In Gaza, Fashion Models Break Tradition

RISKING the anger of Muslim fundamentalists and defying some traditions, Gazans have staged a Western-style fashion show less than a year after Palestinians took over control of the region from the Israelis.

Alcohol was not served in deference to Islamic customs and all but one of the models had to be imported, but the event was nevertheless a sign of the changes taking place in Gaza's conservative, tradition-minded society.

About 200 Palestinians, most of them wealthy, gathered at Gaza's beachfront Cliffs Hotel to watch models, many in off-the-shoulder gowns, strut down a catwalk earlier this week. In some Islamic states, women are required to cover their heads and wear ankle-length dresses. Gaza and the West Bank have traditionally been more liberal in their dress codes.

``It is a very big challenge. The idea itself was a risk,'' said Atef Okasha, organizer of Gaza's first fashion show in memory. He said the main obstacle he faced was finding models from Gaza. The few women willing to participate were forced by families to quit. ``Only one Gazan model remained, so we were compelled to bring Palestinian models from Acre [in Israel],'' he said.

Imad al-Fallouji, a leader of Hamas, an Islamic resistance movement, reacted strongly to the fashion show. ``Hamas greatly resents and opposes the current openness. The fashion show is a step toward imitating the West and is aimed at damaging society ethics and traditions,'' he said.

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