|A woman smoked a water pipe as she surfed the Internet at a cafe in Gaza City. (Associated Press)|
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza’s Hamas rulers have banned women from smoking water pipes in cafes, calling it a practice that destroys marriages and sullies the image of the Palestinian people.
The ban marks the Islamist militant group’s latest effort to impose a strict ascetic lifestyle in the seaside strip on an often resistant public.
While Muslim law does not technically ban women from smoking the tobacco-infused pipes, tradition frowns upon the popular habit.
Hamas frequently mixes its strict interpretation of Islamic law with conservative Gaza tradition, and over the weekend, the two dovetailed to produce the smoking ban.
“It is inappropriate for a woman to sit cross-legged and smoke in public. It harms the image of our people,’’ Ihab Ghussein, Hamas interior ministry spokesman, said in a statement released yesterday.
“Many women who smoke in public were divorced when their husbands saw them, or found out about them,’’ said Hamas police spokesman, Ayman Batneiji, without substantiating his assertion.
The ban was handed down by plainclothes security officials who marched through a strip of popular cafes by Gaza’s seashore over the weekend, ordering owners not to serve water pipes to female customers.
It is not clear how strict Hamas will be in enforcing the ban.