Gaza's Hamas rulers have banned women from smoking water pipes in cafes, arguing that it is sullying the image of the Palestinian people. Apparently, putting a hose in your mouth is sexual - but only when the ladies do it.
Although Muslim law does not technically ban women from smoking hookahs, conservatives generally frown upon the practice, especially when done in public. The new ban went into effect late last week, when plainclothes security officials began patrolling cafes and ordering employees not to serve water pipes to female customers. At first, many men thought the ban applied to them, too (as it does in Saudi Arabia, where both sexes are banned from indulging in the hookah) but the Hamas government quickly corrected this misconception.
In a statement released yesterday, Hamas interior ministry spokesman Ihab Ghussein said that it is "inappropriate for a woman to sit cross-legged and smoke in public. It harms the image of our people." A spokesman for the police added his support for the ban, which he believes will save more than a few marriages. "Many women who smoke in public were divorced when their husbands saw them, or found out about them," he argued.
Unsurprisingly, the ban has quite a few opponents, including one married couple who continued puffing away on Sunday despite the new laws. "I don't think that anyone could force me to do something against my freedom or my wife's freedom," said Suleiman Ali, when he was spotted smoking with his wife, Natasha, at a seaside restaurant. Others, like 29-year-old Haya Ahmed, say they will keep smoking - but they'll probably keep it confined to their houses from here on out. "This is silly," said Ahmed, who has been a smoker for 10 years. "Everything forbidden becomes desirable. The decision will lead to more smokers."