Hamas's Talibanization of the Gaza Strip
by Khaled Abu Toameh
The PLO's Department for Culture and Information said that the Hamas campaign was aimed at creating a Taliban-style entity. Foreign activists who continue to voice solidarity with Hamas need to know the are complicit in the effort to establish a repressive and brutal entity that has no respect for freedoms.
Those who thought that Hamas would ever establish a modern and liberal regime in the Gaza Strip received another reminder this week of how the radical Islamist movement is pursuing its effort to create a Taliban-style entity in the territory that has been under its control since 2007.
The reminder came in the form of a decision taken by the Al-Aqsa University administration in the Gaza Strip to force female students to dress in accordance with Islamic teachings.
This means that all female students would be required to wear the hijab or niqab which cover their heads and faces.
This latest measure is part of a Hamas campaign aimed at "inculcating [Islamic] values and virtues" in the Gaza Strip, Hamas officials explained.
As part of this campaign, Hamas last week imposed a ban on low-waist trousers, Western-style haircuts and tight gowns.
The decision to ban low-waist trousers and Western-style haircuts is directed against young Palestinian men in the Gaza Strip, who have apparently been exposed to Western fashions thanks to television and the Internet.
Adel al-Hour, a senior Hamas official, said that his movement was concerned over the spread of low-waist trousers among both men and women in the Gaza Strip. "This phenomenon is alien to the values and traditions of Palestinian society," he explained.
The Hamas official said that the campaign to enforce Islamic values and virtues was especially designed to "highlight the negative impact of the growing phenomenon of women who dress immodestly in order to highlight their charms."
Hamas, he added, is also strongly opposed to puff hairstyles that have become popular among young men and women in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas's latest campaign follows a series of restrictions imposed by the Islamist movement on women in the Gaza Strip over the past few years. These restrictions include a ban on smoking the nargila [waterpipe] in public places, forcing female lawyers to wear the hijab during their appearances in court and prohibiting boutiques from using female model mannequins.
But while these decisions have not been challenged by most Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the PLO's Department for Culture and Information said that the Hamas campaign was aimed at creating a Taliban-style entity.
Pointing out that the measures would have "grave political and social implications on the components of Palestinian society," the PLO said that Hamas's efforts to enforce Sharia laws "violated Islam's social and legal values and the principle of non-coercion.
Hamas, of course, is not going to listen to the PLO and stop its efforts to turn the Gaza Strip into a radical Islamist state.
Hamas feels confident enough because it is well aware of the fact that its campaign enjoys the support and sympathy of most Palestinians, not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in PLO-controlled parts of the West Bank.
Just last week, arsonists torched three restaurants in the West Bank town of Bir Zeit, a traditional stronghold of secular Palestinians, after accusing the owners of selling alcohol and allowing young men and women to sit together.
Under the current circumstances, there is nothing that could be done to stop the Talibanization of the Gaza Strip. What is happening in the Gaza Strip is one of the by-products of the so-called Arab Spring, which has seen the rise of Islamists to power in a number of Arab countries.
It is nice to see the PLO denouncing Hamas for its effort to enforce Sharia laws in the Gaza Strip. But then the PLO should be asking itself why its leaders are continuing to seek unity with a fundamentalist movement that has endorsed Taliban's tactics and lifestyle?
Instead of seeking unity with Hamas, the PLO leadership should be making a bigger effort to prevent radical Islam from extending its control to the West Bank. The PLO can achieve this goal only if it continues with its current policy of conducting security coordination with Israel.
Meanwhile, foreign activists who continue to arrive in the Gaza Strip to voice solidarity with Hamas need to know that they are complicit in the effort to establish a repressive and brutal entity that has no respect for freedoms and despises Western culture and values.