Sexual jihad: Islamism’s bizarre face
by Sandhya Jain on 09 Sep 2014 16 Comments

Whatever one’s assessment of Islam – Abrahamic offspring, way of life, Arab nationalism, post-Byzantine Arab empire, moderate, or outright murderous towards those outside the charmed circle of jihadi warriors – a bizarre facet of contemporary Islam deserves attention, partly because of its scandalous morality, but mainly because it is irreconcilable with any known version of the faith. Hitherto, this has been stifled by a conspiracy of silence, but as more cases crash into the public domain, there is need to take cognisance of the ‘sexual jihad’  being embraced, apparently voluntarily, by young Muslim women. 


How are girls - without the knowledge of their families - being motivated or brainwashed to undertake such wanton behaviour? How do Muslim girls, especially devout believers, defy all cultural norms? How do they ignore appeals from family members, especially mothers, to abandon this treacherous path and return home?


As Muslims take a hard look at their faith and struggle to retrieve what they consider its intrinsic value, they will have to ponder whether, after 14 centuries, Islam should remain in control of those wielding power (as from the time of the self-proclaimed fifth caliph); or ulema created by Muawiya to justify his temporal power; ulema opposed to temporal rulers (especially since the rise of colonialism); self-proclaimed caliphs of Boko Haram or the Islamic State (IS); or other elected or unelected temporal rulers? These and other critical issues, unresolved since the dispute over succession to the Prophet rose among his family and followers just before his death, must be faced head-on.


‘Sexual jihad’ came to public notice in 2013 after several Tunisian girls travelled to Syria to serve Islamists fighting to overthrow President Bashir al-Assad, and returned home pregnant, to the chagrin of the authorities. Interior Minister Lotfi ben Jeddou told the National Constituent Assembly that the girls “are [sexually] swapped between 20, 30, and 100 rebels and they come back bearing the fruit of sexual contacts in the name of sexual jihad and we are silent…”. He refused to divulge how many Tunisian women had returned pregnant with the children of jihadists; their fate and that of their offspring is unknown.

Tunisia’s Mufti, Sheikh Othman Battikh (who was later dismissed), condemned sexual jihad as a form of prostitution and said that 13 Tunisian girls “were fooled” into going to Syria to offer sexual services to rebels. Sociologists, political scientists, and governments will have to investigate the reasons for such abnormal conduct. Certainly it is difficult to reconcile with a faith that prescribes stoning to death for women in extra-marital relationships, and extends this severe prescription to victims of rape.


Some Sunni Salafist clerics claim sexual jihad is a legitimate form of holy war. But in a faith wedded to literalism from the time of Ibn Taymiyyah, they would have difficulty providing textual support for this assertion. Hence, they must be cornered for this obscenity and offence against humanity, womanhood, and public morality.


Fars News reported in August 2013 that a Sexual Jihad Fatwa in Syria permitted fighters to have sexual relations with a woman after a temporary contract that became null and void after a few hours, thus allowing a woman to have multiple partners daily. Mostafa Bin Omar, Tunisia’s general director of public security, has revealed that last year the authorities smashed a “sexual jihad cell” in an area populated by Al-Qaeda fighters.

It has since come to light that in the West, young women, mostly with husbands participating in the jihad, are conducting online propaganda for the Islamic State. Using various social media platforms, they disseminate the views of English- and Arabic-speaking radical preachers, along with news about the IS’s progress. Some have moved to Syria to find husbands among IS warriors; they seek to attract other women to their cause.


As growing numbers of jihadis arrive in Iraq and Syria, it is obvious that a section of Muslims are drawn to the ideology and barbarism of the Islamic State, especially its manner of dealing with declared enemies, notably beheading two American (James Foley, Steven Sotloff) and one Syrian journalist (Bassam Raies), and brutally slaughtering countless prisoners. American experts estimate that over 12,000 foreign fighters have gone to Syria in the past three years; roughly 1,000 are European and 100 are American citizens.


As an aside, it bears mention that the Indian nurses who fell into IS captivity soon after it emerged in the limelight, are among the lucky few who escaped this group unscathed. The Narendra Modi government and Ministry of External Affairs have not got the credit they deserve for this protection of national honour.


In the badlands of Syria and Iraq, and hapless Nigeria (Boko Haram), women and girls – particularly minorities – are sold as slaves. Pakistan-born Canadian writer Tarek Fatah laments that the “Muslim intelligentsia, instead of doing some serious introspection, has chosen to exercise damage control”. Denouncing this ostrich approach, he points out that the 19th century Indian scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali, whose translation of the Qur’an is considered the most authentic, courageously stated with regard to a Quranic verse about using non-Muslim women as sex slaves: “The point does not now arise as the whole conditions and incidents of war have been altered and slavery has been abolished by international agreement.”


This agreement is now being violated by what Pepe Escobar calls a caliph Made-in-the-West and amply funded by the Gulf Cooperation Council. Hence, Saudi Arabia must take responsibility for the Wahhabi Islam it has spread all over the world on the strength of its oil wealth. Inspired by this model, the IS has seized several oilfields in Iraq and Syria, and sells oil to fill its war chest. Last month, fearing for his survival, King Abdullah berated the clergy for failing to help combat terrorism; thereafter Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh condemned the IS.


Meanwhile, the aging Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri (with a US $25 million bounty on his head) has announced a special cell (Qaedat al-Jihad) to intensify jihad against India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Irritated, the Shiv Sena advised him to save Islam in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, et al, where it is endangered! Zawahiri supports a caliphate under Mullah Omar. Thus, three Sunni caliphs are competing for supremacy in the Muslim world, relying upon Kalashnikovs to bring the golden age to blighted humanity. The crisis in Islam is both moral and political; no easy resolution is in sight.     

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