaza – including hospital and sewerage – others are noticing that money that could have been put towards these things has been instead used in the construction of luxury mosques.

Despite the repeated Israeli military operations on the besieged Gaza Strip and the destruction of dozens of homes, the construction of prestigious and luxurious mosques worth millions dollars seems to be on the rise.

In recent years, the construction of luxury mosques has outraged the largely impoverished population of the enclave.

Imam al-Shafei Mosque in al-Zaitoun neighborhood was built at a cost of $3.5 million, and Al-Hassayna Mosque in Gaza City at a cost of more than $2 million. The construction cost of Al-Khalidi and Salim Abu Muslim mosques exceeded $1 million each. The Great Mosque in Khan Yunis is another lavishly luxurious mosque, in addition to Sheikh Ajlin’s Khalil al-Wazir Mosque, which will be opened soon.

Mohammad al-Khalidi, a citizen from Gaza, poured out his resentment of such luxury mosques. “The Ministry of Endowments claims that the donors funding the construction of the mosques want to spend this much money on them. But why would it [the ministry] not inform the donors that there are other fields in Gaza where the donations could be more useful? Mosques can be built at a reasonable cost and the remainder of the donations could be used to build hospitals, schools or residences, for example. A Muslim can pray anywhere that is pure and does not need expensive and lavish decorations,” he told Al-Monitor.

He said, “Any person is free to use his money as he pleases, but citizens have the right to ask how the state’s funds or donations are being spent. We have the right to know why Khalil al-Wazir Mosque and other luxurious mosques were built at such exorbitant costs.”

Khalidi added, “The opening of the Khalil al-Wazir Mosque in the coming months will stir an uproar among Gazans due to the large number of mosques already present in Gaza, in the absence of development projects, hospitals and sewage networks. For example, in the Beit Lahia area in northern Gaza, the Salim Abu Muslim Mosque was built at a cost of $1 million, while a nonregulated landfill in the area is endangering the health of the locals and the environment.” 

Mohammad Abu Samra, expert on Islamic and Arab affairs, also condemned this phenomenon. “Lavishly decorated mosques are undesirable and unacceptable in light of the difficult economic and living conditions in Gaza, which has suffered many wars causing the destruction of thousands of homes, schools, institutions, associations, factories, mosques, infrastructure facilities and agricultural lands,” he told Al-Monitor.

“It is not logical for families to remain in the open or pay rent because their homes have not been reconstructed yet. It is unacceptable to have overcrowded schools or destroyed factories whose workers have lost their jobs, while we are building luxurious mosques,” he noted.

Although Abu Samra recognized the importance of mosques, he argued that the large number of mosques in Gaza is reprehensible. “Every few meters you find a mosque, constructed at extremely high costs. This goes against the basic purpose of mosques,” he said. “The aesthetic appearance of mosques is important, but we must stay away from extravagance and luxury and take into consideration the residents’ situation and living conditions.” 

As you can see, some of these mosques are not too shabby at all:

I just have to wonder whether besides the opulence, some of this money is going towards constructing more fortification of the mosques, as well as secret rooms for weapons storage and even Hamas command centers. This thought especially crosses my mind when I read things like the following (from a report from over a year ago, about the backlash to the replacement of the Khalil al-Wazir Mosque at a cost of more than $1 million):

Meanwhile, Abdel Hadi al-Aghad, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Endowments in Gaza, defended the project. 

He explained that the design includes a second floor that will house a medical dispensary operated by the Ministry of Health to serve the people of the area. He added that there will be an elevator to accommodate the sick and elderly.

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media