How could Islamization possibly erode women's rights? All Western Muslim spokesman assure us that Islam respects women's rights, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is a greasy Islamophobe. Apparently Islamophobes have overrun Gaza: "Islamization of Gaza Erodes Women's Rights," by Asmaa al-Ghoul for Al-Monitor, February 1 (thanks to Jacob):
Al Aqsa University, a public university in Gaza, has introduced an Islamic dress code for women. After being characterized for more than 20 years by political and intellectual diversity, female students are now bound to adhere to a strict dress code, including an abaya (cloak) and hijab (veil) while on campus. The decision has caused uproar and sparked heated debates.
Dr. Naaman Ulwan, an independent academic and advisor for cultural affairs at Al Aqsa University, revealed to Al-Monitor that he did not know about the decision ahead of its announcement on Jan. 26, 2013. Ulwan affirmed that even if such decision was approved, it certainly complies with the conservative society of Gaza that does not tolerate attire showing women’s curves.
Dr. Faiq al-Naouk, advisor for managerial affairs in Al Aqsa University and the decision maker, expressly denied the “Taliban” aspect of this decision. He reiterated that it was unanimously approved two months ago and would be implemented at the beginning of the next semester, underlining that he was not a representative of Hamas in the university board.
Naouk elaborated on the implementation process, stressing that it was a matter of “persuasion” not “coercion.” Female employees would stand at the front gate of the university to observe the students; any female with alluring apparel would be reprimanded, once or twice, until she abided by the decision. “If we were intransigent, I would not have received you while you were unveiled, but even though you weren’t veiled, we received you and gave you an interview. We are not extreme, we are moderate,” declared Naouk, addressing Al-Monitor’s reporter.
The Gaza government has taken some decisions that have been seen as sexist, religiously irrelevant, and merely related to personal interpretations. Women have been prohibited from riding bicycles and smoking water-pipes, it is not allowed to display lingerie in storefronts, and females are required to wear hijab in public schools and courts. This is all part of a national campaign to restore virtue implemented under the auspices of the police force.
Secret endorsement of decisions
“Women’s rights in Gaza are regressing. Many decisions are being passed in secret and only become public by chance, such as the decision to destroy curriculum books that are thought to be morally corrupting, in addition to the imposition of the hijab in schools and the prohibition of female participation in folklore dancing. When Hamas officials are asked about these matters, they always end up finding shallow justifications,” said feminist activist Dunia al-Amal Ismail.
Ismail contends that whenever women call for change and an improvement in their social situation, they are asked to put their demands on hold under the pretext that it is not the right time; the people are fighting the Israeli occupation. Ismail, however, notes dangerous changes being made by the government pertaining to the endorsement of the penal code without informing the feminist movement. Causes like gender equality are seen as a western product and feminist movements are thought to contradict Islamic feminism. “Accusations are heaped upon the feminist movement, even though the struggle it led — on the level of amending laws and imposing quotas for women — has ushered in the participation of Hamas’ women in the legislative council,” she added.
Currently, the streets of Gaza are cluttered with advertising signs that read: “An honorable man treats women with honor and integrity, and only a vile and dishonorable man violates and degrades women.” Quoted from the Hadith, these sayings are used to promote the new policies of the government.
Amira Haron, under-secretary for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, says that the ministry aims to enhance the situation of Palestinian women and reinforce their roles on all levels. The strategic plans are focused on different areas such as laws, economy, studies and raising awareness. Haron says that the ministry is playing a positive role in changing the situation of women in Gaza through many achievements, such as acknowledging the right of widows to have full and permanent custody over their children. She stressed that the ministry does not simply wait for the laws to be amended, rather it exerts pressures on the government to take decisions that do women justice.
Article 18 of the 1936 penal code, applicable in the Gaza Strip and used by judges to mitigate the sentence of a murderer who kills his daughter, wife, mother, sister or relative in the name of “honor” states the following: “Any person who commits a crime to defend himself or another person or their money, honor or pride shall benefit from a reduced sentence.”