With her textured handbag, heavy mascara, and a veil revealing only her eyes, Alaa Awdeh sounds like the ultimate feminist. Women, she believes, should have equal rights in Palestinian society, especially the right to die in the armed struggle against Israel.You could just turn on the gas, Alaa.
''That's what I am looking for, to sacrifice my life," said Awdeh, 18, an Islamic studies major at Al Najah University in Nablus and enthusiastic member of the youth wing of Hamas, the radical Islamic group.
Islamic women like Awdeh have redrawn the debate over women's rights in Palestinian society. In the past, the fight was between secular feminists and men who wanted to protect their monopoly on political and social power. Now the debate is between Western-style feminists and religious women who want to share political power without changing the traditional role of women in the family.So who do the men debate with now?
This month's campaign for the Palestinian legislative election set for Wednesday has thrust that debate into the open.Not if you don't buy into the idea that these women represent some sort of striving for equality. The Globe article is accompanied by a classic picture, by the way.
Hamas has attracted legions of women followers of Islam, giving them control over Hamas-funded educational and job-training programs, and encouraging them to finish school and attend university, but at the same time restricting their legal rights to those laid out in the Koran.
Hamas candidate Muna Mansour, 44, is a former high school physics teacher whose husband, a Hamas founder, was killed in an Israeli helicopter strike in 2002 against Hamas militants considered responsible for attacks against Israel. She considers herself a modern woman, supporting her family and campaigning for office, but also a devout Muslim for whom the Koran can ultimately resolve any policy question.
''We are Muslims," Mansour said. ''If others try to pass a law which contradicts Islam, we say Islam is the solution."
For instance, Mansour said the Koran says that girls should go to school and pursue careers, but also that married people who commit adultery should be stoned to death, an incongruous blend of seemingly contrasting values.
Tags: Israel, Palestinians, death