Yes to Virtue! Campaign in Gaza
July 27, 2009 § 1 Comment
(This image has nothing to do with the Yes to Virtue campaign.)
The debate over the hijab is normally of minor interest to me. In the end, it’s a complex mix of personal choice and societal/familial obligation. Yet recent news that the Hamas government in the Gaza strip passed a law imposing mandatory hijab-wearing on female lawyers in court piqued my interest partly because it is part of a wider campaign in Gaza launched last month called, “Yes to Virtue!” (Naam Lil-fadila, نعم للفضيلة)
The English-language press has largely missed out on this aspect of the story, which is weird since it’s ideal for network news fodder. (See coverage here.)
The Ministry of Awqaf and Relgious Affairs in Gaza launched the “Yes to Virtue!” campaign at the behest of the Interior Ministry. Yousef Farhat, a director in the Religious Affairs Ministry told the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar that the campaign’s central concerns were the following issues:
1) Mixed-gender nightly gatherings (al-Sahrat)
2) The spread of “closed” coffee shops (meaning ones open to females)
3) Un-supervised internet where one can access obscene material
4) Spread of Tramadol (a pain-reliever)
5) Spread of gum which induces sexual desire in the youth (See here.)
6) Mixing of males and females at the University
7) Scandalous dress at the beach and public places
Al-Akhbar acutely summarized the targets of the campaign to be women and “her use of technology” while building a wider argument that this campaign is just one of many steps taken by Hamas to “islamicize” Gaza. Most telling is the personal anecdote from a Gazan woman who, while swimming at the beach with friends, was nearly arrested by police on charges of “scandalous dress” and “laughing too loudly while swimming.” The woman said she was wearing pants and a blouse.
The woman also complained that the harassment of beach-goers is unbalanced, noting that patrons on private hotel beaches along the Gaza shore are never subjected to such stringent regulations while those on the public beach are frequent targets. That is not to mention the lack of attention paid to male dress.
Al-Akhbar’s main argument is that in the midst of widespread poverty and unemployment, pushing measures that further “islamicize” the public sphere is much easier than under normal circumstances when, you know, people aren’t starving.
Reporting on the internal politics of Gaza is probably one of the most challenging aspects for the Arabic-language press. The factional warfare inside Gaza is well-documented and reporters are not exempt from retaliation or blacklisting if their coverage is deemed unfavorable toward this group or that.
Al-Akhbar’s analysis of the recent events in Gaza is necessary in order to balance out future English-language coverage that might use the Lawyer decision to further portray Gaza as a land teeming with fundamentalism.