GAZA STRIP - Hamas, the ruling Palestinian faction in the Gaza Strip, has issued a dress code for women, moving another step forward toward imposing Sharia (Islamic) law on residents.
"We have to encourage people to be virtuous and to keep them away from sin," Hamas Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Abdullah Abu Jarbou said.
Earlier this month, Gaza's chief judge Abdel Raouf Halabi warned that after September 1, female lawyers who do not wear Islamic head coverings and dark robes would be barred from court.
"We will not allow people to ruin morals," the judge said.
While Hamas officials continue telling the outside world that compliance to a strict Muslim lifestyle is optional, insider's stories don't appear to support the claim, The Associated Press reported.
Teachers have been told to pressure girls to wear Muslim head scarves, while plainclothes policemen are enforcing Muslim dress codes on the beaches, shopping areas and other public places.
Mohammed Amta, 18, was told to put on a shirt on the beach because his appearance was "un-Islamic" and to take off two silver rings and a bracelet because they represented Western culture.
A lifeguard was told to wear an undershirt and knee-length shorts because "that's how Muslims should dress."
Meanwhile, the Religious Affairs Ministry initiated a "virtue campaign," posting lists of acceptable and unacceptable behavior in public places and reinforcing the stipulations in the mosques.
Some of the "virtues" include separating males and females at weddings and other functions and shunning popular music.
According to one merchant, Hamas police ripped the price tags off packages of bras and panties that showed women in underwear.
Three young men said they were beaten by police for walking on the beach with a female friend. After the beating, they were ordered to sign a statement swearing not to engage in "immoral activities."
"Sharia law is coming," Abu Jarbou said. "In the future, it's inevitable that it will be implemented," he said.
Source: The Associated Press