The Female Jihad: Al Qaeda’s Women


Von Knop, Katharina. 2007. “The Female Jihad: Al Qaeda’s Women.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 30 (5): 397–414. doi:10.1080/10576100701258585.

Author: Katharina Von Knop


When women carry out a suicide attack they undermine the idea of who and what a terrorist is. What is generally not realized is the extent to which women are involved with terrorism. The purpose of this article is to explore and to analyze the multifaceted roles of the women in the movement of Al Qaeda. The argument is that the role of the women the world audience perceives is the one of a suicide bomber but the role of an ideological supporter and operational facilitator is more important for the maintenance of the operational capabilities and the ideological motivation for a terrorist organization. This article argues that the women follow a gender-specific interpretation of the radical ideology, the female Jihad. The concept of the female Jihad means that the women carry out a political act by supporting their male relatives, educating their children in the ideology and facilitating terrorist operations. The female Jihad is defective when the women follow the male Jihad interpretations of the Jihad by carrying out attacks. For the survival of a terrorists organization women are more important when they follow the female version of the ideology. Because the men could get arrested, die in an attack, or could get shot by the security forces, the women continue to take care about the financial issues of the organization and continue to educate the children in the "right" belief. To verify these arguments the article is divided into three parts. The first part will look at the motivation of women participation at a terrorism organization and the motivation of a terrorism organization to use women for its purposes. The second part tries to throw some light on the female suicide bombers who acted under the umbrella of the movement of Al Qaeda. In this part the female terrorist attacks will be analyzed. In the third part Sisterhoods will be explained and the concept of the female Jihad will be analyzed. The findings of this article about the involvement of women in the movement of Al Qaeda will bring us to the conclusion that women do play an essential role in these organizations and groups. Following the argument that successful counterterrorism should address both the motivation and the operational capabilities of a terrorist organization there is an essential need for the national security forces to expand their capabilities to look more carefully at women.

Topics: Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Religion

Year: 2007

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