PA Blasts Hamas for Ban on Women Traveling Alone: Even though they had same Rule

PA hypocrisy:

  • PA Grand Mufti prohibits women from traveling abroad alone without a male relative

  • PA Supreme Shari’ah Judge rejects Hamas’ prohibition on women traveling alone

  • Same PA Supreme Shari’ah Judge has explained that in certain situations it is OK for husbands, sons, and brothers to beat women

When a Hamas affiliated Islamic institution recently issued a ruling that “travel is forbidden for an unmarried woman who has no children… without the permission of a guardian,” the PA’s Supreme Shari’ah Judge in Ramallah, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, stated that Palestinians are not obligated by this ruling.

However, this seems to be an attack on Hamas’ religious authority more than an attack on Hamas’ limitation of women’s rights. In fact, the top PA religious official issued a similar ruling just three months ago, denying women the right to travel abroad alone. When asked on official PA TV if a Palestinian woman may travel to Dubai on her own, the Grand Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, who was appointed by PA Chairman Abbas himself, answered that “there has to be an accompanying man from her family on the trip.”

Leaving unheeded the PA Mufti’s ruling prohibiting women’s travel alone, Al-Habbash – who is also the handpicked advisor of PA Chairman Abbas on religious affairs – responded to Hamas’ ruling, and told Palestinian civilians not to act according to the notice signed by Sheikh Dr. Hassan Ali Al-Joujou who is head of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice and of the Supreme Shari’ah Court in “the southern districts of Palestine” – i.e., the Gaza Strip ruled by Hamas, which stated:

“Travel is forbidden for an unmarried woman who has no children, whether or not she is a widow, without the permission of a guardian who is connected to her.”

[Twitter account of Nadeen Odeh, Palestinian activist, Feb. 15, 2021]

The notice issued by Sheikh Dr. Hassan Ali Al-Joujou, head of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice and of the Supreme Shari’ah Court in the Gaza Strip [Twitter account of Nadeen Odeh, Palestinian activist, Feb. 15, 2021]

Al-Habbash’s office specifically said that the ban on women traveling alone is not legally binding, stressing that the Hamas affiliated Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice “lacks authority”:

… the civilians are not obligated by what was said in the legal notice issued by [the Supreme Council for] Shari’ah Justice regarding a ban on travel by… women without the approval of a guardian. [The office] also emphasized that the judges of the Shari’ah courts should not take it into account in their rulings… It emphasized that the notice, which was said to be issued by [the Supreme Council for] Shari’ah Justice in the Southern Districts of Palestine (i.e., in the Gaza Strip), is a notice issued by a source lacking authority.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 16, 2021]

The PA’s dismissal of Hamas’ prohibition on women traveling alone exemplifies the PA’s hypocrisy, as it contradicts the PA’s own Grand Mufti who ruled similarly, as documented by Palestinian Media Watch. Clearly, the PA’s concern is for its religious power as opposed to women’s rights.

In the dismissal of the Hamas affiliated Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice’s ban, Al-Habbash’s office in Ramallah further stated that a core value of Islamic legislation is to consider the time and period in which a ruling is given. In other words, rulings of the present day should not implement rulings based on previous interpretations of Islamic law from earlier periods if the new period is different:

“The Office of Supreme Shari’ah Judge of Palestine [Mahmoud Al-Habbash]… emphasized… that taking consideration of the situation and the periods is at the heart of Islamic legislation… such that there is no justification for implementing previous interpretation in a later period, if the situation in the later period requires different interpretation…
It also emphasized that ‘In limiting the freedoms of the public and the individual without religious legal justification, as was done in the notice, there is a clear contradiction of the lauded spirit of the religious law and a blow to the deep-rooted rights that Islam guarantees, and which the basic law of the State of Palestine explicitly determines.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 16, 2021]

It comes as a surprise that Abbas’ advisor Al-Habbash dismissed Hamas’ limitations on women’s travel, and reasoned that those limitations based on past rulings of Islam are not relevant today. Indeed it was Al-Habbash himself who explained that based on past Islamic rulings there are situations in which husbands, fathers, and brothers are permitted to beat disobedient women, and that the PA is not committed “at all” to the international Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) “except for what is consistent with Islamic law.”

​​So while parts of Palestinian society are busy advocating for women’s rights and trying to bring change, it seems the official PA stance is at best confused, at worst applied according to political expediency.

The following are longer excerpts of the statements cited above:

Headline: “The [PA’s] Supreme Shari’ah Judge’s Office: The civilians are not obligated by what was written in an announcement of [the Supreme Council for] Shari’ah Justice in the Southern Districts”

Ramallah, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida

“The Office of Supreme Shari’ah Judge of Palestine [Mahmoud Al-Habbash] emphasized that the civilians are not obligated by what was said in the legal notice issued by [the Supreme Council for] Shari’ah Justice (i.e., a religious legal body subordinate to Hamas that presents itself as an official organization of “the State of Palestine”), regarding a ban on travel by men over the age of 18 and women without the approval of a guardian. It also emphasized that the judges of the Shari’ah courts should not take it into account in their rulings… (the text does in fact say “over the age of 18” and refers to a limitation on adults –Ed.)

The Office of the Supreme Shari’ah Judge of Palestine – as the one responsible for Shari’ah justice and the Shari’ah courts, which are the authorized source for dealing in matters such as these – explained that only it (i.e., The Office of the Supreme Shari’ah Judge of Palestine) determines this topic and other topics concerning personal status in the State of Palestine.

It emphasized that the notice, which was said to be issued by [the Supreme Council for] Shari’ah Justice in the Southern Districts of Palestine (i.e., in the Gaza Strip), is a notice issued by a source lacking authority… and that taking consideration of the situation and the periods is at the heart of Islamic legislation… such that there is no justification for implementing previous interpretation in a later period, if the situation in the later period requires different interpretation…

It also emphasized that ‘In limiting the freedoms of the public and the individual without religious legal justification, as was done in the notice, there is a clear contradiction of the lauded spirit of the religious law and a blow to the deep-rooted rights that Islam guarantees, and which the basic law of the State of Palestine explicitly determines.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 16, 2021]

Mahmoud Al-Habbash also serves as Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice. In August 2019 PA Chairman Abbas dismissed all his advisors by Presidential decree. It is unclear what their status is today.

“Legal notice number (2021/01) regarding a travel ban
After examining Shari’ah law number 2011/13, and clauses 392, 393, and 499 in the personal status law; in accordance with the legal ruling of the Supreme Shari’ah Court Authority in its meeting on Feb. 14, 2021; relying on that which is required for the benefit of the public; and in light of the authorities legally bestowed to us – we hereby issue the following notice:

Clause 1:
A. A father is forbidden from traveling with his minor children who are under the custody of the wives without their agreement. If they agree, a valid document will be issued at the court of first instance that will allow him to travel as appropriate.

B. If the [maternal] guardian does not agree to the father traveling with his children mentioned in the previous paragraph, the father can submit a request against her for permission to travel to the court of first instance, if there is a necessity to travel, and on condition that the procedures determined by law in legal notice number 2020/01 that was issued on Jan. 30, 2020 are carried out.

Clause 2:
If the custody over the minors included in the guardianship of the wives was transferred to the father who divorced his wife and she married another man, and there is no [woman] for the custody to transfer to – the father may travel with his children until the right of custody of the mother, or of her substitute, is restored, on condition that he receives a permit from the court of first instance, and on condition that the procedures determined by law in legal notice number 2020/01 that was issued on Jan. 30, 2020 are carried out.

Clause 3:
One of the parents and the paternal grandfather can prohibit a child over the age of 18 from traveling, if his travel is liable to cause damage, and this is by submitting a lawsuit at the relevant court.

Clause 4:
Travel is forbidden for an unmarried woman who has no children, whether or not she is a widow, without the permission of a guardian who is connected to her. The guardian has the right to forbid her from traveling if her travel causes significant damage, or if there is a legal lawsuit between them necessitating the travel ban, on condition that the procedures recorded in legal notice number 2020/01 that was issued on Jan. 30, 2020 are carried out.

Clause 5:
The relevant parties and all those for whom this notice is relevant must act according to it starting from Feb. 14, 2020, and anything that contradicts it will be nullified.

Written on Feb. 10, 2021.

Respectfully,

Sheikh Dr. Hassan Ali Al-Joujou
Head of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice
Head of the Supreme Shari’ah Court”

[Twitter account of Nadeen Odeh, Palestinian activist, Feb. 15, 2021]


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