Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gaza hardliners launch arson attack on family leisure park

Hamas government is accused of turning a blind eye to crackdown on behaviour in the city by Islamic extremists

Harriet Sherwood in Gaza City

The Observer, Sunday 24 October 2010

"Crazy Water Park had already been closed down for two weeks by the Hamas government, over an "unlicensed water whirl", when 40 armed arsonists struck in the middle of the night last month....

On 19 September came the biggest attack. Despite the lockdown that Hamas security forces have on Gaza City, a large group of gunmen moved unhindered through checkpoints and, according to Araj, spent considerable time setting fires at the resort. "It was well organised," he said. "We know the attack took place under government eyes."....

The experience of Crazy Water Park is part of a wider attempt to impose "good behaviour" on Gaza's population, according to Hamdi Shaqqura of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). He cites restrictions on internet cafes, the closure of beach-front restaurants over the summer, a ban on women smoking shisha pipes in public and a prohibition on the display of lingerie in shop windows. Head teachers have been told they may impose Islamic dress codes on girls, and men have been banned from teaching in girls' high schools. Some say that women have been reprimanded for sitting with crossed legs in public....

The lack of clear regulations "means it's up to individuals in the security forces to decide whether something is immoral or contradicts sharia law," said Mkhaimer Abusada, professor of political science at Gaza's Al-Azhar University. "My understanding is that there are many people in Hamas who are not happy about this. But the hardliners within the government are in control. The moderate voices are very marginal."

Hamas, he said, was also responding to pressure from the Salafis, adherents of an ultra-conservative form of Islam, which seeks to eradicate "un-Islamic" behaviour. "Hamas is trying to contain them," said Abusada. "This is a grand plan to Islamise Gazan society. If you connect the dots, you end up with the Islamisation of Gaza, step by step."....."

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