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The Gazan Jilbab - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Hamas movement was enraged by the media and the Agence France Press [AFP] in particular, which published a report that was circulated concerning Hamas’ decision to impose the Hijab and Jilbab [traditional, long, loose-fitting robe] on female students in schools in the Gaza Strip. The report also spoke of the decision that only female staff would be allowed to work in girls’ schools.

The Hamas-affiliated Interior Ministry issued a lengthy statement that condemned the AFP report, describing it as “superficial and lacking the required media transparency and objectivity, as well as being selective.”

The lengthy statement did not refute or deny any of the basic information revealed in the AFP report by school principals, teachers, and female students, nor did Hamas deny that female students would be required to wear the Hijab and Jilbab, and would be subjected to punishment should they fail to comply with this. A number of statements and decisions were made following Hamas’ decision and these were verbally conveyed to school principals.

There is no doubt that the statement of clarification issued by Hamas in response to the media report and the disapproval of the decision it had already taken led to a fundamental dilemma within the movement. This is accompanied by its recent experiences and the numerous, serious mistakes that Hamas has made over the past few years.

Hamas failed to justify this step and was cautious about adopting it; it was happy just to hide behind repeating the same old phrases such as “the Palestinian nation is a conservative and a Muslim one” and that “wearing the Hijab for female students is a personal decision that stems from the family and is not imposed by force.” Therefore, the tolerance that Hamas claimed to have when it seized power in Gaza by force has disappeared on more than one occasion and the issue of Hijab in school will not be the last time this will happen.

This recent restriction that Hamas is imposing on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that further aggravates the crises is a new step taken by Hamas in an area where nothing has been achieved except more sanctions and continuous suffering for the Palestinians. Once again, Hamas is defending itself by casting accusations against the media and demanding that it focus on the Israeli sanctions and the sufferings caused by the occupation forces (which of course does deserve media coverage and attention), and asks the media to turn a blind eye to its own fatal errors and failures. This is the foundation of the Hamas experience in power. It is not enough that Hamas gives in to the media that is sympathetic towards it i.e. those who are either refrained from talking about this particular issue or others who side with the movement to the extent that many have warned against such bias.

Once again, the media is the target of ill will, coercion and dismissal. How can it not be when it is held responsible for revealing such intentions and orientations? But on the other hand, how could Hamas believe that a decision such as imposing the Hijab on students would pass unnoticed and uncovered by the media? The Hamas authority is not meant to be ashamed of its decisions but it seems that we are facing an authority that is equivocal in its intentions and one that demands the media to conspire along with it.

Hamas is not supposed to be ashamed of such a decision, especially as it is supposedly in harmony with its constitution and its own doctrine. Its attempt at equivocation is evidence that its doctrine is flawed and Hamas cannot declare this publicly. The media can host such discussions without necessarily having to accept them.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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