Hamas, for its part, says "We respect freedom." They hope listeners in the West will project their own sensibilities on that term, but of course, the official means "freedom" only as defined within the strictures of Sharia law.
One could compare it to the now-amusing statement in the '80s, dubiously attributed to Bill Gates, that "640k [of RAM] ought to be enough for anybody." Those who demand the implementation of Sharia believe that, as Allah's own law, it "ought to be enough for anybody." In both areas, the rest of the world has moved on and left those prior benchmarks of "achievement" in the dust. But in Gaza and anywhere else Sharia can gain a foothold, its outdated and backward treatment of human rights will not only be "enough," but above criticism.
"Gaza's elected Islamist rulers crack down on secular community," from the Telegraph, February 25 (thanks to Zulu):
Hamas has bullied men and women to dress modestly, tried to keep the sexes from mingling in public and sparked a flight of secular university students and educated professionals. Most recently, it has confiscated novels it deems offensive to Islam from a bookshop and banned Gaza's handful of male hairdressers from styling women's hair.
Another cautionary tale that will be ignored:
Some argue that the case of Gaza could also be a warning sign for those pushing for quick democratic reforms in the region. Hamas rose to power in part by winning internationally backed parliamentary elections held in 2006.
It's a plot, of course:
Hamas officials say claims that they are trying to Islamise Gaza are meant to help deter the international community from recognising their rule. "This isn't true," said Yousef Rizka, a senior Hamas government official. "We respect freedom."
Gaza, a tiny sliver of land squeezed between Egypt and Israel, always had a significant Islamic flavour, but once tolerated bars and cinemas, especially during Egyptian rule from 1948 to 1967. A conservative religious movement began to take hold in the 1980s, as part of a larger, region-wide religious awakening.
The trend accelerated with the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in 1987, which coincided with the founding of Hamas. In June 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza after ousting forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The trend toward religious fundamentalism preceded the Hamas takeover. In recent years, hardliners have burned down the cinemas. Their charred remains are still visible in Gaza City. Militants blew up the last bar in 2005.
The severity of veiling in a given location continues to be a bellwether of the encroachment of Sharia, the support for, and strength of those who would wage jihad to impose it:
Gaza women, whose attire once varied from Western pants and skirts to colourful traditional embroidered robes, began donning ankle-length loose robes. Women with face veils, once rarely seen in Gaza, are now a common sight.
After winning the 2006 election, Hamas vowed it wouldn't impose Islamic law. But within two years, bureaucrats began ordering changes that targeted secular Gaza residents.
Today, plainclothes officers sometimes halt couples in the streets, demanding to see marriage licenses. Last year, the Interior Ministry banned women from smoking water pipes in public. Islamic faith does not ban women from smoking, but it is considered taboo in Gaza society.
Jihad causes poverty: the people Hamas is chasing off are taking their educations and skills with them:
"In the end, the people who think differently are leaving," said Rami, a 32-year-old activist in one of Gaza's few secular groups. He refused to give his last name, fearing retribution.