Hamas slams the Ramallah dance festival as ‘depraved’

By Ben Lynfield, April 24, 2008

A Hamas-affiliated jurist has condemned a dance festival now under way in Ramallah as sacrilegious and cautioned that it could cause Palestinian young men needed to fight Israel to become effeminate.

Marwan Abu Ras, chairman of the league of Islamic ulama, or scholars, in Gaza, said in remarks carried by Hamas’s Palestinian Information Centre website that the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival “is more than forbidden”.

It is the first time Hamas has condemned the festival, one of the main annual cultural events in the West Bank.

It highlights how bitter relations remain between the Islamic Movement that controls Gaza and its largely secular Fatah rival in the West Bank, almost a year after Hamas seized complete control over the coastal strip.

“This is more than forbidden because it presents us as satisfied with all matters and that nothing remains for us except learning licentiousness and impudent art,” Mr Abu Ras said. “This is more than forbidden because it is taking place at a time when the sons of the Palestinian people are being killed and its holy places Judaised.”

The ban is symbolic only since the Islamic group’s writ does not extend to the West Bank. Troupes have come from Norway, Italy, Serbia, France, Germany and Spain to perform alongside the local Palestinian El-Funoun group.

The latter devoted its performance Saturday night to an adaptation to dance of cartoons of the widely popular Palestinian caricaturist Naji al-Ali, who was assassinated in London in 1989.

Mr Abu Ras said: “The nation is not in need of dance, it is in need of resistance and of committed men carrying rifles. It is not in need of men dancing alongside women on the pretext that this serves the national cause.” He termed the festival “morally depraved” and warned that it would “cause [male] youths to become effeminate”.

Commenting on the Hamas reaction, festival coordinator Joyce Hanania told the JC: “We are upset about it. They just don’t understand.”

Last updated: 3:26pm, May 13 2008