Hamas softens sharia push, hints at referendum Holly Manges Jones at 10:28 AM ET
[JURIST] A senior Hamas leader said Sunday that the party plans to use Islamic sharia [Wikipedia backgrounder] as a guide for lawmaking as Hamas members take their seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council [official website], but that Hamas will convince people in a "polite" way to choose Islam and hold a referendum to allow the people to decide. Mahmoud Ramahi, a Hamas member who won a parliamentary seat after his party's surprise victory [JURIST report] in the Palestinian elections last week, also said that the party does not intend to enforce strict Islamic law, prevent men and women from associating in public, or close bars serving alcohol. Ramahi said that the party wouldn't introduce sharia law "by using force" and stressed that the decision would be left up to the Palestinian people. Ramahi's comments serve as a contrast to those offered by Sheik Mohammed Abu Teir, the number two candidate on the Hamas ticket, who said Saturday that introducing Islamic sharia will be the party's first priority [JURIST report]. Hamas [MIPT backgrounder] softened its stance against Israel prior to the elections and now wishes to form a coalition with other Palestinian parties, but Fatah party members led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] have so far rejected that possibility. Reuters has more.
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