Labour MP praises Hamas

By Jessica Elgot, August 11, 2011
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A Labour MP has expressed confidence in the "re-launched" and "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and praised Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for renouncing violence.

Sandra Osborne, MP for Ayr Carrick and Cumnock, was one of the British MPs who met Mr Haniyah during a recent visit to Gaza.

Twelve British parliamentarians, including Parliamentary Labour Party chair Tony Lloyd and Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party chair Lorely Burt, met Hamas officials a fortnight ago.

Ms Osborne posted a reflection on her trip on her website and on the Labour Friends of Palestine site, praising Hamas leaders and women's rights in Gaza.

At the beginning of her trip, in Cairo, she said: "We met the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic group which is re-launching itself as the Freedom and Justice Party. Their president explained that the new party will not be theocratic though its rules will be based on the principles of Islam. It has become more moderate than in the past and has strong support."

The MP believed Mr Haniyeh was "a popular figure, living modestly, locally in Gaza. He has been pivotal in taking Hamas down a more moderate road leading to a renunciation of violence and keeping the more militant factions within Hamas under control, while promoting engagement with rival Fatah."

Mr Haniyeh presented MPs on the trip with embroidered scarves, depicting a full map of Israel as a Palestinian state.

In Gaza, Ms Osborne described the women she met as "advanced in Gaza compared to other parts of the Arab world and very much reminded me of Scottish women with a 'no nonsense' and 'feisty' spirit."

Many, she said, "go to great lengths to secure educational opportunities – flouting tradition on the way if needs be. They want to be treated as equals and play a full part in the political process, including reconciliation."

In fact, since Hamas came to power in 2007, women's rights have been restricted, with female lawyers forced to wear a hijab, and women forbidden from smoking a hookah, going to male hairdressers or riding a motorcycle.

Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber said: "Hamas is not the sort of regime that it should be acceptable for a representative of a progressive party to show any solidarity with."

    Last updated: 12:03pm, August 11 2011