ISIS is look­ing out for vi­o­lent Mus­lim women

Deccan Chronicle - - EDIT - Rafia Zakaria By ar­range­ment with Dawn

It was only a cou­ple of months ago that the Tehreek-e-Tal­iban Pak­istan (TTP) came out with its women’s mag­a­zine. Ti­tled Sun­nat-i-Khaula, the mag­a­zine at­tempted to ap­peal to Mus­lim women, of­fer­ing first-per­son sto­ries of a fe­male doc­tor who gave it all up to travel to “Kho­rasan”, an in­ter­view with the wife of a com­man­der (he did the dishes and helped around the house), and even a sup­pos­edly in­spi­ra­tional por­trait of a child sol­dier.

The ob­jec­tive was sim­ple: brand ex­trem­ism as heroic, join­ing up as a duty of faith pos­si­ble for all sorts of women; they could go them­selves, or send their hus­band and even their baby sons.

Last week, the mil­i­tant Is­lamic State (ISIS) group, which has long been in the game of re­cruit­ing women and has a brigade com­prised of them, re­newed its call for ac­tion. Un­like prior at­tempts at re­cruit­ment that have ap­peared in Dabiq, the group’s English-lan­guage mag­a­zine, this lat­est one was is­sued in its Ara­bic news­pa­per un­der the ti­tle “Wa­jib un-Nisa”.

Un­like pre­vi­ous at­tempts at swelling the num­bers of women in ISIS-con­trolled ter­ri­tory, which hinted at fight­ing as an op­tion for women, this lat­est call de­mands it, call­ing it an obli­ga­tion and a duty.

Un­like the TTP, whose open at­tempts to re­cruit women sur­faced only very re­cently, ISIS has been tar­get­ing women as re­cruits for some time. Even in the ini­tial days of the group’s takeover of Raqqa in Syria, its ef­forts were di­rected at women who were re­cruited into the Al Khansaa Brigade, which went around dis­ci­plin­ing and ab­duct­ing women who did not con­form with the group’s stern di­rec­tives.

Women with­out a full-face veil, women with­out guardians, and even women talk­ing loudly were all sub­ject to the wrath of this wan­der­ing all-fe­male moral­ity po­lice.

On so­cial me­dia, the group’s fe­male re­cruits, par­tic­u­larly those from the West, took on the task of wheedling oth­ers to join, talk­ing about how lovely life was in daula (the ISIS-con­trolled “state”) and what a grand time was to be had in liv­ing in such a pure place.

It was un­til this sum­mer, when ISIS be­gan to lose. As the re­ports of the group’s losses mounted and fight­ers were lost, more were re­quired.

The ar­gu­ment that turn­ing to women does not come from the sur­ren­der of men would be harder to make now. Last week’s call to women to ful­fil their obli­ga­tion for “ji­had” and un­der­take ter­ror­ist at­tacks came in the wake of enor­mous losses suf­fered by the group. Ac­cord­ing to the New York Times, more than 1,000 ISIS fight­ers sur­ren­dered en masse to Kur­dish mili­tias.

The whole story proves only one thing: ter­ror­ist groups, whether they are the TTP or ISIS, ma­nip­u­late his­tory and text and faith, all to serve their own de­sire for power. When the groups take over ter­ri­tory, women are deemed worth­less, sen­tenced to iso­la­tion, ban­ished from pub­lic space and treated like an­i­mals. Other women are re­cruited to carry out these degra­da­tions, to beat and search and im­prison oth­ers.

Mus­lim women are smarter than Mus­lim men. The sly ma­nip­u­la­tion of faith that lies at the core of all ter­ror groups and that is so use­ful in re­cruit­ing men is un­likely to be quite so ef­fec­tive in draw­ing in women. Un­like Mus­lim men, Mus­lim women know and re­mem­ber that the vi­o­lence now be­ing de­manded of them by ISIS is a mere re­di­rect­ion of the vi­o­lence that is in­flicted upon them.

Men who jus­tify beat­ing women, mis­treat­ing women and abus­ing women as a re­li­gious right, are now ar­gu­ing for the same women to take up arms so that they may re­turn to power and to the task of sub­ju­gat­ing women. Whether it is ISIS or the TTP or some other mil­i­tant group, Mus­lim women are not fooled, not duped by the pro­pa­ganda that in­sists that mur­der is a re­li­gious duty.

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