Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 9th 2015 Contents B9
Thursday, April 9, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Last month two women were
charged in New York with con-
spiracy to use a "weapon of mass
They claimed to be "citizens of
Islamic State (IS)", despite never
having travelled there. Their reason
for not migrating was because
they thought they were too old
and one was already married.
The women s concern with age
and marital status is unsurpris-
Online discussions also stress
a swift marriage upon arrival in
Syria as an expectation of women.
Marriage to a fighter provides
a strong identity, a sense of
belonging to the wider commu-
nity, the Umma.
The majority of analysis pres-
ents these women as rejecting
Western liberalism---and assumes
the same access to these goods as
other European women---confirm-
ing how little the mainstream
understands the difficulties they
They are offered a false choice:
either they get rights and femi-
nism, or, "tradition" and "faith".
Asking for both is seen within
their communities and by main-
stream public discourse as unrea-
IS capitalises on this, constantly
questioning the status of women
in the West, highlighting battles
over body images, the double bind
of domestic work and paid labour,
rape culture, pornography, racism,
and so on.
This is not to suggest IS is fem-
inist; for them women are not
equal to men, and they reject the
potential of Western liberal fem-
Women in IS are granted little
freedom to travel, work, or have
According to a recent manifesto
translated by the Quilliam Foun-
dation think tank, women are only
permitted to abandon domestic
roles for fighting "if the enemy is
attacking her country and the men
are not enough to protect it, and
the imams give a fatwa for it".
Women of IS are clear this time
has not yet come.
This demonstrates that IS s
messaging encompasses both the
personal-private and the public-
One undercover reporter, Anna
Erelle, became a minor online
celebrity once she was known as
the fiancee of Bilel, a well-known
European Jihadi fighter.
In IS, marriage represents more
than the private union between
Personal desires are combined
with broader ideas of the good
life, and common purpose.
Bint Nur, the wife of a British
fighter in Syria, wrote on Ask.fm
in 2014, "women build the men and
men build the Umma".
Their personal choices---domestic
chores, children, marriage---are about
building a new state.
According to the news website Voca-
tiv, 45 per cent of IS propaganda cen-
tres on efforts to build and sustain the
Along with roadworks and local
infrastructure, there is messaging on
traffic police, charity work, judicial
systems, hospitals, and agricultural
For young women travelling to Syria
and Iraq the personal has broad pur-
pose --- their duty is to become found-
ing mothers of the new state.
This contrasts with negative public
discourse about young Muslims living
in Europe: constantly presented as
threatening, "at risk", alien and
unwanted at worst; with little and lim-
ited future at best.
It is almost a self-fulfilling prophe-
cy.Challenging IS will require more
than countering their religious narra-
tive, more than new legislation or
granting new powers to the police and
security services: a successful count-
er-radicalisation programme requires
addressing the lives of young Muslim
women without securitising them.
Too many young Muslims are
silenced by the current political atmos-
phere because they fear being spied
on, or treated as "already radical" just
for asking questions, which only drives
them towards extremists.
Instead, understand their fears and
aspirations, and seek to overcome
Islamophobia, discrimination, and
other material disadvantages.
The forthcoming Daughters of Eve
conference, run by the Muslim
Women s Council is an example of this
We must allow them to ask critical
and difficult questions not only of IS,
but of Britain. (BBC)
• Written by Dr Katherine Brown,
lecturer in the Defence Studies
Department at King's College London.
In her work, she has examined the
roles and portrayal of women in
terrorism, counter-terrorism, and
violent politics, and investigated
Muslim women's radicalised political
How the IS message lures Western women
University student Aqsa Mahmoud travelled to Syria and married an IS fighter.
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