The Women of Al-Qaeda

The AP reported that there is something of a paradox happening within the ranks of Al-Qaeda. Apparently, while the organization in the face of its main ideologue Ayman Al-Zawahri does not acknowledge women as legitimate jihadists, an increasing number of women in Muslim countries are participating in the Iraqi insurgency. These overlooked women take their complaints online, as “many appear to represent computer-literate women arguing in the most modern of venues — the Internet — for rights within a feudal version of Islam.” Is there a contradiction going on here?

I don’t really think so. Ideologically, Al-Qaeda is drawing upon the myth of Islam’s origins as a direct counter against the discourse of what they perceive to be the the Westernization of the world. In this myth, like in so many other ones, the role of women is of central importance, because they ensure the continuation of the family and the perpetuation of tradition and values–thereby, Al-Zawahri will publicly claim without blinking that their only role is to raise their children as future jihadists. However, for all ‘real life’ political purposes, Al-Qaeda does not seek a return to Islamic feudalism or the abolishment of technology, as some would claim. The fact that there are now jihadist women who seem to be defying Islam should not be at all surprising, since the version of Islam put forth by Al-Qaeda is itself only a representation meant to legitimate their political goal, and not some kind of ‘original’ return to the ‘true’ essence of the religion.

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