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PCHR Calls Upon Gaza Authorities to Protect Freedom of Expression without Harassment

Ref: 131/2019

A recent fatwa issued by an Islamic preacher, from Khan Yunis, prohibiting a music band from Gaza, called Sol Band, has provoked widespread controversy among Palestinians. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) believes this fatwa creates an atmosphere of incitement against the band and its members, which may amount to a “hate speech.” PCHR also stresses that freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed under domestic and international laws, and Gaza authorities ought to protect it and ensure that citizens enjoy it without harassment.

The Islamic preacher’s statement, shared on his Facebook page, smeared the band members as infidels who promote obscenity and violate Islamic religious teachings in a manner that departs from tradition and culture. His speech explicitly attacked the Gaza authorities for being responsible for allowing the band to roam freely in the society and implying “it is the ruling authority’s right to ban it.”

This Fatwa came after a recorded video was published for the 5-member-band, which was established in 2012 and includes a girl. The band performs national and folklore songs. According to PCHR’s documentation, the band recorded about 30 songs, before their travel to Turkey last month to perform there, to be displayed on Palestine Satellite Channel every Thursday. These musical performances were recorded in the Gaza Strip cities, including al-Jundi Square in Gaza City, and al-Najmah Square in Rafah, and approved by competent authorities in Gaza City.

PCHR confirms the prohibition of hate speech on religious basis. Paragraph (2) of Article (20) provides that: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

PCHR denounces this inciting speech and stresses that the Gaza Strip authority  is obliged to respect the freedom of opinion and expression in addition to protect this right from any assault. PCHR considers the statement issued by a member of Palestine Scholars Association as an attempt to impose certain ideology on the Gaza Strip, which is violation to the Palestinian Basic Law that states: “Personal freedom is a natural right, shall be guaranteed and may not be violated.”

PCHR expresses its concern of this inciting statement and emphasizes that the activity of this musical band and other bands is within the boundaries of freedom of expression. PCHR also holds the authorities in the Gaza Strip the responsible of the live and safety of “Soul” band members in addition to citizens, who practice the freedom of opinion and expression as well as creativity, and call for providing protection for them. Furthermore, PCHR calls upon the competent authorities in the Gaza Strip to issue a clear position that refuses these statements.