Philadelphians (especially feminists) can relax a little. Hamas is not so bad after all. Why, the Hamas victory can even be said to be the result of a gender gap:

JABALIYA, Gaza Strip – The girls and women who came to congratulate Hamas’ top female candidate, Jamila Shanti, after her party’s landslide victory in last week’s Palestinian parliamentary election wore veils and robes in the tradition of fundamentalist Islam.
They brought Shanti a floral wreath. She gave them sweets wrapped in paper decorated with Koranic verses about how to lead a virtuous life.
Plastic chairs were arrayed under a leaky lean-to that barely kept out the rain as three dozen voices chanted: “God is great,” sang the praises of Hamas leaders killed in Israeli airstrikes, and extolled the virtues of jihad, Hamas’ holy war, which has included scores of suicide bombings in which hundreds of Israelis have been killed.
In this scene of sisterly radicalism, say the Hamas party faithful, lies one of the seeds of the group’s sweeping electoral success: a targeted effort to get their women to the polls.
“Palestinian society is more than 52 percent women. It is said that women are going to draw the future map of Palestine,” said Shanti, 48, a Gaza University professor of philosophy and psychology.
While just 46 percent of the overall vote was cast by women in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, it was disproportionately weighted in favor of Hamas, said Birzeit University pollster Nader Said, citing post-election analyses.
“Women tend to vote Hamas more than men,” which is one of the factors behind the crushing defeat of the ruling Fatah party that had dominated Palestinian politics for decades, Said said.

I don’t know whether women reading this piece will be “softened up” to Islamic radicalism or the veiling of women, but there’s something about the uncritical presentation of the “feminist side” of Hamas which I find disturbing. Even the veiling (once viewed with universal scorn by feminists) is now soft-pedaled:

By Western standards, the enforced separation of men and women at Hamas rallies, the shrouding of women in head-to-toe abayas and the slitted veils that some women wear, revealing just their eyes, would seem to mitigate against sexual equality.
As a lawmaker-elect, Shanti said, she wants to “correct the misunderstanding” that Islamic women are second-class citizens behind their veils in a purely patriarchial society.
“It means they are respected,” she said. “But as women, we have some special issues.”

Special issues? What are these? The following arguments are offered:

Among the top issues she cited are helping the families of prisoners and deceased fighters she called martyrs; helping women university graduates to find work; helping women who are themselves in prison; helping people with disabilities; and helping women who live in the border areas, like herself, to rebuild homes destroyed in the fighting.

How do any of these “special issues” support enforced veiling? She does not say. Has American public opinion reached the point where the subjugation of women is uncritically accepted because of the bare recital by its advocates that women have “special issues”?
Ironically, women in hardline Islamic societies do have “special issues” — brought on by the most brutal oppression imaginable directed at them. When I see radical Islam presented as the feminist choice, it makes me feel like presenting arguments from the other side.
While I don’t consider it the normal responsibility of this blog to do this, I feel particularly obligated right now, because there’s something downright creepy about this soft line towards religious oppression by a progressive, top ten, MSM newspaper in a major city.
Examples of religious oppression of Palestinian women are not limited to the veil. In recent months, there was a spate of so-called “honor killings” — including the brutal murder by Hamas of an engaged woman whose only crime was riding with her husband:

During a particularly brutal spate of honor killings in early 2005, five Palestinian women were murdered in four separate incidences over a short period of time. Faten Habash spent six weeks in hospital after she threw herself from her family’s fourth floor apartment window. Upon her return home, her father bludgeoned her to death with an iron bar.
Two days later, Maher Shakirat attacked his three sisters. The eldest, Rudaina, was eight months pregnant and had been admonished by her husband after he claimed she’d had an affair. Maher forced his sisters to drink bleach before strangling them. The youngest, Leila, escaped but had serious internal injuries from the effect of the bleach.
Rafayda Qaoud shared a bedroom in her Ramallah home with her two brothers. After they raped and impregnated her, she gave birth to a baby boy who was adopted by another family. Her mother then gave Rafayda a razor blade and ordered her to slash her own wrists. When she refused to commit suicide, her mother pulled a plastic bag tightly over her head, sliced open her daughter’s wrists and beat her with a stick until she was dead.
Palestinian feminist Abu Dayyeh Shamas claims that: “Men feel they have lost their dignity and that they can somehow restore it by upholding the family’s honour. We’ve noticed recent cases are much more violent in nature; attempts to kill, rape, incest. There is an incredible amount of incest.” One women’s group reported over 400 cases of incest in the West Bank alone in 2002.
Anthropologist James Emery explained in 2003, how “among Palestinians, all sexual encounters, including rape and incest, are blamed on the woman.” Men are always presumed innocent and the responsibility falls on the woman or girl to protect her honor at all costs. When 17-year-old Afaf Younes ran away from her father after he allegedly sexually assaulted her, she was caught and sent home to him. He then shot and killed her to protect his honor.
And when a four-year-old toddler was raped by a 25 year-old man in 2002, her Palestinian family left her to bleed to death because her rape had dishonored the family.
Emery described a Palestinian merchant explaining this cultural view of femininity as “A woman shamed is like rotting flesh, if it is not cut away, it will consume the body. What I mean is the whole family will be tainted if she is not killed.”
Recently in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas has defined a new role for itself in guarding the morality of young Muslim women. A group of men who identified itself as a Hamas “morality squad” attacked 19-year-old Yousra al-Azam after she had sat at the beach with her husband-to-be and another couple. She was shot in the head and died in the street as her murderers beat her with batons. The growing influence of Hamas with its fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law is concerning women’s groups, which fear it will gain power and moral legitimacy in the coming elections.

A woman shamed is like rotting flesh?
It appears that Palestinian women do indeed have “special issues.”
Another writer, in examining the growth of female suicide bombers, argues that sexual shame is a major driving force behind them:

A suicidal self-sacrifice for the cause, carried out by a lady, must also exercise a powerful appeal to emulation on the part of men who are still doubting whether to go through with it. And it fits in easily enough, says Mia Bloom, with the codes of conduct and honor that prevail in the societies concerned.
She recalls the case of Reem Riashi, the mother of two children and the first woman of Hamas to sacrifice herself, forced to this extreme by both her husband and her lover, as a definitive solution to the scandal of her adultery.
Bloom considers it likely that many suicidal women have undergone rape or some sort of humiliation in their childhood or adolescence: “Everywhere sexual violence against women, and the social stigma associated with rape in patriarchal societies, seems to be a common motive for women who put an end to their lives” (Mother, daughter, sister, bomber, in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, Nov-Dec. 2005).
In this way women may indeed be said to be playing a role in the style of politics that goes on in the societies they live in, but they do so in their own way, which is almost always strictly under the thumb of male domination.

Daily Pundit’s Lastango links to a very disturbing Norwegian blog post arguing that unveiled Western women are considered “whores” by Islamic hardliners, who view them as inviting rape. (The latter, of course, is seen as justifiable.)
If being a victim of rape is dishonorable under hardline Islamic rule, it’s easy to see why Islamic women would claim they have “special issues.” Considering what it must be like to live under such cultural tyranny, it’s hard not to feel very sorry for them.
But to those of us living in the “decadent” West, there’s nothing dishonorable about having been the victim of a heinous crime like rape. Nor is there anything honorable about killing women for having been raped or for being unveiled.
Or do “decadent” “Western” concepts of honor no longer matter?
While there seems to be a disagreement over the meaning of the word, I think it’s decadent if they don’t.