Recently, Morocco — a country with a majority of moderate Muslims — arrested 10 women who allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). They had planned to carry out suicide bombings across the country. The Moroccan authorities have reported that these jihadist women had built "close relationships with several terrorists affiliated with Daesh (IS) based on the Syrian-Iraqi border", as reported in Firstpost.
The emergence of this all-female terror cell hallmarks a shift in IS’ modus-operandi in the Islamic countries. In Morocco, the all-girl terrorist cell is actively operating particularly in the vulnerable Moroccan cities such as Kenitra, Tan Tan, Sidi Slimane, Sale, Tangier, Oulad Taima, Zagora and Sidi Taibi, as reported in various Arabic and English national dailies of the country. The Moroccan Times has quoted the head of Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) as saying: “Some of them were lured to IS, thanks to the family ties they have with Moroccan fighters who had joined Daesh in Iraq and Syria”. These IS-inspired women in Morocco were planning to attack "vital installations" and had tried to obtain the chemicals used to make explosive belts. However Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations has averted the all-female terrorist cell.
This incident has left a note of introspection for us Muslims — particularly for those still living in denial. The all-female IS cell comprised of 10 members—most of them minor girls. To our horror, Abdelhak al-Khiyam, the head of Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations has revealed during his press conference in Rabat in the wake of this incident: “The terrorist organisation (IS) has moved now to lure minors, girls who don’t have yet the mental abilities to differentiate the good from the bad…..” “Some of those young girls even started making artisan bombs”….“IS played on their minds, and some of the arrested minors married virtually with some of the terrorists based in Iraq and Syria”.
But merely expressing shock and distress over the growing attraction of women towards the violent extremism and obscurantism is pointless. At this critical juncture, the most important question we need to address is: why women—and more surprisingly the educated ones—are getting lured to the IS theocracy, while the outfit is known for its misogynistic and male-chauvinistic atrocities. There is no iota of doubt that ISIS terrorists have maimed women capturing them as sex slaves and ‘jihadi brides’ in their occupied lands. Abhorring this virulent jihadism, the world’s leading Islamic scholars have declared the ISIS as “NISIS” (Not-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or “AISIS” (Anti-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
But the jihadist women — majority of them being converts or neo-Muslimas — rely on online sources for their guidance or what they call ‘Hidayah’. Thorough online extremist websites, they are indoctrinated into a dogmatic, retrogressive and a utopian Islamism intoxicated with the man-made Shariah. Thus, they indulge in the ungodly acts of extremism and dogmatism in the name of God, as their faith turns into a dire psychological disorder.
Such indoctrinated women who loudly claim to do ‘anything for Islam’ are not fascinated towards the traditional spiritual Islam or progressive Islamic thinking. But rather, they are driven by a network of half-educated, misguided and extremist youths—most of them being males. Scores of bright students of science, medicine and engineering have reportedly terminated their education aiming for an Islamic state or Shariah-controlled zone where everything is ‘pure’, ‘perfect’ and idealistic. The ten women in Morocco appeared to have the full conviction in this aim. They strongly believed they were following the only righteous path of Islam and that their adherence to the so-called Islamic state was the surest way to salvation.
There could be no better instance of how the mainstream Muslims are losing Islam to the radical Islamists. At a time when the world’s progressive Muslims are outraged at the pre-Islamic Arabian practice of keeping sex slaves, IS and its supporters have revived it in different forms—clearly with the help of the Muslim women joining the cult.
An almost identical situation is emerging in the Indian Muslim polity. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has begun a signature campaign, asking Muslim women if they want Shariah law or the Uniform Civil Code governing their matters. An overwhelming and sizeable unity on the ‘triple talaq’ has been formed with the consensus among the puritanical Indian maulvis. A surging crowd is merging ahead in different parts of the country lashing out at the Law Commission. All this is going on in the name of ‘Tahaffuz-e-Shariah’ (protection of the Shariah). Regardless of the theological polemics on the triple talaq, the question arises: where does this ‘unity’ go when Muslim women are denied their right to Talaq-e-Tafweez (women’s right to divorce by way of a prenuptial agreement)?
In fact, the Quran enunciates that women should be treated on a par with men in every respect, including the right to divorce (talaq). But shockingly enough, the obscurantist and misogynist interpretation of Islam is catching the imagination of not only the male-chauvinistic herds, but also the well-spirited Muslim women in great numbers. In a twisted understanding of Islam, many Muslim women have blindly accepted the misplaced patriarchy and several misogynist decrees in the name of Shariah. They are seeking an ‘ideal Islamic state’ where there is no question on the fatwas issued by the mullahs. Such a short-sighted worldview is ideologically buttressed by the well-established female-oriented Islamic organisations and seminaries in India. To our utter surprise, scores of women were in the forefront in their unconditional support to the controversial Islamist televangelist in India Zakir Naik.
In a Firstpost article, this writer has explained how Naik justified the vile custom of sex slavery by stating that "Quran allows Muslims to have sex with female slaves." In fact, the entire like-minded misogynist Islamist clergy misinterpret the verses in the Quran. But the gullible Muslim women take no cognisance of the mullahs’ male-chauvinism and fall prey to their loud claims of being the flag-bearers of the ‘true’ and ‘pure’ Islam. Cherry-picking Quranic verses and prophetic sayings (hadiths), the misogynist maulvis quote the Islamic scriptures which the common Muslim women recognise as beyond debate. That being the case, one wonders how the mainstream Muslims opposing the obscurantism, misogynism, male-chauvinism and all forms of extremism are going to win this war within Islam. Clearly, they will lose Islam to the radical Islamists if the womenfolk —the family-makers — are radicalised.
The author is a scholar of Comparative Religion, Classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. Views are personal. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org