HOT TOPICS ▶ Climate Change     Undoing The New Deal     The Real Baltimore     Reality Asserts Itself     United Kingdom    

  May 6, 2013

Religious Fundamentalism Growing in Gaza

Hamas is under extreme pressure from small Salafi extremist groups to impose Islamic and Sharia law
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

Thank you, The Real News does an excellent job - FedupwithR
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


Yousef Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist and correspondent for The Real News Network based in Gaza-Palestine & London. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC Radio Canada, TV New Zealand, UN Observer, Reuters Institute, Middle East Monitor, Press TV, Al-Etejah TV, Maan News Network, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, PNN among many others. Yousef is a Reuters journalist fellow and a UN fellow as well and took part in many speaking tours in the UK/Ireland about his work experience, reporting in a war zone. Yousef covered the infighting between Fatah and Hamas as well as the two Israeli wars on Gaza in late 2008/early 2009 and late 2012, arrival of siege-breaking boats and many other major events since 2006. Yousef runs Gaza TV News page on Facebook that has more than 49,000 followers. Currently he is working on his research about the rise of citizen journalists in Gaza and their impact of public perception of Palestine in the West.


YOUSEF ALHELOU, TRNN CORRESPONDENT, GAZA: Since taking control of Gaza in mid 2007, Hamas, which had won the parliamentary elections in January 2006, was able to stay in control of the seaside territory and has now ruled the tiny enclave for the sixth consecutive year, despite two devastating Israeli wars and an ongoing blockade. It has also managed to prevent any attempts to destabilize its authority, especially by small Salafi groups.

Hamas's repeated attempts to impose stricter Islamic social practices have often been met with stiff resistance from locals, forcing Hamas at times to reconsider. For example, it has rescinded on past decisions banning women from smoking shisha in cafes, obliging female high school students to wear the hijab, and banning males from working as hairdressers for females. More recently, couples have been stopped and questioned about their relationship to ensure the legitimacy of their kin. There has been a cracking down on young men with stylish haircuts and those wearing low-waist jeans in the latest campaign, which many say is in line with a series of initiatives perceived as an effort to impose a stricter Islamic lifestyle on Gaza's Palestinian society, which is traditionally conservative.

SAMEER ZAQOUT, AL-MEZAN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): We issued many statements condemning this attitude, but the government keeps denying and rejecting our reports and press releases despite our evidences. if the government thinks we are lying, let them confront us. The government should follow these cases and punish those who abuse the law. The law must be guiding criterion to define and protect our rights, but the violation of personals freedoms was carried out in a systematic way.

ALHELOU: Imposing strict measures included a decision to force female students to stick to a certain Islamic dress code, to wear the jilbab, a long, loose robe that covers the whole body. The Real News talked to a number of people about their reaction, given that over 2,000 Christians are living in Gaza.

OROUBA OTHMAN, JOURNALIST (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): Hamas's latest virtue campaign is a great violation of people's life and rights. We would rather they invest in raising awareness and finding solutions for unemployment, poverty, and other important issues. The violation of personal freedoms will weaken Hamas's popularity in Gaza. Humiliation, arrests, and torture are not the appropriate way to tackle any issue within the society. We as women are worried that they might start campaigns to crack down on us. Everyone is free to chose their way of life, how to think, what to wear, where to go. What is happening is not Islamization; it's Hamasization of the society.

SAED SWIRKI, ARTIST (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): I think it should not be the business of any government to decide the details of citizens and how they live their life. Everyone has a different taste and fashion. Therefore controlling the details of people's life is very hard to accept amongst citizens.

ALHELOU: The government has also passed a new education law that prohibits mixing between the sexes in schools and has banned UNRWA from organizing a marathon in which women can participate.

MONA AL-FARRA, ACTIVIST: I think public freedom has been violated largely in Gaza lately by Hamas government, and this is--I consider it a frank violation of basic human rights, the right of choice, for example. They have no right whatsoever to go and shave the children's hair because of the style and to follow up those kids or those youth who are wearing the low-waist trousers.

ALHELOU: For its part, the government in Gaza says that personal freedoms should be in harmony with the Palestinian society's traditions and customs, but argue that freedoms are respected.

TAHER AL-NONU, SPOKESPERSON OF HAMAS GOVERNMENT (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): This is untrue propaganda. Freedoms are granted for all citizens regardless of their political affiliations. We urge anyone whose rights were violated to file a compliment to us. We at the government reject any kind of violations for anyone's rights. We will not allow anyone to violate the freedom of anyone.

ALHELOU: Some analysts say that that the latest laws aim to impress Salafi groups or some conservative elements within Hamas itself, which is considered a moderate group, elaborating that years of Israeli blockade, which led to unprecedented level of poverty and unemployment, has bred "extremism and dark ideas".

HAIDAR EID, POLITICAL EXPERT: I think Hamas in fact has a strict religious ideological agenda. But what is ironic is that on the one hand, after the latest war on Gaza, Hamas actually showed that it can give political compromises and accept the two-state solution by accepting a Palestinian state on the 1967 border. But on the other hand, because it wants to appease and please the Salafi and jihadist groups in Gaza, it has issued all these social restrictions, whereby the Palestinian community of the Gaza strip is forced to follow its own ideological agenda.

MUKAHIMER ABU SEDA, POLITICAL ANALYST: Hamas is under tight pressure from Salafi extremist groups in the Gaza Strip, and also from its radical camp within the group itself, who are pushing toward more Islamization of the Gaza strip and imposing more of Islamic law and sharia.

Hamas's latest public modesty campaign has triggered fear amongst Gazans that Hamas is driving the population towards fundamentalism.

Yousef Alhelou for The Real News, Gaza.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at

latest stories

Korean Peninsula in Historic Peace Talks - Thanks to Activists, Not Trump
Teacher Strikes Continue to Spread - A Symptom of Public Education Underfunding
IMF Says 2018 Economic Outlook is Rosy, But Austerity is Still Good
Debunking the Myth of American Exceptionalism, with David Swanson
New Student Movement Seeks to Change Hopkins from Within
Corbyn: Does Strike on Syria Justify Bombing Saudi Arabia over Yemen?
Fighting the Oligarchy Inside the Democratic Party
Lopez Obrador's Lead Widens in Mexican Presidential Race Thanks to Trump
Justin Trudeau Vows to Bail Out Profitable Oil Company, Kinder Morgan
Global Warming's Impact on Ocean Currents to Amplify Sea Level Rise
State's Attorney's Race: Thiru Vignarajah on Freddie Gray and Gun Trace Task Force
Defense Stocks Soar as Trump Wages War on Syria
Philippines' Duterte Uses 'War on Terror' Tactics to Crack Down on Leftists
Philippines' Drug War Kills Poor Addicts, Not Rich Dealers
Col. Larry Wilkerson on Syria: War Powers are the 'Surest Way to Tyranny'
Senior Bernie Advisor says 'Bullshit' to Cuomo Campaign Claim It's 'Lockstep' with Sanders
The Perils of Being a Prosecutor and a Politician
France Joins US in a 'Poker Game,' Targeting Iran and Hezbollah
Activists Offer Palestinian and Kurdish Solidarity
Starbucks and the Criminalization of Blackness
Saudi Dictator Dines with French President as Yemenis Starve
State's Attorney's Race: Marilyn Mosby on Tyrone West, Keith Davis and Her Critics
Can a Government Program End Racist Government Practices?
Another Massive Tax Break for Developers? One Key Official Says No
Bolivia's Ex-President Sanchez de Lozada Convicted in US Court for Human Rights Abuses
To Secure Democratic Vote Pompeo Masks Regime Change Agenda
Economic Update: Distorting Economic Truths
The Complex History and Relations of the Kurdish YPG, Syria, and US
Laura Flanders Show: After Hurricane Maria
Israel Mows Down Unarmed Gaza Protesters for 3rd Week as US Blocks UN Investigation,, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Web Design, Web Development and Managed Hosting