Gaza took another step towards strict Islamic law this week with the imposition of new dress codes on schoolgirls. Girls and young women returning to school on Sunday were told that they must wear jilbab, traditional Islamic sleeved robes, and cover their hair, or they would not be allowed to return to class.
Posters hung in Gaza City schools announced that all girls would be required to wear navy blue jilbab, a white headscarf, and white or black shoes. Dozens of students reported being sent home after appearing in school in jeans.
In addition, public high school classes have been separated, with boys and girls learning in different buildings.
According to some Gaza residents, the new rules are being enforced on members the region's small Christian minority as well, despite the fact that Christians are generally considered exempt from following Islamic law. However, the laws have not been enforced within private Christian schools.
Hamas officials denied Monday that they were connected to the new school dress codes. The decision to enforce strict standards of dress was made at the local level, by individual principals, Hamas claimed.
Most girls and their families were in favor of the new dress codes, they added.
Reports of a new school dress code caused anger in Judea and Samaria, where Palestinian Authority loyalists accused Hamas of violating the PA charter, which forbids the enforcement of a public dress code.
Earlier this month, a Gaza judge ordered that all female lawyers cover their hair in court. The decision caused a wave of protest from lawyers and human rights groups in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. Hamas distanced itself from that decision as well, saying the matter was a private issue for the courts to deal with.
Several weeks ago, Hamas was accused of enforcing an informal dress code on women living in Gaza, and of allowing local militias to enforce strict standards of modest dress and behavior.