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.”