Alarmed by the growing number of Palestinians who are emigrating from the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian Authority's mufti has issued a fatwa [religious decree] forbidding Muslims to leave.
Sources in the PA Foreign Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that some 10,000 Palestinians have filed requests to emigrate from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year. They said the requests had been approved.
"Every day we hear about hundreds of Palestinians who file requests for emigration with different consulates and diplomatic missions," the sources said. "According to our statistics, there are at least 45,000 emigration applications being reviewed by different countries."
The sources said most of the applicants were young men seeking work abroad. They said the majority of them wanted to move to the US, EU and Canada. The number of Palestinians who wish to emigrate increased significantly after the second intifada broke out in September 2000. Figures published by a number of Palestinian groups show that 50,000 to 80,000 people emigrated in the first few years after the violence erupted.
Dr. Nu'man Amr of Al-Quds University attributed the phenomenon to the harsh economic situation and the high rate of unemployment. "Most university graduates can't find jobs here," he said. "Even those who find jobs here are not receiving good salaries."
Entitled "No Permission to Emigrate from Palestine," the fatwa reads: "There has been much talk in Palestine about emigration, especially among the young people, due to the difficult security and economic situation. This is being done in search of a better life abroad. Many are continuing to rush to the gates of the embassies and consulates of the Western nations with requests for visas in order to reside permanently in those countries.
"We hereby declare that emigration from the blessed lands is not permitted according to religious law. The people living in these areas must remain in their homes and must not leave them to conquerors. Those who abide by this ruling will perform an honorable deed and will support the Aksa Mosque."
However, the fatwa permits Muslims to travel abroad temporarily for study and work "as long as they are committed to returning and living in the blessed lands."
A recent public opinion poll conducted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip showed that that 82.7 percent of the Palestinians are pessimistic regarding their conditions.
The survey, conducted by the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah University in Nablus, also reported that 92% of respondents feel insecure because of the growing lawlessness in the PA-run areas.
The pollsters questioned 1,361 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and had a 3% margin of error.
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