This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Apartheid State

"[Until the mid-1980s] it used to be normal [for women and girls riding bicycles in Gaza.] They did it for pleasure and fun, by the sea."
Atef Abu Saif, writer, Gaza

"I want you [younger members of riding group] when you get married, to make riding your bikes a condition of marriage."
"I wanted to remind myself of my childhood, which was without problems. Riding a bike makes you feel like you are flying."
Amna Suleiman, 33, leader, Gaza women's cycling club

"The role of our women is to obey their husbands and prepare food for them inside the house, not to imitate men and ride bikes in the streets."
"[These women -- the cycling group -- are] detestable and ugly."
Islamic Jihad fighter, 33

"So what if a woman rides a bike? People have reached the moon already!"
Abdul Salam Hussein, 53, Gaza
Ms. Suleiman, center, and other women with their bikes in Gaza on Friday. Credit Wissam Nassar for The New York Times

An older Palestinian Gazan who can recall life before his community was ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement, sees nothing amiss in young Palestinian women riding bicycles for recreational pleasure. A younger Palestinian man who is a fighter with Islamic Jihad finds women who display themselves on bicycles to be repulsive for what that represents is independence and spiritedness, an unwillingness to be dictated to by public social pressure.

As the women who have been riding as a group for several months pioneer this new occupation in pleasure, cycling along Gaza's main highway, men and teens gawk at them. Hamas gunmen in a jeep jeer, and they earn catcalls from a group of men driving motorbikes. Their public display of rejection of the Hamas social contract that women be entirely subservient to men and to the rules that the patriarchal society has outlined for women does not endear them to the men who feel little admiration for the women's independence.

When Amna Suleiman declared her belief that women should establish an understanding with their husbands when they marry, that they should be expected to be able to exercise some freedom of choice in their activities, one of the  younger women laughed: "He'll give me a beating", she observed of any future marriage relationship she would have from among the men of Gaza. A Gaza marathon in 2013 was cancelled when Hamas barred women from running in it. Hamas continued its social engineering by forbidding women from riding behind men on motorbikes.

Gyms in Gaza are single sex facilities or they practise strict hourly divisions by gender. Women athletes practise their support in closed stadiums. Asmaa al-Ghoul, a Gaza journalist, was spat upon and threatened when she biked with three foreign friends from the southern tip of Gaza to Gaza City in a deliberate protest of the unwritten rule that bars women from cycling once they are past puberty. Social networks echo with the criticism of men from Gaza of this new phenomenon.

Unless religious leaders are driven to address the issue with a fatwa, Ahmad Muheisin, assistant under-secretary in Gaza's youth and sports ministry office, has no intention of putting a stop to the women's audacity, though they were violating Gazan 'values' by riding in public. But Palestinians in general decry the women's initiative, with the impression that women are displaying themselves, inciting men to leer at their legs and their bottoms.

Women's instinct for indecency, it appears, knows no bounds; they are shameless. Their atrocious behaviour pains the honourable men of Gaza.

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