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The Palestinian ministry of education . . . indeed . . . NC is right . . . demanded to remove an anthology of folk tales from school libraries (!!! NB), sending shivers down the spine of what's left of the Palestinian secular intelligentsia:
Since taking office last year, Hamas, which advocates an Islamic Palestinian state, has largely shied away from trying to force its mores on Palestinian society. Some analysts speculated the group was too busy trying to deal with international sanctions and keep its government from collapsing to focus on banning alcohol or other similar measures.
However, in recent months Hamas-controlled ministries have begun forcing women to put on head scarves to enter. And two years ago, Hamas officials in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya sparked fears of a culture crackdown by banning a local music festival, saying the mingling of men and women at such an event was forbidden by Islam.
In a letter sent to the Nablus school district last month, the Education Ministry said "Speak Bird, Speak Again" must be removed within a week. The letter did not explain why the book was considered objectionable.
Excerpts of the letter were read to the AP by a Nablus school official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
In recent months, about three dozen Internet cafes, music shops and even pharmacies have been attacked, with assailants detonating small bombs outside businesses at night, causing damage but no injuries.
The bombings started in October, a new phenomenon even in violent Gaza, where more than 130 people have been killed in factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah in recent months. The attacks could point to a further spread of religious extremism in Gaza, where poverty and lawlessness have been on the rise.
There has been no credible claim of responsibility for the attacks, police said.
Police initially believed the attacks were part of local business disputes but increasingly came to suspect an orchestrated campaign by religious extremists, said one law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.
There have been no arrests, but Gaza police spokesman Ramzi Shaheen noted that the method of operations was the same in all cases. "We can't exactly say who is behind this, but the repeated nature of the attacks leads us to certain conclusions," he said, without elaborating.
In the town of Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border last week, a huge bomb wrecked a pool hall in a building owned by Ramzi Abu Hilao, blowing out the front wall and littering the interior with metal scraps. He said there was no warning before the blast.
"I received a written message after the bombing from a group called 'The Swords of Truth' that began with a verse from the Quran and said they wanted to correct the bad behavior in Palestinian society," he said.
In deeply conservative Gaza, devout Muslims would consider Internet cafes to be dens of vice because young men are known to view pornography there. Music shops could be a target because some believers fear pop music distracts from prayers. The targeting of pharmacies remains a mystery, though, officials say. (They probably sell condoms there NB)
The bombings are the latest sign of a society buckling under the pressure of more than six years of fighting with Israel, internal strife and deep-rooted poverty, said Anwar Wadi, a psychologist at the Gaza Community Mental Health Center.
"This is a poisoned society," he said. "Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip (in 2005), hidden problems have come to the surface." (Hey. We are still here. Feel like want another occupation ? NB)
Shaheen, the police spokesman, said solving problems by violence has become the norm.
"Everybody has guns. There's no rule of law," he said. "We've reached a stage where a person is a hero by how he can break the law."
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