Monday 24 August 2009


This is not, to me, an article I am particularly happy to be posting. There are a few things here that feel uncomfortable to me. First, I am not a believer in full segregation of the sexes. Secondly, a good deal of the support given to Palestine comes from the West. With the implementation of the new religious guidelines, things are being said about Westerners that are not kind. And that bothers me.

No matter who does it, the trait of zealotry is not a pretty or,in the long run a socially beneficial thing. And at all times it seems to further marginalize the women of the society concerned. It seems that Gaza is beginning to go that route. And who ever doubted that Gaza was a Muslim nation? And no one can ever convince me that total isolation from the opposite gender but for family, is a good or balanced thing. But Hamas seems to think otherwise.

Hamas dress code aims to make Gaza more Islamic

Associated Press

Hamas launches campaign with list of religious dos and don'ts. Deputy religious affairs minister says 'We have to encourage people to be virtuous.' Human rights activist says these are attempts to Islamize society

A "virtue campaign" is being spread in Gaza by the Religious Affairs Ministry in a list of dos and don'ts that feature on posters and in mosque sermons.

It also calls for gender separation at wedding parties and tells teens to shun pop music with suggestive lyrics. "We have to encourage people to be virtuous and keep them away from sin," said Abdullah Abu Jarbou, the deputy religious affairs minister.

On a Gaza beach, Mohammed Amta, 18, said a plainclothes security man told him to put on a shirt, saying his appearance was un-Islamic, and to remove his two silver rings and woven bracelet because they were a sign of Western culture.

A lifeguard said he was told to wear an undershirt and knee-length shorts. "They said that's how Muslims should dress," he said. He declined to be named, fearing he would lose his Hamas-provided job.

Police are enforcing the restrictions on mannequins and salesmen say they ripped off the tags on packages of panties and bras which showed women in underwear. Enforcement is spotty and seems restricted to working-class markets. Most traders said they moved the mannequins back after police left.

In addition, Abdel Raouf Halabi, Gaza's chief supreme court judge, this month ordered female lawyers to wear head scarves and dark robes or be barred from courtrooms when their work resumes September 1. "We will not allow people to ruin morals," he explained.

It's all part of a new Hamas campaign to get Gazans to adhere to a strict Muslim lifestyle and the first clear attempt by the Islamic militants to go beyond benign persuasion in doing so. It suggests that having consolidated its hold on Gaza in the two years since it seized control by force, Hamas feels emboldened enough to extend its ideology into people's private lives.

Hamas insists compliance with its "virtue campaign" is still voluntary and simply responds to a Gazan preference for conservative ways. But the rules are vague and there are reports of alleged offenders being beaten and teachers being told to pressure girls to wear head scarves.

Hamas, known for its keen sense of public opinion, pledged after its June 2007 takeover to refrain from imposing Islamic ways. Khalil Abu Shammala, a human rights activist in Gaza said that is all changing, "There are attempts to Islamize this society". Hamas' denials "contradict what we see on the street."

Gaza maintains small islands of secularism. Foreigners are rarely harassed, and Gaza women in stylish clothes and hairdos, many of them Muslims, frequent a half-dozen upmarket cafes and restaurants.

Last month, three young men walking on the beach with a female friend said they were beaten by Hamas police, detained and ordered to sign statements promising not to engage in immoral activities." The Hamas government condemned the beatings.

MP Younis Astal considers swimming and folklore dance to be "obscene".

But it remained silent when a Hamas leader, Younis Astal, accused UN-run summer camps for tens of thousands of children of spreading drug use and encouraging "obscene behavior" for teaching swimming and folklore dance.

Abu Jarbou, the deputy minister, insisted that Hamas would move gradually and not impose its views by force. Still, Islamic law is coming, he said.

"In the future, it's inevitable it will be implemented," he said.


Ali Waked

As school year opens, the Gaza Strip's government decides to impose Islamic clothing on female students at governmental schools, bans men from teaching at girls' schools.

The school year in Gaza's governmental schools kicked off on Sunday, one week before the official date, with some 250,000 students at governmental schools and 200,000 students at United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools.

Girls studying at government schools were required to wear Islamic clothes, comprised of a ghalabia (traditional Arabic garment) and a head cover. The Strip's education ministry even ruled that the ghalabia must be dark blue and the head cover must be white.

The ministry also ruled that only female teachers would be allowed to teach in the government schools.

These decisions sparked a row in Gaza, with Hamas' rivals defining them as a further step towards an Islamization of the Strip, after Islamic clothing has also been imposed on female lawyers during court sessions. Despite the protest, reports from Gaza reveal that all women arriving at the courts are obeying the new order.

How long before these women lose their rights to practice law in such a segregated society. It seems the more Islamic a state goes, the fewer options are allowed to the women.

Female students in the Strip claim that the new order is failing its purpose and that forcing such clothing does not mean it is being accepted out of faith and conviction.

Sources in the Strip have reported that some parents are considering removing their daughters from the governmental schools, and that financial considerations are the only thing preventing a huge rush to private schools.

Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas-run government in Gaza, said in response that the decision to cancel the school uniform was aimed at easing the parent's financial situation. Hamas sources claimed that the decision on Islamic clothing was not a matter of coercion, but rather a matter of adjusting to the traditional Muslim society.

Sources in the Strip's organizations told Ynet they did not foresee a protest against Hamas' decisions, adding that the decision had many supporters.

In Gaza one would be afraid to speak out against almost anything that Hamas does for fear of reprisals.


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