Palestinian newsreaders protest over beheading threat

A group of female TV newsreaders has marched through Gaza City to protest against a fundamentalist group’s threat to behead them if they did not don modest Islamic dress.

Around 50 anchors and employees from government-run Palestine TV, mostly women wearing Muslim headscarves, marched from the station’s offices in Gaza City towards the office of President Mahmoud Abbas to protest against the threat from a group calling itself the Swords of Truth, known for firebombing internet cafes and record stores.

“We will cut throats, and from vein to vein, if needed to protect the spirit and morals of this nation,” the shadowy group said in a statement emailed to news agencies on Friday. The statement accused the female news readers of being “without an shame or morals”.

Most of the 15 female newsreaders on Palestine TV wear headscarves, in accordance with Islamic tradition. But they also wear makeup and Western clothing, which extremists consider immodest.

“Shame on you,” said Sally Abed, a Palestinian news anchor, addressing the Islamist group. “The people working in this institution are your people – if it’s not your sister, it’s your mother.”

In many parts of the Muslim world, conservative policies keep women out of the news anchor’s seat or require them to wear headscarves on air. But headscarves are uncommon on television in the more secular states of Lebanon and Jordan, and Egypt’s non-religious regime keeps newscasters who wear them off its TV stations.

The Swords of Truth faction has claimed responsibility for bombing some three dozen Internet cafes, music shops and pool halls, which it considers dens of vice. Few details are known about the group. According to a Palestinian security official, the organisation has less than 100 members and was formed last year to impose a hard-line version of Islam in Gaza.

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