Islamists in Syria's Aleppo ban "provocative dress" for women

BEIRUT (REUTERS) - Islamist rebels in Syria's northern city of Aleppo issued an order on Monday banning women from dressing in what it considered provocative styles, angering some locals who accuse the group of overstepping its powers.

The Islamic law council of Aleppo's Fardous neighbourhood issued a fatwa, or religious edict, banning all Muslim women from wearing "immodest" dress and announcing plans to apply such rules to all female inhabitants.

"Muslim women are banned from leaving the house in immodest dress, in tight clothing that shows off their bodies or wearing makeup on their face," the statement said. "It is incumbent on all our sisters to obey God and commit to Islamic etiquette".

Hardline Islamist groups have increasingly taken the lead in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Many units, some of which are linked to al Qaeda, have stretched their influence beyond the battleground and established police and administrative councils in some rebel-held areas.

But these groups' ascendance is stirring resentment among many Syrians, who are increasingly reporting incidents of Islamist councils silencing or even attacking groups with different views.

It was not possible for Reuters to verify the council's fatwa, as access for foreign media in Syria is limited. But several residents of Aleppo confirmed the reports.

The statement, which was published on the Fardous council's Facebook page, was condemned by some activists and applauded by religious supporters, who said it was necessary to prevent distractions for the rebels.

"Islam doesn't ban other religions but it does require certain etiquette in public," said one Facebook commentator, Ammar al-Kassem. "A girl can't go around dressed in a way that causes chaos and shame, no matter what her religion."

Others insisted the fatwa was fake and spread by Mr Assad's supporters to scare them away from the Islamist-led opposition.

But most objectors used the announcement as a chance to take a swipe against Islamist rebel leaders.

One post on the council's Facebook page, by Mr Alaa al-Zouabi, said: "If you had any morals, you would go fight the regime, not the people ... Shame."

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