While I was enjoying some sunshine in Savannah, (more to come about that), World War Four continued to rage blithely on.
Al-Qaeda in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and North Africa, threatened terrorist attacks against Germany and Holland and threatened to kill a British hostage (captured on the border between Niger and Mali), if Britain does not release a radical Muslim preacher.
The Pakistani Taliban shot a couple dead for alleged adultery and their execution in Islamabad was captured on a cellphone; Egyptian police arrested a Muslim woman for having married a Coptic Christian; in Lahore, a Muslim husband killed his wife for failing to bear a son; in the Punjab, a Sikh physician-husband amputated his wife’s hand and that of her cousin with whom he suspected she was having an affair.
So much for male terrorists in foreign lands.
Last week, as I carefully smelled the roses in Georgia, there were three carefully organized explosions on one day in Iraq, which killed a total of 80 civilians. One explosion was carried out by a woman in a black abaya, holding a 5 year-old child’s hand, (probably not her own). She killed herself and 28 other Muslims in a crowded market in a Baghdad slum. The civilians, many of whom were other women, were waiting on line for free flour, cooking oil, tea, macaroni, and other staples that the police were handing out. Of course, police officers died as well.
Many people have written to me, surprised, outraged, perhaps demoralized by the fact that this latest Muslim-on-Muslim atrocity was committed by a woman and mainly against other women.
As the author of Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman, which is just now being released in a new edition with a new Introduction, I am, unfortunately, not surprised. Please recall how quickly the mainstream media covered the “sensational” use of rape by the male members of Al-Qaeda as a way to recruit female human bombs. At the time, people seemed surprised by the fact that Samira Jassim, an Iraqi woman, played an essential role in the further exploitation of these rape victims.
Although women depend upon each other for emotional intimacy and social stability, they are also highly competitive with, mistrustful of, or hostile towards other women. Like men, women have also internalized sexist beliefs. Are women really sexists? Of course they are. A study of 15,000 people in nineteen countries on five continents found that women hold sexist views just as men do. However, some studies suggest that women with low self-esteem are more likely to internalize negative views of women which may account for how such women treat other women: With cruelty rather than kindness.
In addition, women are expected to compete mainly against other women, not against men, and they do so both directly and indirectly (through slander, shunning, and “backstabbing.”) In the Third World, especially in war zones, the female-female aggression is far more direct, often fatally so.
I have written a number of articles about Muslim mothers who have participated, both directly and indirectly, in the honor killing of their daughters; and about female Muslim suicide-homicide bombers who have specifically targeted other women and children.
For example, in 2008, in Iraq, one of four female homicide bombers entered a tent that provided shelter to weary female religious pilgrims. She sat down, read the Koran with them, and left a bag behind that, moments later, blew them all up. Please note that she targeted weary, religious Muslim women.
Thus, I was dismayed but not surprised when a Sunni, Al-Qaeda plot emerged, one in which male terrorists raped eighty Muslim girls and women, then turned them over to Samira Jassim who patiently, persistently, “maternally,” persuaded the rape victims, (many of whom had been targeted because they were depressed or mentally ill), to “cleanse” their shame by blowing themselves and other Muslims up. Twenty eight women did so.
In an interview with Dr. Anat Berko, the author of The Path to Paradise. The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers, she pointed out that there is “always a woman” behind the female suicide bomber, who functions like a “pimp or a Madam in a brothel.” Potential women suicide bombers are never alone again, they are always accompanied by at least one, usually older woman, who encourages, manipulates, guards, and supports the potential shaheeda–just like a mother might do.
In a culture in which girls are raised by women whose own mothers did not value them as they did boys, women may hunger for attention from an older woman–even one whose sole purpose is to ensure their jihadic death. In Dr. Berko’s book, there is a frightening example of how all the jailed, intercepted Palestinian female suicide bombers obeyed and respected one of their own: a woman who was the harshest, angriest, most mentally ill amongst them. Sadly, perhaps this most reminded them of their own mothers.
In a terrible sense, “Madam” Jassim, only exaggerated, by a bit, what is routinely and normatively done to many girls and women today in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and increasingly in countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, etc. After all, Jassim played the Evil Stepmother in a culture which fears, despises, shrouds, genitally mutilates, force-marries girls to their first cousins, and perpetrates honor killings. How different is collaborating in their rape and helping them find glory through jihad? In a sense, some may actually view this as a quantum career leap for women.
Like Madam Jassim, when women are trapped in highly patriarchal cultures, they may gain the only approval and power possible for a woman by vigilantly policing themselves and other women to extol and support the patriarchal status quo. This is true in terms of issues such as veiling which, for women, is the visual shorthand for “jihad” and extreme religiosity. I fear that we will see many more Evil Stepmother/mothers like Samira Jassim and many more raped, traumatized, exploited, ideologically empowered, and ultimately suicidal-homicidal daughters.
Attention President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton: Supporting the pro-democracy and pro-woman’s rights forces within Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and on the West Bank and in Gaza, might go a long way to reversing such ongoing tragedies. If America genuinely believes that women are human beings entitled to certain, God-given and “inalienable rights,” now is the time to share that view with the leaders of these countries.