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Muhammad Abu Tir

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Muhammad Hassan Abu Tir (Arabic: محمد حسن أبو طير‎, also known as-Sheikh Abu Mus'ab, 1951-) was the No. 2 candidate in the Palestinian political party Hamas. Abu Tir was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) as a representative to his East Jerusalem constituency in the Palestinian legislative elections that were held on January 25, 2006. On June 29 Abu Tir was arrested by Israeli military authorities in the 2006 Israel-Gaza conflict. A notable feature of Abu Tir, is his dyed bright orange beard which separates him from most other politicians and members of his community. He generally tends to keep a low media profile.


Abu Tir was born in Umm Tuba, a present neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Abu Tir joined Fatah some time in the early 1970s. Around this time, he was convicted of terror-related activities in Israel and subsequently joined the Muslim Brotherhood.[1] He spent nearly 25 years in Israeli prisons, on and off, for directing terror activities against Israel, including the attempted poisoning in the early 1990s of Israel's water supplies and for directing the activities of Hamas's military arm, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. In 2005, prior to the elections, he was released after serving a term of nearly seven years in prisons. After his release, he was recruited by Hamas to head its national list following its Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh. He was most recently arrested and later detained for campaigning near Jerusalem's Damascus Gate after violating a ban that forbade the practice. He was interrogated and later released. The incident transformed Tir into a minor celebrity among the public in his constituency. This incident, in the end, contributed positively to his overall campaign.

Political stance

As for his stance politically, he told Newsweek recently: "Stop your support for Israel...[s]top calling us terrorists. This policy creates a feeling of oppression. The feeling of oppression can lead to disaster." [2]

Abu Tir recently told the Globe and Mail that his #1 objective would be to "...take Sharia [Islamic law] as a source for legislation" but at the same time told Newsweek International he "...will [would] not [directly] impose Sharia". He also told the Globe and Mail that he plans to reform the Palestinian public education system by introducing a more Islamic curriculum, and also plans on separating male and female students. However Tir did clarify that alcohol would not be banned and it would not be mandatory for women to wear the hijab, or head-cover.

Abu Tir also told the paper that as long as Israel continues its occupation of Palestinian land Hamas would continue its armed struggle against them.[3] In an enigmatic statement in an interview prior to his getting elected, he stated that he would "negotiate [with Israel] better than the others [previous administrations], who negotiated for 10 years and achieved nothing."[4] He also stated that "We [Hamas] are not against the Jews. We are against occupation and oppression".[5] On the other hand, he has said that Jews control Christianity: "Even the churches where the Americans pray are led by Jews who were converted to Christianity, but they were converted to keep controlling the Americans." [6]

He noted further that Hamas had removed significant sections of their constitution which called for Israel's destruction, though the basic idea remains the same: Israel cannot be allowed to remain as a Jewish state in the Middle East. "In the past," he said, "it was said that we don't understand politics, only force, but we are a broad, well-grounded movement that is active in all areas of life. Now we are proving that we also understand politics better than the others." Abu Tir's final thought on Israeli negotiation was to leave it to the new parliament "as with every matter, to be discussed and decided upon in a rational manner". After Hamas's landslide victory in January 2006 many countries decided to back Israel's decision to cut foreign aid to The Palestinian Authority. After being asked what Hamas planned to do in light of this Abu Tir stated that Hamas "would not go to foreign donors on [a] bended knee". In a February 6, 2006 open letter to Newsweek International Tir stated that "The European Union and America should cooperate with us. We have ways of creating understanding among our people. We are facilitators, helpers, aides. The presence of Hamas is a guarantee of safety and stability in the region. Any money that is given to us will be channelled to the correct path."[7] As he tried to address Western fears that donations would go to buy arms Tir told the West to "...[not] be afraid...we can always find arms on the black market. It is obvious that we have built our military infrastructure in that way. Our weapons are the only guarantee of our existence. If a proper Palestinian state were established, then all the militias would melt inside the Palestinian Army. [7] Summing up his letter Tir attempted to ease western anxiety about Hamas by stating that "The West has nothing to fear from Hamas. We're not going to force people to do anything. We will not impose Sharia. Hamas is contained. Hamas deals only with the Israeli occupation. We are not Al Qaeda." [7]

Orange Beard

One of Abu Tir's most noticeable physical attributes and trademarks is his bright orange beard. The orange is actually dyed substance called henna, a natural dyestuff, which needs to be applied periodically in order to maintain its lustrous colour. In an interview with the Israeli channel 10 television Abu Tir stated that he had decided to dye his beard with henna because the prophet Muhammad had done so and also because it was a remedy for headaches and dandruff. Islam bans the use of black hair dyes; however, there is no mention of a ban on the use of other colours. Residents in his native village of Umm Tuba say that his signature beard does help him stand out when he is out campaigning at public events and functions.[8]


  1. Profile of the Hamas movement Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, 12 February 2006
  2. Abu Tir: Jews Control Christianity, 6 April 2006
  3. Hamas official: Group will make Islamic law a source for legislation Haaretz, 29 January 2006
  4. Hamas candidate speaks of future talks with Israel Haaretz, 15 January 2006
  5. Can Militants Make Peace? Time
  6. Hamas leader: Jews controlling U.S. Christianity WorldNetDaily, 5 April 2006
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Open Letter: 'Just Be Fair With Us' Newsweek International, 2007
  8. Hamas' hair apparent, Haaretz

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