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Head of Ben-Gurion University says school uncovered Islamist ‘modesty squads’

Prof. Daniel Chamovitz says group consisted of three people who photographed female Bedouin students and sent pictures back to their clans if they were not modest enough

The campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. (Dani Machlis)
The campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. (Dani Machlis)

The head of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said Saturday that an Islamist cell had been uncovered at the Beersheba school that operated “modesty patrols” and threatened students.

According to Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, the group was made up of three people who “photographed female Bedouin students and sent the pictures back to their clans if they were not modest enough.” He added that the group also photographed male Bedouin students.

He said that when the university learned about the cell, “we were startled, Jews and Arabs both.”

“How did we discover this? Because they complained,” he said during a speaking engagement in the southern city. “It’s a complicated situation societally because they can’t complain publicly.”

So-called “modesty guards” — vigilante groups that act to enforce strict lifestyle regulations of modesty and social behavior without the involvement of law officials or welfare authorities — are mainly known to operate in Israel within ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

Such groups also exist in extremely conservative Muslim nations, such as Iran.

Chamovitz likened the group to “modesty patrols in Mea Shearim, where if there’s a Haredi man or woman not behaving properly, they threaten them.”

“They threaten to send the photos if they don’t change their behavior,” he added.

Chamovitz said the school “dealt with” the issue, but refused to say whether members of the cell still study at the university.

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