Rocking the Cradle To Rocking the World: The Role of Muslim Female Fighters


Ali, Farhana. 2006. “Rocking the Cradle To Rocking the World: The Role of Muslim Female Fighters.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 8 (1): 21-35.

Author: Farhana Ali


Attacks by the mujahidaat are arguably more deadly than those conducted by male fighters and could motivate other Muslim women to adopt suicide as the tactic of choice. The use of Muslim women to conduct martyrdom, or suicide, operations by male-dominated terrorist groups could have implications on the jihadi mindset, challenging more conservative groups such as Al Qaeda, to reconsider the utility of the Muslim woman on the front lines of jihad. These terrorist groups will likely exploit women to conduct operations on their behalf to advance their goals and achieve tactical gain. Muslim women are increasingly joining the global jihad, partly motivated by religious conviction to change the plight of Muslims under occupation, but others are actively recruited by Al Qaeda and local terrorist groups strained by increased arrests and deaths of male operatives to fight in the name of Islam. Convinced of the operational advantages of using a female fighter, and the media attention she garners—including some sympathy from the Muslim world—men began to rely on women to carry out attacks. While women enlisted and played a pivotal role in operations, including the veteran Palestinian female Leila Khalid for a myriad of successful hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, counterterrorism experts and analysts rarely focused on female terrorists. According to Dr. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist, the notion of a woman perpetrating acts of violence “runs counter to Western stereotypes and misconceptions of male terrorists; we assume that women are second-class citizens and rely on the men to run the organization,” rather than challenging our prejudices of women in these terror networks.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Religion, Terrorism

Year: 2006

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at