Gaza ban on women smoking pipes

Hamas has banned women from smoking water pipes in Gaza's cafés, calling it a practice that destroys marriages and sullies the image of Palestinians.

The ban marks the militant group's latest effort to impose its strict Islamic lifestyle on an often resistant public. While Muslim law does not technically ban women from smoking the traditional tobacco-infused pipes, tradition frowns upon the habit.

"It is inappropriate for a woman to sit cross-legged and smoke in public. It harms the image of our people," Ihab Ghussein, Hamas's interior ministry spokesman, said yesterday.

The ban was handed down by plainclothes security officials who marched through popular cafés by Gaza's seashore over the weekend, ordering owners not to serve water pipes to female customers.