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Creeping Islamization in Gaza?
Gazan Bar Association resists hijab for women lawyers
Yehonathan Tommer (tommery06)     Print Article 
Published 2009-07-28 15:54 (KST)   
The Gazan Bar Association will fight a recent ruling by the Higher Justice Council in Gaza ordering women jurists to wear the traditional Islamic head scarf (hijab) when pleading before the courts.

In a courageous confrontation, the President of the Gazan Bar Association, Salamat Bessisso announced that Gazan lawyers "will refuse to comply with the decision" handed down Sunday by Chief Justice Abdul Ra'ouf al-Halabi, head of Gaza's supreme judicial body, the Higher Justice Council.

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Creeping Islamisation in Gaza?
The ruling will come into effect on September 1.

Bessisso represents Gaza's 815 certified lawyers and says that the decision which affects its 115 female members is a test case by the Hamas government to institute the hijab as compulsory head dress for all women in the Gaza Strip.

According to Islamic , are a symbol of female modesty and are compulsory head dress for women only in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Bessisso fears that if the ruling is enforced, then Gazans could face a rolling Islamization which would reinforce the fragmentation of Palestinian society and Gaza's separation from the West Bank.

Such fears had been cautiously expressed by secular Gazan figures soon after Hamas' violent coup and seizure of power in the Strip in June 2006.

The Gazan Bar Association will hold a video conference in Ramallah on Saturday with its West Bank counterpart (which is unaffected by the Gazan High Court decision) to decide on joint action to oppose the ruling.

Together they will also appeal to the Palestinian Authority's judicial authorities for intervention.

Backing Bessisso in a statement released on Monday, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said that the July 8 ruling imposing traditional robes and veils for female lawyers appearing before courts in Gaza is "an illegal and unjustified intervention in the Bar Association's affairs."

It "violates the constitution and undermines women's rights and personal freedoms ensured by the constitution."

According to the Gazan High Court ruling, women lawyers will be ordered to wear special uniforms consisting of a black robe, a dark suit [jilbab or coat] and a head scarf covering the hair. Male lawyers appearing in court will be ordered to wear a dark tuxedo, white shirt and black necktie.

The new dress attire is based on provisions in the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003 and the Lawyers' Clothing Statute of 1930. But the latter statute loosely prescribes "common righteous norms" of dress that are "not open to interpretation and have no ideological implications not included in the law," the PCHR statement stresses.

The statute assigns common dress for both males and females (a vesture of black cloth, a dark suit and a white top and tie). It does not discriminate between the genders and even allows them to plead without wearing the specified clothing before judges and arbitrators, in district courts or before courts investigating suspicious deaths.

The Bar Association alone has exclusive authority to adjudicate in matters affecting proper dress code by lawyers appearing in court, the PCHR said, reminding the Higher Justice Council that it had been established by the government in Gaza "in violation of the constitution."

©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Yehonathan Tommer

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