A violent group calling itself “The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” has carried out attacks in Gaza since shortly after Hamas took over the area in mid-2007. Now a female Arab journalist reports that the “unaffiliated” group is clearly an official branch of Hamas, charged with enforcing the group's strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The journalist, Asma abu-Ghul, told Al-Arabiya that she was stopped by the committee's policemen at the beach. Ghul said she was detained for allegedly laughing too loudly and appearing in public with uncovered hair.

The “prevention of vice” police body reports directly to Hamas's Ministry of Waqf Affairs, Ghul said. The force is increasingly visible on the streets of Gaza, she reported, and its officers patrol public beaches and parks as well as businesses such as restaurants and coffee shops.

Hamas Denies Connection

Hamas officials admit that Hamas police patrol beaches and may tell women who they believe are dressed immodestly to go elsewhere. However, Hamas has not claimed any affiliation to the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, and has refused to even admit that the group exists.

The committee lists its goal as hunting down “slaves of the devil who commit blasphemy.” Its first public act, in late 2007, was to beat a local singer for giving a concert. Soon afterwards, members of the group carried out a vicious assault on two residents of southern Gaza accused of “disrespect for Allah.”

A similarly-named group exists in Saudi Arabia as an official government body. The Saudi Arabia organization is tasked with enforcing religious laws, such as ensuring that men and women who are not immediate family members do not interact and maintaining Islamic dress codes.

Police forces responsible for enforcing Islamic law exist in other Muslim states as well, among them Afghanistan and Iran.

Hamas Funds Koran Studies, Supports Covering Girls' Hair

Hamas recently announced that it would cut its employees' salaries by 1% in order to finance Koran studies in Gaza. Former Hamas terrorists and those imprisoned in Israel report that Koran study centers are often the place where young boys in Gaza are first recruited to Islamic terrorist groups.

Last year, the group officially adopted the traditional Muslim criminal code, which includes penalties such as lashes, amputation and crucifixion.

According to the Jerusalem Post, residents of Gaza believe Hamas plans to make hair covering mandatory for all girls in school in the near future. The requirement would affect girls as young as age five.

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