Hamas's ban on New Year’s Eve celebrations in Gaza sparked anger among local residents, who took to social media to express their frustration.
In announcing the ban, the Islamist group claimed such parties offend the territory’s “values and religious traditions” and were “incompatible with our customs, traditions, values and the teachings of our religion”.
Gaza restaurateurs expressed displeasure at the ban due to the financial loss it will cause them, especially considering that Hamas recently raised taxes on restaurants, according to a report from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
The ban also evoked harsh criticism from Gaza residents, who voiced their complaints on social media, as well as from public figures, such as a member of the Palestinian People's Party who advised the Hamas members to put aside their cars and start riding donkeys instead, according to MEMRI, which translated some of the criticism.
One example cited by MEMRI is a post on Facebook by human rights activist Mustafa Ibrahim, who accused Hamas of hypocrisy and of disregarding the wishes of the Gaza residents.
"Hamas has a new surprise for us every day, and at the end of the year it insists on a new addition to its bad human rights record. Seeking anything that can harm it and us, it cleaves to its customs and heritage which it is trying to impose and to realize in the name of religion, and attacks the public's freedoms,” he wrote.
“To the West it says, 'we are a moderate Islamic movement,' while in the domestic arena, it tries to tell many of its members that it governs [the Gaza Strip] based on religious Islamic law, rather than state law, and that, it if could, it might [even] implement the Koranic punishments… Its claim [that it has banned new year celebrations due to] the siege and the martyrs is not true. Hamas is the last one who should talk about the siege. It is the one that is preoccupied with appearances and arrogance and giving no weight to the siege [itself, only] to cries for help. All our lives we have been sacrificing martyrs but [also] celebrating. [Besides], how many celebrants [are we talking about]? Hearing about Hamas' decision [to ban the celebrations], one might think that tens of thousands celebrate [this occasion in Gaza]. By the way, celebrating the new year is not a religious matter, but a global human tradition. It's as though we are not part of the world, or as though we have lost our humanity," added Ibrahim.
Responding to Ibrahim's post, some readers posted a photo showing Hamas officials, including Moussa Abu Marzouq, standing beside a Christmas tree and a figure of Santa Claus during their visit the Saint Porphyrios Church in Gaza last year.
MEMRI noted that many Palestinians posted this photo on social media to demonstrate the hypocrisy of Hamas officials, who participate in New Year festivities themselves yet ban the public and the restaurateurs from celebrating.
Meanwhile Nafez Ghneim, a senior member of the Palestinian People's Party (PPP), accused Hamas of violating collective and individual liberties on the pretext of minimizing Western influence on the lives of Gaza residents.
"Why do some people describe certain human [customs] as a Western tradition that contravenes the tradition of [Muslim] society? If such is the case, they should get out of their cars and ride on a donkey, or smash their mobile phones and return to antiquated modes of communication," he said, according to MEMRI’s translation.
“Also,” continued Ghneim, “they should not follow the West or imitate it in their dress. They should burn their suits and ties and return to robes and wooden clogs." He wondered further: "Aren't the insurance companies an imitation of the West? Isn't trading in cigarettes and levying taxes an imitation of the West? What about the tourist resorts that are managed and controlled by all those who govern the Gaza Strip…?”
Ghneim urged the Gaza authorities to leave people in peace and stop molding society, bit by bit, in the image of the Islamic State (ISIS). He urged them to seek ways to restore to the Gazans their dignified lives, and address the roots of the poverty, despair and frustration felt in every Gaza household."
The New Year’s Eve move should come as no surprise, as Hamas has enforced a stringent interpretation of Islamic law in Gaza since violently taking power there in 2007.
The group has banned women and teenagers from smoking hookahs in public, ordered that women's clothing stores are not allowed to have dressing rooms, men cannot have hairdressing salons for women and that mannequins shaped like women must be dressed in modest clothing.
The group also introduced a strict dress code for female university students, demanding that they wear “modest clothing” and has also passed a law stipulating that lashes can be given as punishment for certain offences.