The Jordan Times (Opinion)
March 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Hamas is reportedly banning male hairdressers from styling women’s hair in Gaza. If true, it is a sad indictment of the Islamist movement’s rule today that it has come to this. Indeed, it sometimes is very hard to recollect that Palestinians voted for Hamas not out of any sense of growing religiosity, but because the movement promised change and reform and seemed to mean it.

There are two explanations for the growing conservatism of Hamas’ rule in Gaza. One is that the movement always meant to go this way, statements to the contrary notwithstanding. Another is that with the continuing criminal siege on the Gaza Strip, there is really very little governing for Hamas to do.

Having succeeded in the most central priority of enforcing security on the streets, the movement still needs to show people that it is doing something. In the absence of the ability to build Gaza and improve the economy, isolated and impoverished as the world has allowed Gaza to become, interfering in the personal sphere is one of few options left open.

The internal machinations of political Islam will always see Islamic groups face calls to translate religious proscriptions for personal behaviour into political dictates for same. Politically, however, the more laws there are the harder and more costly they are to enforce.

This is as true of taxation as it is for legislation concerning personal conduct.

It is an important reason why Western-style liberal democracies chose to leave the personal to the personal sphere. Easier and cheaper governance goes hand in hand with systems that allow individuals a greater margin within which to decide how to dress and behave.

It follows that the more economically successful governance models are also liberal when it comes to the personal sphere.

These are issues political Islamic groups need to tackle head on and for which they need to provide clear answers. As they grow in strength and number, political Islamic groups need to consider that they are vying to govern in an imperfect world. They need to be clear about what the priority of governance is and realistic about the measures to achieve their aims.

Banning male hairdressers from styling women’s hair is a pointless waste of time and effort that no ruling body should ever spend any legislative effort on.


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