Gaza’s Islamic Hamas government on Thursday banned men from working in women’s hair salons, the latest step in its campaign to impose strict Islamic customs on Gaza’s 1.5 million people.
Islamic tradition forbids women from showing their hair to men who are not their husbands or blood relatives. Until now, though, exceptions were made for the eight known male hairdressers in women’s salons in Gaza City.
Since seizing Gaza in 2007, Hamas has taken steps in that direction while avoiding a frontal assault on secularism. The majority of Gaza residents are conservative Muslims, but Hamas is under growing pressure from more radical groups to prove its fundamentalist credentials by imposing ever harsher edicts.Al-Ghoul, who has cut women’s hair for 26 years, said a ban would be devastating. He said he has no other way of making a living.
The latest measure irked one of the victims of the ban. “Next thing you know, they will ban doctors from treating women, and will only let women treat women,” said Barakat al-Ghoul, a 44-year-old hairdresser. “Tomorrow, they will ban everything.”
The Hamas police announced the ban on male hairdressers Thursday on their Web site, citing the Interior Ministry. The statement said those violating the ban would face legal consequences but did not elaborate.