Monday, July 27, 2009

Head Covering in Gaza

Found in several news outlets and blogs, is the latest news that head covering will be required in certain places, along with other stricter moral codes, in the Gaza region. Reports have already been coming out that women are being compelled to wear head coverings at the beach and that there are "morality police" checking on moral behavior between men and women (are they verifiable reports? is it government sanctioned, or individual "vigilantes" of a sort? is enforcement of morals an evil thing because one man's moral code is more strict (or loose) than another? do the conservative Jewish or Christian populations in this area understand the idea of hair covering as modesty and not just an Islamic injunction? do the Muslim judges who create these laws understand that point?).

Here is what I could find as apparent fact in the Haaretz.com:
"... Gaza's judicial authority, which runs the strip's courts on behalf of Hamas, recently ruled that all female attorneys must wear the traditional Muslim head covering, the hijab, and wear dresses during court appearances. The ruling was condemned by the independent lawyers association.

"Supreme Court chief justice Abdul-Raouf Halabi said yesterday that female lawyers will be required to wear a headscarf and a long, dark colored cloak under their billowing black robes when the court returns from its summer recess in September."
The Huffington Post also reports:

"...The Hamas government formally says it is not imposing Islamic law on the territory's 1.4 million residents. Instead, it says it is simply ensuring that residents behave in line with the territory's own conservative culture.

"Most women already wear the headscarf, and life in the Mediterranean strip comes to a complete standstill on Fridays as men gather for communal prayers in mosques.

"Subhiya Juma, a female lawyer, said the judge's decision would affect only 10 or so lawyers – since the vast majority of the 150 registered female lawyers already cover their hair.

"Juma, who does not wear a headscarf, said the point wasn't the number of women, but that freedoms were being eroded."


I also came across a very interesting and heart touching blog called "Walking Through Gaza with Alice Walker". (Please understand, if you choose to read the full article, that the poet/author is on the side of anti-war and anti-terrorism, not anti-Jew or even anti-Israeli, as far as I can tell.) In the reading, the writer makes these short observations on the subject of the head covering:

"... But before we talk about hatred I want to know about headscarves. What’s the deal about wearing the scarf? Why do so many women wear it? I am told something I’d never considered: in desert countries most of one’s hydration is lost at the back of the neck, which can quickly lead to heat stroke, so a headscarf that wraps around the neck is essential to block this loss. The top of the head is covered because if a woman is living a traditional life and is outside a lot, the sun beats down on it. This causes headache, dizziness, nausea, stroke, and other health problems. In Gaza, one of the women pointed out, there were many women who did not wear scarves, primarily because they worked in offices. This was true of the women in whose home we were sheltered. They seemed to own a lot of scarves that they draped about themselves casually, just as my friends and I might do in the United States.

"Because I had shaved my head a week or so before going to Gaza, I understood exactly the importance of the headscarf. Without a covering on my head I could not bear the sun for more than a few minutes. And, indeed, one of the first gifts I received from an anonymous Palestinian woman was a thick black and red embroidered scarf, which I wore everywhere, gratefully.

"Our host told us a story about the uglier side of the headscarf business: On the first day of bombing she was working downstairs in the basement and wasn’t aware that her apartment building was next to one that was being shelled. When the policemen came to clear her building, and she stepped out of the elevator, one of them, a political and religious conservative, was taken aback at the sight of her bare head. So much so that instead of instantly helping her to a shelter, he called a colleague to come and witness her attire. Or lack thereof. He was angry with her, for not wearing a headscarf, though Israeli rockets were tearing into buildings all around them. And what could we do but sigh along with her, as she related this experience with appropriate shrugs and grimaces of exasperation. Backwardness is backwardness, wherever it occurs, and explains lack of progressive movement in afflicted societies, whether under siege or not."

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