Ben White Competition Time!

Here is an article by Ben White at Comment is Free in which he discovers – to his shock and amazement – that Hamas in power is brutal, misogynist and repressive.

See if you can guess why Ben White believes that Hamas is beating up mixed couples on beaches and insisting that women wear the hijab?

No peeking!

A number of recent reports from Gaza have given cause for concern about the direction the Hamas government is taking with regard to social freedoms and a religiously driven “virtue” promotion campaign. Specific incidents, coupled with public declarations by high-ranking officials, suggest a trend of increasing, forced “Islamisation”.

One high-profile case was the ruling by Gaza’s chief justice, Abdul-Raouf Halabi, at the end of last month, stipulating that female lawyers would be obliged to wear headscarves in court. Although this will not affect many, it was the principle of the order that disturbed both lawyers and human rights groups in the territory. Seven organisations issued a joint statement expressing their “concern” and the context of “a series of infringements upon public and personal freedoms in the Strip”.

This context includes a young woman accosted by Hamas police on the beach, who then roughed up her male companions. It has also meant the harassment of shopkeepers displaying mannequins and lingerie packets. The background is a “virtue campaign” organised by the religious affairs ministry, which, in the words of the Hamas deputy religious affairs minister, is intended to “keep [people] away from sin”.

While the rare incidents of physical violence are condemned by senior Hamas leaders, there is no doubting the pervasive atmosphere and policy direction. Government ministers from different departments have met to discuss a list of regulations to be implementedAs a piece in al-Akhbar noted two weeks ago, “women and the uses of technology seem to be the focus of the ‘yes for virtue’ campaign” whose purpose “according to Yousef Farhat, the general director of the public administration for preaching and guidance in the ministry, is to ‘fight the non-ethical occurrences in Gaza’.”

Since the PLC elections in 2006, and especially after taking control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas officials have insisted there will be no attempt to force a particular way of life on the 1.5 million trapped Palestinians. But the repeated stress on example and persuasion has sounded increasingly hollow – as a human rights activist put it, Hamas denials “contradict what we see on the street”.

But why is this happening now?

Why indeed? What do you think Ben’s explanation is.