During my recent visit to Gaza, I investigated the role of growing Islamisation in the Strip.
The New York Times writes today about the story and finds a conflicted territory:
Iyad el-Serraj, a psychiatrist and close observer here, said there was little doubt that Gaza, long a religiously and socially conservative place, was increasingly so. Without instruction from above, the vast majority of women wear religiously modest dress and more and more men are bearded. No alcohol is sold.
Dr. Serraj attributes the shift to several developments beyond the fact that such an outward expression of identity is increasingly common across the Muslim Middle East. Hamas, he noted, has been in power for more than two years and those in midlevel positions of power, as well as those aspiring for such jobs, want to be noticed and promoted.
Second, he said, with the economy completely stalled because of the blockade of Gaza led by Israel, there is little to do and little horizon for advancement or development. In such circumstances, he suggested, fundamentalism finds fertile ground.
But Hamas, despite favoring Islamic law and behavior, has many reasons for pushing back. Its rival, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, uses any hint of the imposition of religious law as evidence that Hamas is not capable of running a responsible, modern government. Hamas is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Israel, and is seeking international legitimacy to be the leader of the Palestinian movement.