Hamas puts backward ideology ahead of liberation

One would have thought that the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has more on its mind than hair gel, haircuts and hipsters, what with the medieval Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, poverty and destitution of Gaza’s people and the failure of attempts at Palestinian national reconciliation.

Apparently not.

Recently, we took Hamas to task for enacting a gender apartheid law in Gaza’s schools that barred men from teaching at girls’ schools and mandated separate classes for boys and girls from the age of nine.

We also drew attention to Hamas’s decision to ban women from running in a UN marathon, prompting the organizer, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, to cancel it.

Now we learn that Hamas’s police officers have started snatching young men with long or gel-styled spiky hair off the streets, bundling them into jeeps, mocking them, beating them up and shaving their heads. Other young men wearing tight or low-waist trousers have also received similar treatment.

The man on the left is wearing a  hairstyle deemed "obscene" by Hamas, and on the right is a man with his head shaved by Hamas police as punishment for wearing the "wrong" hairstyle

The man on the left is wearing a hairstyle deemed obscene by Hamas, and on the right is a man with his head shaved by Hamas police as punishment for wearing the wrong hairstyle

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights cites one victim of Hamas’s Islamist police:

I finished my work at approximately 1630 on Thursday 4 April 2013 and took a taxi to Al-Shuja’iya taxi stand, east of Gaza City. While waiting for another taxi to take me home, I was surprised that a policeman called me and ordered me to get into a police jeep. There were about 12 other young men inside the jeep and no one knew the reason of [their] detention. We were transported to Al-Shuja’iya police station. Meanwhile, one detainee was beaten by a policeman. At the police station, they ordered us to stand in a queue and they were making fun of our hairstyles using abusive words. When a detainee protested, he was beaten. The policemen started cutting a young man’s hair and I was the next one to have his hair cut.  All young men had their hair cut. I then signed a statement saying I would not grow long hair or have strange hairstyle or wear low-waist trousers. I left the police station at approximately 1830 on the same day.

According to Al-Arabiya news website, Hamas officials played down the campaign. It quoted Ziad al-Zaza, the deputy prime minister of Gaza, as saying that head-shaving “was a very limited, isolated behaviour of the police and is not going to continue”.

These men's trousers are considered "obscene" by Hamas police – and worthy of punishment

These men’s trousers are considered obscene by Hamas police – and worthy of punishment

However, Hamas’s denial is both cowardly and unconvincing. As Al-Arabiya says, it is “a stance adopted in the past that allows the group to distance itself from a controversial crackdown while at the same time instilling fear in those it targeted”.

But there may be more bad news for Gaza’s youths, whose space for self-expression is shrinking by the day. This is because Hamas appears to be competing with super-primitive Salafi bigots, who have criticized Hamas for not implementing seventh-century Islamic law in Gaza quickly enough.

All this – gender apartheid, harassment for wearing the wrong hairstyle or the wrong trousers, enforcement of “Islamic” attire for women – comes as a godsend to Israel. It distracts world public opinion from the Zionist entity’s own obnoxious apartheid policies and illegal occupation of Arab territory, and it paints the Palestinian people in the worst possible colour.

We know that for many years Israel tolerated and at times encouraged Islamic activists and groups, including Hamas, as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Now, unwittingly, Hamas is paying back the favour by destroying Palestinian society from within.

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