by Mark Silverberg
In December, 2008, according to the London-based Arab daily Al Hayat, the Hamas parliament in
Whether such a law passes or not, the shadow of Shari'a law is descending on
The Report's main points include...
- the enforcement of a dress code for women on the street, in schools and in the courts;
- the expulsion of female students from schools who do not wear a head covering and wide dresses;
- instructions to judges not to hold sessions if female lawyers do not appear in Islamic garb;
- a requirement on official Hamas TV (Al-Aqsa) that women announcers must wear a veil, and that Islamic content must be featured in its TV programs;
- men not being allowed to swim in the ocean without a shirt;
- a prohibition against female mannequins being exhibited in shop windows;
- a prohibition against mixed-gender public ceremonies;
- a prohibition against men teaching in girls' schools
- (Efforts are also being made by Hamas to separate boys and girls in the UN-run schools);
- Fatah-identified teachers being replaced by Hamas members;
- Hamas police arresting immodestly clad women and enforcing gender separation;
- unmarried couples being prohibited from appearing in public;
- married couples being required to produce a marriage certificate upon demand;
- religious studies classes being added to schools, mosques and prisons with the stipulation that prisoners who become more religious can have their sentences shortened;
- an across-the-board 1% public sector pay-cut imposed during the summer months to pay for summer camps for reviewing the Koran;
- increased construction of mosques, madrasses and Islamic Shari'a courts;
- the establishment of an Islamic National Bank and an Islamic insurance company; and
- a new criminal code based on Shari'a law (In June 2009, the Legislative Council passed amendments to the criminal code for the purpose of "preventing immoral incidents in public.")
In addition, according to the Jerusalem Post, every
Similarly, Islamic charitable organizations are increasingly replacing elected local governments as the providers of social services. The result has been to establish "channels of material dependence between the public and the Hamas organization".
The imposition of strict Shari'a law by Hamas comes as a direct result of significant challenges to its religious authority. At the Ibn-Tamiya mosque in the
The challenge raised by Salafi-jihadist groups in
Thus, Hamas hesitation at firing missiles at Israel in the wake of the Gaza war has become ammunition for the Salafi-jihadists; every effort made by Hamas to interfere with Salafi-jihadist actions against Israel from Gaza is deemed a betrayal of Islam, and any negotiations between Hamas and the Israelis on opening Gaza's borders or facilitating prisoner exchanges exposes Hamas to Salafi-jihadist condemnation. There is also widespread Palestinian criticism of Hamas's consent to major concessions in the deal for trading Israeli soldier-hostage Gilad Shalit for nearly a thousand Palestinian terrorists who would be banished from the country upon their release from Israeli prisons. For many Palestinians, these terrorists are seen as "resistance leaders." In short, these Islamists believe that Hamas has been neutralized and has given up the fight.
Until now, Hamas's dilemma has centered on how to translate its religious rhetoric (Shari'a law) into actual policies without alienating either its religious or secular supporters. There is a vast difference between religious theory and religious practice. In
Hamas may find that Gazans will react much the same way to the imposition of strict Shari'a law. It is possible that the more Shari'a law is implemented in
This dilemma was borne out by a recent poll undertaken by Stan Greenberg of Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research. The poll suggests that (as of September, 2009) 58% of Gazans disapprove of Hamas' performance (42% strongly disapprove) including its implementation of Shari'a law. While Hamas won the January 2006 Gaza election largely due to Fatah's corruption and its rejection of the peace process, Gazans are discovering that the reality of Hamas rule in implementing Shari'a law is affecting their lives just as profoundly as the two other issues.
The recent Gaza War only served to underscore that realization.
Hamas requires Islamic legitimacy, and as such, it is vulnerable to claims from Salafi-jihadist groups in
In effect, while Hamas jealously guards its political power, it is committed to "proving" its Islamic credentials. The Shabak Report suggests that an Islamic mini-state is emerging in
Mark Silverberg is a foreign policy analyst for the
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