05/15/2012 10:59 For the first time in Gaza, since Hamas seized control in 2007, a woman has been allowed to work as a waitress in a restaurant, serving men food and drinks. Ranad al-Ghozz, 24, from Gaza City recently made local media headlines in Gaza when she began working at the coastal A-Salam restaurant last month. The majority of Gaza women cannot be found in the workplace as traditional norms are against women working out of the house. If women do work, it is in the public sector specializing in education and health fields. Hamas, the religious Palestinian Sunni Islamic political party rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood, basing its governance upon Islamic fundamentalism, has passed laws that curb women’s status and rights since its takeover of Gaza. Women are not allowed to ride motor scooters and hairdressers for women are banned in Gaza. In January, Hamas rulers shut down the Palestinian version of American Idol, known as New Star, banning residents from participating in the popular reality show, calling it ‘indecent.’ Twenty-year-old Asmahan Nasser also works as a waitress at the upscale Al-Deira hotel, where she must wear a hijab uniform. According to a report in Haaretz, Nasser says she must deal not only with disapproving male patrons, but also disapproving women as well. In one incident, a woman patron left in protest of the hotel’s employment of a waitress and refused to allow Nasser to bring her coffee. Al-Ghozz says she ignores comments made by patrons critical of her status as a woman worker. She began working in waitressing when her father fell ill in order to help her family. ‘But from the start I enjoyed the work, and I decided on my own volition to continue in this profession,’ she said. She previously worked at a restaurant where she was allowed to serve only women. In the past, Hamas’ Islamic Endowment Ministry has deployed a special committee known as the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to enforce Muslim codes of behavior. Members preach at public places to warn of the dangers of immodest dress, card playing and dating. In 2009, Bloomberg reported that Hamas legislator Yunis Al-Astal, explained that Hamas especially targets young people ‘to be more correctly Islamic.’ According to an article in Beirut’s Al Akhbar, the Islamic dress code of veil or hijab is imposed on Gaza’s women who are considered weak, both in class and gender. The author Doha Shams, writes that ‘in plush neighborhoods, where the wealthy live, only religious women need to wear the hijab.’ Furthermore, even Christians female students attending Gaza’s Islamic University must cover their heads and wear the ‘jelbab’ a full-length gown. Those who do not comply can face hostile consequences. It remains to be seen if Hamas will attempt to stop the small number of female professionals working in non-traditional fields such as restaurants.”
In March of 2011, the U.K. based Daily Telegraph published an article titled “”Gaza’s Elected Islamist Rulers Crack Down On Secular Community” which reported on the Islamization of Gaza under Hamas rule:
After nearly four years of Hamas rule, the Gaza Strip’s small secular community is in tatters, decimated by the militant group’s campaign to impose its strict version of Islam in the coastal territory.Women with face veils, once rarely seen in Gaza, are now a common sight. Hamas has bullied men and women to dress modestly, tried to keep the sexes from mingling in public and sparked a flight of secular university students and educated professionals. Most recently, it has confiscated novels it deems offensive to Islam from a bookshop and banned Gaza’s handful of male hairdressers from styling women’s hair. Some argue that the case of Gaza could also be a warning sign for those pushing for quick democratic reforms in the region. Hamas rose to power in part by winning internationally backed parliamentary elections held in 2006. Hamas officials say claims that they are trying to Islamise Gaza are meant to help deter the international community from recognising their rule. “This isn’t true,” said Yousef Rizka, a senior Hamas government official. “We respect freedom.” Gaza, a tiny sliver of land squeezed between Egypt and Israel, always had a significant Islamic flavour, but once tolerated bars and cinemas, especially during Egyptian rule from 1948 to 1967. A conservative religious movement began to take hold in the 1980s, as part of a larger, region-wide religious awakening. The trend accelerated with the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in 1987, which coincided with the founding of Hamas. In June 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza after ousting forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The trend toward religious fundamentalism preceded the Hamas takeover. In recent years, hardliners have burned down the cinemas. Their charred remains are still visible in Gaza City. Militants blew up the last bar in 2005. Gaza women, whose attire once varied from Western pants and skirts to colourful traditional embroidered robes, began donning ankle-length loose robes. Women with face veils, once rarely seen in Gaza, are now a common sight. After winning the 2006 election, Hamas vowed it wouldn’t impose Islamic law. But within two years, bureaucrats began ordering changes that targeted secular Gaza residents. Today, plainclothes officers sometimes halt couples in the streets, demanding to see marriage licenses. Last year, the Interior Ministry banned women from smoking water pipes in public. Islamic faith does not ban women from smoking, but it is considered taboo in Gaza society. “In the end, the people who think differently are leaving,” said Rami, a 32-year-old activist in one of Gaza’s few secular groups. He refused to give his last name, fearing retribution.
The Hamas charter states that it “is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine” and an Israeli TV station has reported that in 2008, Muslim Brotherhood “representatives” traveled to Gaza from Egypt through the open border to meet with Hamas. An earlier media report indicated that shortly after Hamas took over the Gaza strip, Muslim Brotherhood representatives were present to review Hamas military formations. Last June, a Hamas journalist acknowledged the role that the “international Muslim Brotherhood” has played in providing funds for the purchase of weapons.The Global Muslim Brotherhood support Hamas through the Union of Good, a worldwide coalition of charities headed by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi.