By Dr. Ahmed Yousef – Gaza
Women in every society have a different perception of their respective roles, which are generally molded by social and cultural norms. Evidently in many parts of the world, these social and cultural norms have restricted women of their due rights. Islam has liberated women of such restrictions by emphasizing social equality and granting women the right to work as part of their freedom of choice. Although wearing the Hijab is a religious obligation, it is inarguably an issue between a woman and God. No one is allowed to force a woman to wear Hijab if she chooses not to, nor does the religion allow anyone to interfere with her if she chooses to take it off. Furthermore, an individual or a group of people’s choice to practice their religion and follow its teachings and principles must be respected and not judged according to certain standards set by others.
Women in the West were granted some of their basic rights fairly recently. Not until the 20th century were women completely allowed to work, inherit, vote, own property, and even protect themselves from violence. The feminist movement was a reaction to a male-dominant society that oppressed women on many levels. Islam, however, had freed women politically, economically, and socially since their birth, approximately 1430 years ago. Thus, feminist movements and fighting governmental institutions were never necessary. It cannot be denied that many individuals within the Islamic region, just like in every other society, oppress women regardless of all beliefs and laws. But it is crucial to note that these actions are not based on true Islamic ideology, but rather is a reflection of traditions that Islam abhors and condemns. Hamas, as an Islamic organization, is keen to implement the true Islamic principles and teachings with regards to women, completely independent of certain cultural norms and societal backwardness.
Hamas, as a national liberation movement, works to put an end to the Israeli Occupation and its injustice and oppression of the Palestinian people, and has no plans in creating a state with a particular type of government. Its only goal is to end the Israeli occupation and thus all attempts to engage the whole population, regardless of gender or age, in the liberation movement is a necessity. God states in the Quran, "The Believers, men and women, are protectors of one another; they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil." Clearly, Islam entitles women and men to cooperate to fulfill their commitments. Understanding the importance of collaborative and complementary roles between men and women, Hamas engages women in all of its departments. There are female participants in the Consultative Council, which is responsible for the outline of the overall strategy of the Hamas movement and the decision-making body. There are also women who are active in the Political Bureau, Cultural Bureau, and an additional committee specialized in women’s affairs within the movement.
Women in Gaza play an active role in politics and their involvement in the workforce is widespread. Many women hold occupations at universities, work as doctors and engineers, run charities and schools, and even hold leadership positions in unions and students’ councils. In the elections of 2006, women in Hamas were fully mobilized to reach out to Palestinian women and encourage them to participate in the parliamentary elections. Hamas nominated tens of women for office and three of them were appointed as members of parliament, one as a minister, 60 as General Directors, and tens of others took leadership positions in different ministries. In addition, from the six Education Departments located in the Gaza Strip, three of them are directed by women.
The misconception that Hamas subjugates women by implementing social restrictions and snatching away their rights is an absolute fallacy. The role of women in the Palestinian society and within the liberation movement is a momentous one. Women have proven to be significant contributors in all possible fields that include, but are not limited to, politics, education, charity, and social work. The Palestinian woman in Gaza is educated, she has a voice, and she is worth no less than any man.
– Dr. Ahmed Yousef is the Deputy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Former Senior Political Adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah in Gaza. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.