There are a lot of demons to chase in this poverty-riddled Palestinian enclave, say a growing number of Koranic exorcists who have set up shop in Gaza, offering to end the torments of their sometimes highly disturbed patients.The growth of exorcist clinics is seen by some as a sign of rising religious fervor among ordinary Palestinians. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that runs Gaza, however, is increasingly concerned that many exorcists are simply charlatans [...]
The idea of demonic possession exists in many religions, and belief in the existence of demons and spirits, known as jinns, is widespread among Muslims, but many mainstream clerics doubt they can possess the human body, and disapprove of the work of the so-called Koranic clinics [...]
Sheikh Ahmed Nemir, a Hamas leader and well-known Muslim cleric, believes in the power of possession, unlike some of his peers. He says economic hardship and psychological traumas have encouraged evil spirits.
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on earth, with more than 1.5 million people crammed into the 360-square-kilometer, or 140-square-mile, territory, shut off from the rest of the world by Israeli and Egyptian security barriers.
Sheikh Nemir said Muslims with weak faith and values were vulnerable to possession by jinns acting as the agents of hostile religions.
"The spirits are Jewish and Christians," the white-bearded cleric said.
"Spirits who claim to be Muslims are collaborators because they obey the Jewish and Christians masters." Medical experts say Gaza's jinns are what most doctors would diagnose as symptoms of psychological illness [...]
Al-Mughrabi's premise here is that the incidence of mental illness in Gaza is due to intensely crowded and impoverished living conditions aggravated by the conflict with Israel. Reuters has been attempting for years to make the case that Gaza is "one of the most densely populated places on earth" so let's begin there.Recent studies have shown that up to 12 percent of people in Gaza suffer from psychological trauma caused by the conflict with Israel, economic troubles and isolation.
A population of 1.5 million people in Gaza over 360 square kilometers represents a density of 4,167 people per square kilometer. In a comparison with other urban areas around the world, there are fifty-three cities or city-states more crowded than Gaza -- including Taipei, Singapore, and Tel Aviv.
Note also that anxiety disorders, like post traumatic stress disorder, are as prevalent in France and more prevalent in the US than the 12 percent psychological trauma rate for Gaza reported by al-Mughrabi.
On the economic front, many countries with a GDP per capita lower than that in Gaza also have lower reported rates of mental illness. While as noted, many wealthy societies suffer relatively high rates of mental illness.
Which leaves us with the effects of the military conflict with Israel. While we have no doubt that this has taken its toll on the civilian population in Gaza, al-Mughrabi is strangely silent on the comparable effects on Israelis who have suffered years of rocket attacks by Palestinian terror groups. As we noted here, in border communities like Sderot, 45 percent of Israeli children under the age of six, 41 percent of mothers, and 33 percent of fathers suffer from PTSD.
Yet, we haven't read of a boom in exorcism clinics opening in Sderot to purge Israeli patients of Muslim demons and jinns.
Perhaps al-Mughrabi ought to consider the possibility that the Palestinian culture in Gaza encourages this type of irrational thinking.