Perusing my posts, one can hardly fail to notice my lack of enthusiasm for the modern state of Israel, the establishment of which I consider to have been immoral and an utterly stupid recipe for endless strife in the region. This does not, however, mean I approve of everything the Palestinians do, although a people can be excused a lot when one part of their country is being appropriated by their neighbor and the other is turned into a vast prison camp. And something I certainly cannot approve of are the actions of Hamas.
Hamas was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and in 2006 won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament, probably because of their social welfare work and the failings of Fatah. This resulted in conflict between the two parties and Hamas control of Gaza in 2007. Hamas’ electoral success is not recognized by the United States, which supports free elections only so long as they are not won by groups it does not approve of. Hamas has been labeled a terrorist group, though it is hard to see why blowing up a bus is any more of a terrorist act than dropping cluster bombs in densely populated areas.
As one who understands, without condoning, Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians (the military are legitimate targets), the odd ineffectual Hamas rocket launched towards Israel does not concern me, apart from the fact that it ultimately brings horrific reprisals from Israel. What is unacceptable is Hamas’ imposition of their extremist version of Islam on the inhabitants of Gaza, which is especially offensive given the generally secular nature of Palestinian society. As usual, this imposition takes the form of endless prohibitions, virtually none of them supported by the Koran. As if life in Gaza were not miserable enough.
Much of the silliness stems from the misogyny inherent in all the Abrahamic religions and taken to incredible extremes by Islam. Since none of these supposedly religiously-inspired mandates are found in the Koran, we must assume they are dreamed up by Hamas theocrats, perhaps to demonstrate the innate superiority (and ignorance) of Muslim males.
That schools will be segregated by gender for students older than nine and men will never be permitted to teach females is a hardly surprising dictum for radical Islam, but it is an extreme measure for Palestinians, who have traditionally rejected this sort of nonsense. Less common is the recent prohibition against women riding on the backs of motorcycles. The Hamas authorities claim it is a safety measure (which no one else does), but they also state that it is intended to protect “community values,” which values are apparently determined by Hamas, since these Hamas “values” are not a facet of traditional Palestinian society. The “safety” explanation was subsequently shown to be bogus when women were subsequently banned from riding motorcycles at all. Hamas has also decided that women running a marathon is “un-Islamic” no matter how they are dressed, and women were prohibited from smoking the widely popular water pipes because it “destroyed marriages” and “sullied” the image of Palestine. This last was, I believe, subsequently retracted. And if you are a man in Gaza, don’t bother becoming a beautician: men cannot cut women’s hair.
But Hamas is in fact capable of at least momentarily attending to affairs other than their campaign to return women to their seventh century status as chattel. With even less scriptural backing they are also attending to the proper image of the Islamic male. Hair with gel or worse, spikes, will be summarily shaved off by Hamas fashionistas. Longish hair will also be snipped, which seems odd considering the usual extremist demand that men not cut their beards. Banning tight or low-riding pants is perhaps understandable in the bizarre world of Islamic sartorial concerns, but why is god offended by trousers that are long enough to cover the ankles? Traditional Arab robes do that, and it must be asked: Did Mohammed ever see a man wearing pants?
In addition to these specifically Hamas ordinances in the name of god there are of course the expected hassles associated with this curious religion. Men are harassed if they are too uncovered at the beach, since presumably the bare Arab chest is just too much for the average woman to deal with. To be fair, much of Latin American society is also uncomfortable with such exposed manliness. In Gaza couples are stopped and required to prove they are in fact married, which might make you wonder how courting is undertaken at all. I suppose this fits nicely with the tradition of no courting whatsoever since ideally the marriage would be arranged. It all makes Sicily seem progressive.
Of course, all this strange and stifling behavior in the name of god would be entirely familiar to the ultra-orthodox haredi in Israel, who give the Taliban a run for their money when it comes to making the fair sex invisible, uneducated breeders and pretending the world is still in the first millennium BC. But then, what is Islam but a return to god as the nasty Lord of Hosts rather than the only sometimes nasty forgiving and smiling savior of Christianity?