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The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is a group in the Gaza Strip responsible for enforcing Islamic codes of behavior.[1][2][3] According to journalist Khaled Abu Toameh and Middle East researcher Dr. Jonathan Spyer (both writing in The Jerusalem Post), the group forms part of the police forces of the Hamas de-facto government.[1][2] As of October 2009, Hamas has not commented on the group or acknowledged its existence.



The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is mentioned in a 2007 report in Al-Arabiya. They are described as an "unknown" group that have released a statement declaring a campaign to hunt down all, "slaves of the devil who commit blasphemy and roam the streets." Their statement called upon youth to resist temptation from the devil as, "the devil's path leads to perdition [...] Young people are our main target since they commit many transgressions whether name calling that involves God or through hanging out late at night in the streets, smoking and disturbing people." The group also claimed responsibility for severely beating up two members of a Khan Younis clan, "for committing sins such as disrespect for God and disturbing people [...] That was a warning for them. Hopefully, they will come to their senses."[3] Citing a report in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Al-Arabiya says one of the first acts of the group was to beat up a singer in Gaza after he gave a concert in Khan Younis.[3] Al-Arabiya notes that, "There was no official comment from Hamas leaders on the acts or declarations of Gaza's self-styled religious police."[3]

Detention of Asma al-Ghul

In 2009, The Jerusalem Post reported that the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is a police force that operates under the command of the Hamas Ministry of the Waqf (Islamic Endowment), and includes dozens of plainclothes police officers who patrol public places such as beaches, parks, restaurants, hair salons and cafes to ensure that males and females are not mixing together and that the women are dressed modestly.[1][2] A special all-female unit within the force is said to number 100-150 officers who enforce female modesty and handle female suspects, with uniforms that include a niqab and gloves, "with only an eye slit visible".[2] Citing unnamed local Gaza reporters, the newspaper states that the Hamas de-facto government has not publicly acknowledged the force's existence because it fears being branded fundamentalist.[1]

Another incident attributed to the group by The Jerusalem Post concerns Asma al-Ghul, a female Palestinian journalist, who stated that policemen from the force:

attempted to arrest her under the pretext that she came to a Gaza beach dressed immodestly and was seen laughing in public..."They accused me of laughing loudly while swimming with my friend and failing to wear a hijab," Ghul told a human rights organization in the Gaza Strip. "They also wanted to know the identity of the people who were with me at the beach and whether they were relatives of mine."

Al-Ghul added that the officers confiscated her passport, and that she had received death threats from anonymous callers following the incident.[1][4] Regarding the incident, "Hamas security commanders initially said that [al-Ghul] and her friends were stopped because they were having a mixed party at the beach. Later, one of the commanders said that al-Ghul was stopped [for] not wearing a hijab while swimming. Another commander claimed" that the offense was "smoking nargilas and partying in a public place".[1] The Guardian reported the same incident also citing al-Ghul, but attributing it only to "Hamas police". Their report noted that Islam Shahwan, the Hamas police spokesman, denied it ever happened.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Khaled Abu Toameh, 'They accused me of laughing in public', Jerusalem Post 04-08-2009
  2. ^ a b c d Jonathan Spyer, Analysis: The Islamic republic of Gaza, Jerusalem Post 29-09-2009
  3. ^ a b c d Gaza gets its own 'religious police', Al-Arabiya 08-10-2007
  4. ^ Hamas harasses woman journalist LA Middle Eastern Examiner
  5. ^ Hamas tries to detain woman walking with man, July 8, 2009, Diaa Hadid, The Guardian

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