Analysis to the effect that political responsibility over the Gaza Strip would moderate the Iran-backed Islamist terror group Hamas — a mainstay of certain strains of foreign policy reasoning — were undermined this week when the group sought to enforce gender segregation on boys and girls starting in grade four.
The new law also bans men from teaching girls and penalizes anybody who talks about peace with Israel.
Hamas’s imposition of Islamic law on the Gaza Strip — which it has controlled since a bloody 2007 battle that saw its forces overrun those of the rival Palestinian Fatah faction — has included everything from banning fortune-tellers and mannequins to undermining co-ed summer camps.
Hamas sees the new law as critical to Palestinian identity:
Critics here view the law, which mandates separate classes for boys and girls from the age of 9 and bars men from working at girls’ schools, as the latest move by Hamas to impose a more Islamic lifestyle on the people of Gaza. Hamas has already made efforts to impose Islamic dress on schoolgirls, among other things.
Yousef Al-Sherafi, a Hamas lawmaker and a member of the education committee, said in an interview, “This law is a safety valve for our national principles.” Mr. Sherafi said, “One male staffer among 20 female teachers in a girls’ school would not allow our sisters to feel comfortable.”
The new law also stipulates that any educator or school promoting normalization with Israel will face a sentence of 10 years in prison or a fine of $28,200, respectively.
[Photo: Al Jazeera English / Wiki Commons]