Why take pictures of covered muslim women?
Qur'an 4:34 Men are the maintainers (1) of women, with what Allah has made some of them to excel others and with what they spend out of their wealth. So the good women are (2) obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded. And those on whose part you fear (3) desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the beds and (4) chastise them. So if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Surely Allah is ever Exalted, Great.
1) Mo-ham-mad taught that women are to be totally dependent upon men for their substance.
Note: Jewish and Christian women are allowed to work outside the home.
Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
Proverbs 31:16 She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.
Matthew 27:55-56 And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.
Acts 9:36 At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.
Acts 16:14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.
2) Mo-ham-mad taught that women are to be obedient to their husbands even if he is evil.
Note: Christian marriage is based on respect and love with submission each other.
Ephesians 5:18-21 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
3) Mo-ham-mad taught that women are to stay with their husbands even if he is evil.
Note: Christian women are allowed to leave a husband who is evil.
1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
4) Mo-ham-mad taught husbands to beat their wives into submission.
Note: Christian husbands are to love their wives not abuse them.
Ephesians 5:25-28 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Note: The movie titled "Not Without My Daughter" starring Sally Fields is based on a true story.
Saudi television personality Rainia al-Baz was legally beaten unconscious by her Muslim husband.
Women students in Islamic countries live in perpetual fear of men
Carmen Bin Ladin is speaking out against her Muslim ex-husband and ex-brother-in-law Osama.
Women from the safety of the West are speaking out against Islam.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali escaped from Somalia to the Netherlands only to receive death threats while in the West.
Where wife-beating is up for debate
October 1, 2005
It boggles my Western mind, but I've just come across another of the many Middle East public debates, this one on an Arab TV channel: When is a husband justified in beating his wife?
The debate, broadcast on the Lebanese channel, Heya TV, was between a Lebanese cleric, a Lebanese women's rights activist and an Algerian woman author.
The cleric, Zakariya Ghandour, opened the debate with this graphic judgment: "Disciplining by beating occurs as a reprimand - not brutal beating. Brutal beating is forbidden. Use of a ruler or, as you mentioned, beating on the hand or the shoulder, the buttocks or anything like that - as a reprimand of a woman when all methods of guidance have failed. Like a mother or father who beat their son or daughter to prevent them from wrongdoing and not out of hatred or animosity."
The interviewer asked the cleric if the wife can discipline the husband when he strays. "Can she too take a ruler, beat him and reprimand him, if he, for example strays. Is there equality in this?" Good question. Islamic answer:
"No, we give leadership to the man. She can also refrain from intimacy with him. Just like he can leave her bed, she can leave his. There is a parallel here."
Algerian woman author Fadhila Al-Farouk interposes: "I live in a common neighborhood and hear the cries of women who were beaten almost every night. I know what it means for a woman to be beaten. I know what it means for a women to be beaten merely because a man stared at her. She is innocent but nevertheless she is beaten. ... We are talking about brutal beatings, not a slap or two. ... They use rods, they use belts, they use iron chains. We are talking abut violent beating."
The interviewer says: "I am getting a very ugly picture of the Algerian people."
The Algerian author replies: "No, this is not restricted to the Algerian people. It occurs throughout the Arab world."
On another earlier debate, one participant suggested a more humane way to beat the supposedly errant spouse: with a toothpick. No statistics are available whether, in sparing the rod, the toothpick has come into widespread use.
The Algerian consul in Lebanon is quoted as authority for the revelation about "the suffering of Algerian women married to men in Egypt and other Arab countries and the beatings they suffered." Nor is this mistreatment restricted to Arab countries, says Fadhila Al-Farouk. She claims some 2 million Arab wives in France "are victims of brutal beatings" too.
The interviewer asks if there is a difference between a woman suffering violence in the Arab world or in Western society. An incredible reply, as recorded by MEMRI, from the Algerian woman author. Fadhila Al-Farouk:
"The Western woman differs from the woman in Arab countries. The Western woman is aware of her basic rights. She knows who she should turn to, how to report to the police, neighbors get involved. In our case, a neighbor cannot call the police and the police cannot be involved. ... It is very rare for the police to intervene between a husband a wife."
Is it possible half the world's Arab population has no rights?
Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.
Don’t be fooled, Muslim women December 30, 2005
With the passing of the bill to amend Islamic Family Law,
I'm truly disappointed that the scream of outrage I had expected from the Muslim
women of this country has turned out to be a whimper. What is wrong with the
Muslim women of this country?
I look at my Muslim women friends, and although perturbed at what has happened, none of them can ever imagine that the unjust Islamic Family Law will ever be used against them. These are intelligent, well-educated and accomplished women who are only too familiar with the plight of other Muslim women who have been scourged by the outcomes of their divorce rulings in the syariah courts. And yet, they still fool themselves into believing that the same thing could never happen to them.
Equally shocking is the ugly fact the government of this country has been directly instrumental in pushing this bill through Parliament. Not very long ago, when it became clear that Malay women in universities were outnumbering and outperforming their male counterparts in local universities, a certain Umno politician actually had the temerity to recommend curbing the enrolment of Malay women lest there be “severe repercussions" caused by the social imbalance.
He was persuaded to soften his stand, but it is now clear to me that the recent bill was conceived to nix the advancement of Malay women.
Finally, many will wonder why a non-Muslim like me would concern myself with a problem involving Muslim women. My answer is simple: anything that oppresses another person, no matter what the creed or religion, diminishes me. Certainly, with the Muslim women of this country now facing such a bleak future, it's unconscionable that the rest of us should remain silent and look away.
To my Muslim sisters, I say, stand up and fight for your rights. Understand that anger and outrage are sometimes more effective than patience and fortitude. For too long, the powers-that-be have divided this nation along racial and religious lines to keep us distracted and in disarray.
But if you can find the courage and strength to fight back, there are many of us who will fight alongside you. It is in our shared struggles that we will find our mutual understanding, and it is only with mutual understanding that we can work together to find a way to turn the tide of oppression against our common oppressors.
Imams 'condone domestic violence' January 30, 2006
THE nation's most senior Islamic woman has attacked Muslim
religious leaders who condone "wife-beating" and other forms of domestic
Aziza Abdel-Halim, the only female member of the Prime Minister's Muslim Advisory Council, has warned that Islamic women are being "put down" by imams in hardline and moderate circles and their rights ignored.
"Women have suffered from sometimes ill-informed imams ... who have tried to put down women and negate some of their rights or activities," she said yesterday.
"And some of them (imams) have condoned men beating women, which is un-Islamic."
The comments, unusually outspoken for a female Muslim leader, have surfaced amid concerns that no female community representatives had been invited to the coming national imams conference in Sydney.
The conference is likely to see moderate spiritual leaders attempt to crack down on radical clerics and their extremist views and to develop a national board of imams. It is also likely to consider a code of behaviour for the country's imams.
The meeting will be attended by 10 community representatives and 62 imams, including firebrand cleric Mohammed Omran, who has come under fire from the federal Government and moderate Muslim leaders for espousing radical views, including that al-Qa'ida leader Osama bin Laden is not a terrorist but a "good man".
Fellow radical spiritual leaders Abdul Salam Mohammad Zoud and Faiz Mohamad have also been invited.
Sister Abdel-Halim, who is president of the Muslim Women's National Network Australia, said the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, the conference host, was being "unjust" by not inviting female community representatives to attend.
"Women are half of the community and they bring up the other half, so you shouldn't really exclude them from anything," she said. "There should be some women observers who have a background in ... Islamic studies, and these women will represent the women within the community and should have an input."
She said the women may "raise a few points of concern that the imams may not be aware of or may be aware of and may be reluctant to address".
Sister Abdel-Halim's comments about cruelty towards Muslim women were backed by Jamila Hussain, a lecturer in Islamic law at the University of Technology Sydney, who said many imams were out of touch with the issues concerning Muslim women.
She worried that some spiritual leaders were indifferent to the cruelty being experienced by some women at the hands of aggressive partners.
"We don't know what imams are telling the men," Ms Hussain said. "Are they taking a stand, for example, against domestic violence? They should be, but we don't know whether they are or not. We suspect some are but probably the majority are not."
Sister Abdel-Halim told The Australian that "imams wield a great deal of power over the community".
"When people go to congregation, the imam for them is the source of religious knowledge and what he says to a lot of them is indisputable," she said.
She said that along with the imams who would be present at the conference, both male and female academics and youth leaders should also be invited to share their views.
She said she thought the AFIC board of executives "find educated women very threatening because women are ... very good community organisers and high achievers when it comes to setting up initiatives".
The federation has recently come under attack from community youth representatives and other Muslim leaders for not being representative of the Islamic community in Australia.
The Australian's phone calls to the federation yesterday were not returned.
Crisis centers help Muslim women and others suffering from domestic abuse
Thursday, April 6, 2006
When the violence at home had gotten so bad that he was hitting her every day and had endangered the life of her unborn child, she knew it was time to get help – but not just any help. She wanted to talk to a woman, and she wanted that woman to be Muslim.
As a relatively new convert to the religion, she wanted to take care to follow the customs of Islam, which has specific teachings on domestic violence -- the brutality taking place in her family.
"I didn't want to do nothing by mistake," said the woman, who lives in Paterson and asked that her name not be published. "I wanted to follow the rules. I wanted to follow everything by Islam." And, she says, "I really wanted to feel comfortable with the people."
So she asked counseling centers and organizations for help finding a female Muslim counselor. She asked at schools, and she asked local Muslim women but kept receiving the same answer again and again: There were none.
Finally, her child's pediatrician, a Muslim, referred her to WAFA House. After the long search, "I was sooo happy," she recalls.
Founded in fall 2004, WAFA House (Women Against Family Abuse) is a privately run domestic violence crisis center based in Paterson that caters primarily to the needs of women of South Asian, Arabic and/or Muslim descent. The Arabic word "wafa" translates to "sincerity," "faithfulness" or "to have hope," and the organization has come to be known as a place where a Muslim woman can find all three.
The rate of domestic abuse in the Muslim community is about the same as in the general population -- about 18 percent, according to a 2000 study performed by Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., a rate comparable to the national average. It tends, however, to be more hidden, says Dorria Fahmy, WAFA's founder and executive director.
"There is a mindset that you don't talk about things outside of the home," says Fahmy, explaining the thinking that inhibits some women from seeking help. "There is concern that taking these issues outside of the community somehow contradicts religious teachings."
The need for organizations like WAFA House is especially great in New Jersey, which is home to an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. Muslim population, according to the New Jersey branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"The issues that we face are quite unique," says Lakshmi Rajagopal, a coordinator at Manavi, New Jersey's oldest Muslim-focused domestic abuse center. "Among those are the dynamics of violence in the community. The way that violence manifests requires an understanding of the culture, the family structures and the people that abuse comes from."
Because many of WAFA's clients are immigrants, abusers sometimes hold the threat of deportation or child-custody loss over their wives. The language barrier can also be a factor.
Natives of Arabic and South Asian nations, who make up a majority of New Jersey's Muslim population, often speak a number of languages, including Arabic, Hindi, Urdu and Bengali. Most domestic crisis centers lack the resources to communicate with women who aren't fluent in English. Non-English speakers sometimes were turned away, or referred to organizations like Manavi, which was previously the state's sole domestic violence center handling the needs of Muslim women. When Manavi was founded 21 years ago, it was unique in the nation, said Rajagopal.
"Given the size of the organization, we can't handle the number of cases that come in, and WAFA can now help with that," Rajagopal says.
Close to 80 women, children and families have sought help at WAFA House over the past year-and-a-half. The organization's primary goal is reuniting families through counseling rather than splitting them apart, says Fahmy.
The WAFA House staff -- one paid administrator, several unpaid interns and an unpaid board of directors -- also helps women navigate daily obstacles. A Jordanian woman with limited English, for example, gets help about twice a week reading her mail. WAFA House prides itself on teaching women to advocate for themselves against an aggressive husband or one who tries to manipulate Islam's religious doctrines to justify his actions.
"We teach women about their rights because, Islamically, a woman has rights," says WAFA House intern Jenin, who asked that only her first name be printed. "Unfortunately with men, some men, they're going to give you their perspective or their interpretation of women's rights ... but it doesn't say in Islam to treat a woman like she's nothing, or like she's less than him. Unfortunately some are doing it anyway. Culture definitely tweaks the religion."
WAFA House has its fair share of critics, Fahmy acknowledges. Some have charged that, by empowering women, the group breaks up families. That perception appears to be changing, however, thanks in part to the addition of male board members -- and the outspoken support of the imam of Paterson's largest mosque, the Islamic Center of Passaic County.
"Islamically, we are obligated to work together to protect this woman or child. From this point, we founded WAFA House," says Imam Mohamed Qatanani, who has begun a series of Friday prayers on the rights of men and women according to Islam. "We found it important to have a professional to not only protect her, but to teach and educate the Muslim community (about) how to treat a woman according to the teachings of God."
At a recent fundraising event at the center, the organization raised $30,000 in just one hour.
"I was so touched, I just started crying," said a WAFA house employee, who asked to be identified by her first name, Miriam. "Women were taking rings and gold off their body and throwing it at us."
The unnamed Paterson woman who sought help is still with her husband, and said that, with counseling from WAFA House and the imam, her mate has begun to change.
"He doesn't do that anymore," she said of the prior abuse. "We talked about it and I told him (that) if this is going to continue like this I'm going to leave ... and the imam let him know how the woman has to be treated in Islam."
plagues Muslim women in Germany
Traditional attitudes linger, leading to forced marriages and violence
By Rachel Elbaum
May 25, 2006
BERLIN - Imagine a home with so much pressure to cook, clean and take care of younger siblings that you don’t have enough time to do homework. Imagine your parents forbidding you from going out to socialize with friends from school. Imagine running away from home at 17.
This was Leyla’s life. Born in Turkey near the Syrian border, Leyla* came to Germany at the age of six with her mother and siblings to join her father, one of the many so-called "guest workers" invited by the German government during the 1960s and 1970s. (*The women interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity for reasons of safety.)
Leyla excelled in German schools, but life at home was overshadowed by her parents' loveless marriage, verbal abuse from her father and few demonstrations of affection. It got worse when her older sister was married off and left home, and Leyla was suddenly thrust into the role of housekeeper and babysitter.
Then, after years of cleaning floors, cooking dinners and finding just enough time to finish a bit of homework, Leyla had enough of feeling like a slave and went to live in a shared house set up specifically for Turkish girls with troubled family lives.
Life away from her family was better, but it turned out her nightmare was only beginning. Leyla would shortly become one of hundreds of immigrant women in Germany — many from Muslim backgrounds — subjected to abuse, forced marriages and other violent family situations against their will.
After months of living on her own — and a chance to concentrate on school work and even have a social life — Leyla’s parents asked her to join them on a trip back to Turkey. “Your grandparents are sick,” they told her. “Come to see them one last time.”
Against the advice of friends and her social workers, Leyla acceded and joined her parents on the long drive to Turkey.
“As soon as we left my mother took away my passport,” said Leyla, recounting her story at a café in one of Berlin’s Turkish neighborhoods. “They told me Germany was now dead to me.”
But the most frightening part of the drive was when her parents said she would be going to a gynecologist to find out if she was still a virgin.
“I just wanted five minutes alone with the doctor, to give him a little money and get him to lie for me,” said Leyla, who at that time had slept with a boyfriend in Germany. But her plan didn’t work and the doctor confirmed her parents’ worst nightmare. Her mother went into hysterics, wailing in the doctor’s office, while her father stood there, unable to speak.
“It wasn’t until then that I realized what a shame I had brought on them,” she said.
Quickly, they arranged a marriage with a cousin, explaining to the family that she wouldn’t bleed on her wedding night as a result of a sports injury.
“He wanted to marry me. It was a good deal for him, he wanted to come to Germany,” she said of her cousin, whom she met just once.
Her distress at the whole situation was magnified when during the meeting he attempted to kiss and touch her.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Hoping to avoid a marriage like her parents’, she told her father of the cousin’s unwelcome advances and he agreed to call off the match.
Eventually, with the help of her social worker in Berlin, Leyla managed to get back to Germany, and her place in what was the first shelter established for immigrant girls, enabled to her get a degree in early education and become a caregiver/counselor in a women’s shelter for immigrant girls stuck in family situations similar to her own. Now 42, she has managed to build a new life and is married to a German man.
While Leyla managed to avoid a fate preordained by her family, it is impossible to know how many others are left in violent situations with few means of escape. An editor for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet has estimated that 50 percent of Muslim women in Germany have been victims of domestic violence. In addition, forced marriages often turn into violent homes.
At the heart of the matter is a complicated dance between Germany’s inability to fully embrace immigrants, many of whom were invited from Turkey to fill labor shortages, and the immigrants' unwillingness to let go of behaviors and traditions that appear brutal to mainstream Western Europeans.
Critics of Germany's record with guest workers say the country has been standoffish with the new residents, leaving them clinging to their homeland’s culture for a sense of familiarity and belonging, a phenomenon particularly true among Muslim immigrants. Many Germans, meanwhile, blame the immigrants for holding on to their old ways and say the responsibility for their poor situation lies mostly with the guest workers for not making more efforts to adapt to German norms and customs.
“You can’t say [these attitudes against women are] because of one specific thing,” said Seyran Ates, a Berlin lawyer of Turkish descent who focuses on women’s rights. “Many families, who marry their children off early, want to prevent sex outside of marriage. Some are worried that here in Germany their kids will take a German partner or a partner of another nationality so they marry their kids very quickly with another immigrant or a person here they know.”
“It is an absolute mix of religion, culture and tradition,” said Ates, who was born into a Muslim family.
In part because of several highly publicized murders of Muslim women by family members for “dishonorable” behavior — along with the murder of the controversial Dutch filmmaker Theodore Van Gogh, who often spoke out about the abuse of women — there is a new willingness to discuss forced marriage and spousal violence against women taking place in Turkish and other immigrant communities.
There are about a dozen shelters around Germany that cater specifically to immigrant women, and several organizations that provide support and advice for those seeking to get out of abusive relationships. The majority of these organizations receive government support or funds in one form or another.
At one of these shelters, the Interkulturelles Frauenhaus (Intercultural Women's House) in Berlin, an Iranian woman, Shabnam, is still trying to recover from a two-year nightmare marriage.
The well-dressed 24-year-old originally came to Germany after marrying a former neighbor who lured her with promises of a better life than the one she could have in Iran.
He had a good job and a nice apartment in Hanover, he told her at the meeting their parents arranged in Turkey. With strong pressure from her parents to accept his proposal, and her own desire to have a husband, Shabnam found herself married at the end of his visit.
Only after her arrival in Germany did she find out her new spouse's promises were all lies. He had no job and few plans to find one. Eventually he started drinking. And then the beatings started. If she asked why he didn’t look for work, he hit her.
Ambitious and wanting to learn German so she could get a job, she instead was trapped at home, cooking Persian food for his friends and taking care of the house.
“I couldn’t talk to him,” Shabnam said. “I was unhappy, I slept a lot, I had a lot of problems, I couldn’t think.”
After a breakdown caused by her husband's revelation that he was moving to the United States, Shabnam landed in the hospital for a month. A friend then encouraged her to seek help through the Interkulturelles Frauenhaus. Shabnam is now learning German, and hopes to soon begin a degree course in computer science.
In some ways, Shabnam is a success story. She got the help she needed. And so have the nearly 200 other women and children the Interkulturelles Frauenhaus has assisted this year.
Advocates and caregivers agree that the best way to end these problems is to start educating children early that these attitudes are wrong.
“We need to work with all people and not just with the victims when it’s too late and they’re getting divorced,” Ates said. “We must start much earlier, in kindergarten.” But to make this possible, “we need more government support and institutionalized support. Help costs money.”
Although there are still hundreds of women across Germany seeking help from shelters, and countless more who suffer in silence, advocates are hopeful that the recent public focus on women’s issues is helping more women find help and even avoid forced and abusive relationships.
“I have a feeling that it is getting better, now there is more openness,” said Leyla. “Parents are more willing to listen to their children. Not for everyone, but slowly...”
Two Muslim mothers are sitting in a cafe chatting over a pint of goat's milk.
The older of the two mothers pulls her bag out, and starts
flipping through photos and they start reminiscing.
"This is my oldest son, Mohammed. He was 24 years old."
remember him as a baby," says the younger mother, cheerfully.
"He's a martyr now, though", the older mother confides.
"Praise be to
Allah", says the younger mother.
"And this is my second son Kalid. He was 21 years old."
"Oh, I remember him", says the younger mother happily.
"He had such curly hair when he was born."
"He's a martyr,
too", says older mother quietly.
"Praise be to Allah," says the younger mother.
"And this is my third son, my baby. My beautiful Ahmed.
He was eighteen years old", the older mother whispers.
"Yes," says the younger mother enthusiastically,
when he first started school."
"He is a martyr, also", says older mother, with tears in her eyes.
After a pause and a deep sigh, the younger Muslim
Al-Qaida's stance on women sparks extremist debate
By LAUREN FRAYER
May 31, 2008
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Muslim extremist women are challenging al-Qaida's refusal to include — or at least acknowledge — women in its ranks, in an emotional debate that gives rare insight into the gender conflicts lurking beneath one of the strictest strains of Islam.
In response to a female questioner, al-Qaida No. 2 leader Ayman Al-Zawahri said in April that the terrorist group does not have women. A woman's role, he said on the Internet audio recording, is limited to caring for the homes and children of al-Qaida fighters.
His remarks have since prompted an outcry from fundamentalist women, who are fighting or pleading for the right to be terrorists. The statements have also created some confusion, because in fact suicide bombings by women seem to be on the rise, at least within the Iraq branch of al-Qaida.
A'eeda Dahsheh is a Palestinian mother of four in Lebanon who said she supports al-Zawahri and has chosen to raise children at home as her form of jihad. However, she said, she also supports any woman who chooses instead to take part in terror attacks.
Another woman signed a more than 2,000-word essay of protest online as Rabeebat al-Silah, Arabic for "Companion of Weapons."
"How many times have I wished I were a man ... When Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahri said there are no women in al-Qaida, he saddened and hurt me," wrote "Companion of Weapons," who said she listened to the speech 10 times. "I felt that my heart was about to explode in my chest...I am powerless."
Such postings have appeared anonymously on discussion forums of Web sites that host videos from top al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. While the most popular site requires names and passwords, many people use only nicknames, making their identities and locations impossible to verify.
However, groups that monitor such sites say the postings appear credible because of the knowledge and passion they betray. Many appear to represent computer-literate women arguing in the most modern of venues — the Internet — for rights within a feudal version of Islam.
"Women were very disappointed because what al-Zawahri said is not what's happening today in the Middle East, especially in Iraq or in Palestinian groups," said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors militant Web sites. "Suicide operations are being carried out by women, who play an important role in jihad."
It's not clear how far women play a role in al-Qaida because of the group's amorphous nature.
Terrorism experts believe there are no women in the core leadership ranks around bin Laden and al-Zawahri. But beyond that core, al-Qaida is really a movement with loosely linked offshoots in various countries and sympathizers who may not play a direct role. Women are clearly among these sympathizers, and some are part of the offshoot groups.
In the Iraq branch, for example, women have carried out or attempted at least 20 suicide bombings since 2003. Al-Qaida members suspected of training women to use suicide belts were captured in Iraq at least three times last year, the U.S. military has said.
Hamas, another militant group, is open about using women fighters and disagrees with al-Qaida's stated stance. At least 11 Palestinian women have launched suicide attacks in recent years.
"A lot of the girls I speak to ... want to carry weapons. They live with this great frustration and oppression," said Huda Naim, a prominent women's leader, Hamas member and Palestinian lawmaker in Gaza. "We don't have a special militant wing for women ... but that doesn't mean that we strip women of the right to go to jihad."
Al-Zawahri's remarks show the fine line al-Qaida walks in terms of public relations. In a modern Arab world where women work even in some conservative countries, al-Qaida's attitude could hurt its efforts to win over the public at large. On the other hand, noted SITE director Katz, al-Zawahri has to consider that many al-Qaida supporters, such as the Taliban, do not believe women should play a military role in jihad.
Al-Zawahri's comments came in a two-hour audio recording posted on an Islamic militant Web site, where he answered hundreds of questions sent in by al-Qaida sympathizers. He praised the wives of mujahedeen, or holy warriors. He also said a Muslim woman should "be ready for any service the mujahedeen need from her," but advised against traveling to a war front like Afghanistan without a male guardian.
Al-Zawahri's stance might stem from personal history, as well as religious beliefs. His first wife and at least two of their six children were killed in a U.S. airstrike in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar in 2001. He later accused the U.S. of intentionally targeting women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I say to you ... (I have) tasted the bitterness of American brutality: my favorite wife's chest was crushed by a concrete ceiling," he wrote in a 2005 letter.
Al-Zawahri's question-and-answer campaign is one sign of al-Qaida's sophistication in using the Web to keep in touch with its popular base, even while its leaders remain in hiding. However, the Internet has also given those disenfranchised by al-Qaida — in this case, women — a voice they never had before.
The Internet is the only "breathing space" for women who are often shrouded in black veils and confined to their homes, "Ossama2001" wrote. She said al-Zawahri's words "opened old wounds" and pleaded with God to liberate women so they can participate in holy war.
Another woman, Umm Farouq, or mother of Farouq, wrote: "I use my pen and words, my honest emotions ... Jihad is not exclusive to men."
Such women are al-Qaida sympathizers who would not feel comfortable expressing themselves with men or others outside their circles, said Dia'a Rashwan, an expert on terrorism and Islamic movements at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.
"The Internet gives them the ideal place to write their ideas, while they're hidden far from the world," he said.
Men have also responded to al-Zawahri's remarks. One male Internet poster named Hassan al-Saif asked: "Does our sheik mean that there is no need to use women in our current jihad? Why can we not use them?"
He was in the minority. Dozens of postings were signed by men who agreed with al-Zawahri that women should stick to supporting men and raising children according to militant Islam.
Women bent on becoming militants have at least one place to turn to. A niche magazine called "al-Khansaa" — named for a female poet in pre-Islamic Arabia who wrote lamentations for two brothers killed in battle — has popped up online. The magazine is published by a group that calls itself the "women's information office in the Arab peninsula," and its contents include articles on women's terrorist training camps, according to SITE.
Its first issue, with a hot pink cover and gold embossed lettering, appeared in August 2004 with the lead article "Biography of the Female Mujahedeen."
The article read:
"We will stand, covered by our veils and wrapped in our robes, weapons in hand, our children in our laps, with the Quran and the Sunna (sayings) of the Prophet of Allah directing and guiding us."
WORD FAITH INDEX