The Gaza Strip's most senior judge said on Sunday that he has ordered all female lawyers to wear headscarves and a long, dark colored cloak under their black robes when they appear in court beginning September.

Supreme Court chief justice Abdul-Raouf Halabi explained his decision as part of an effort to conform to Islamic law.

"Showing a woman's hair is forbidden," the Hamas-appointed Halabi told The Associated Press. "We will not allow people to corrupt morals. This [dress code] will improve work in the courts."

The Hamas government formally said that it is not imposing Islamic law on the territory's 1.4 million residents. Instead, it said that it is simply ensuring residents behave in line with the territory's own conservative culture.

Subyiya Juma, a female lawyer, said the judge's decision would affect only 10 or so lawyers - since the vast majority of the 150 registered female lawyers already cover their hair.
Juma, who does not wear a headscarf, said the point wasn't the number of women affected, but that freedoms were being eroded.

"This is dangerous - it's a clear violation of the law, it is taking away our personal freedoms - and by whom? The very person who is meant to defend our freedoms," Juma said.

Earlier in July, Palestinian female journalist Asma al-Ghul complained that Hamas policemen attempted to arrest her under the pretext that she came to a Gaza beach dressed immodestly and was seen laughing in public.

Ghul said that many Palestinian women have noticed the presence of the police officers at the beaches and other sites. She said that the talk in the Gaza Strip these days was about Hamas's intention to impose the hijab on all female school children from first to 12th grade.



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