Media reports that security officers manning crossing points along the Kenya-Somalia boarder arrested three young women believed to be Al-Shabaab

sympathisers as they attempted to cross into Somalia from where they were to be transported to Iraq and Syria to become ‘Jihadist brides’ has just added a new twist in Kenya’s renewed counter-violent extremism efforts. The arrest of the three women could have thwarted one ambitious attempt by the trio to join extremists, but it has left fear among Muslim communities that violent extremism is now taking on new and very dangerous dimensions that threaten the foundation of the Muslim family unit. Following the arrest, two families in Malindi acknowledged that the arrested trio was their daughters who had gone missing for days. Subsequently, many more families, including non-Muslim, have come out publicly to speak about their missing daughters— we now have worrying reports of missing girls from Isiolo and Kiambu as well.

This trend points to a new dimension in the spread of violent extremism and threat of terrorism that accompanies it. Previously, families had to worry about young men going missing only for reports to reach them that the young men were recruited as mujahideen to fight for Al-Shabaab in Somalia— now Kenyan families have to worry about their daughters. However, as much the trend of young women joining extremist groups is worrying, it could have just helped the counter violent extremism (CVE) campaign in a very significant way. How? It has just provided right-thinking Muslims with the ammunition to challenge one of the myths used by extremist groups to recruit young people into terrorist networks. First and foremost, let us look at the evolution of the concept of mujahideen before we can attempt a counter-message to it. The term ‘Mujahideen’ is the plural form of the Arabic term ‘mujahid’ which refers to a person engaged in Jihad. The term ‘jihad’ itself as used in Qur’anic  text in reality refers to ‘struggle’ as opposed to ‘holy war’. It is important to point out that the Arabic language used in the Qur’an is the classical type of Arabic which is very poetic because it is full of idioms. Because of its idiomatic character, Qur’anic Arabic requires careful interpretation in order to get its correct meaning.

Comparatively, Qur’anic Arabic is like Shakespearian English which uses idioms such as ‘character assassination’ or ‘kick the bucket’ to mean ‘maligning’ and ‘die’ respectively. From a literal sense, the phrases ‘character assassination’ and ‘kick the bucket’ as used in Shakespeare’s writings makes no sense because they are idioms. However, when one contextualises the usage of the phrases and applies the golden rule of interpretation, a clear meaning comes out. The same deep reflection is required when dealing with the Arabic text used in the Qur’an— if interpreted literally, one is always bound to get the wrong meaning of Qur’anic teachings. In view of the foregoing, the term ‘jihad’ has often been misinterpreted to mean ‘holy war’ while in reality it means ‘a spiritual struggle within a person’s conscience to do good and eschew evil.’

But since misinterpretations gain traction very fast, ‘jihad’ (to mean holy war) was the term used for the project of Islamic conquest throughout the history of  Islam during the medieval era led by the Caliphates. In turn, ‘mujahid’ is the term used to refer to someone engaged in jihad, the misrepresentation of which would be “a person engaged in holy war.” Ultimately due to misrepresentation, the ordinary meaning in English usage of the term ‘jihad’ is the guerilla type military campaigns waged by people claiming to be engaged in a ‘holy war’ to protect Islam and promote the interests of Muslims. And herein lies the concept of ‘mujahideen’ as referring to Holy Warriors. Historically, the modern term of mujahideen referring to guerrilla outfits of radical Islamists originates in the 19th century opposition of the mountainous sect of hill men in Afghanistan who fought against British control. It began in 1829 when a religious man, Sayyid Ahmed Shah Brelwi, came back to the village of Sitana from a pilgrimage to Mecca and began preaching war against the infidels in the area defining the Northwest border of British India.

Although he died in battle, the sect he had created survived and the Mujahideen gained more power and prominence. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Mujahideen were said to accept any fleeing Sepoys and recruit them into their ranks. As time went by, the sect grew ever larger until it was raiding and controlling larger areas in Afghanistan. Years later during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989), the concept of mujahideen would gain even more prominence. Afghanistan’s resistance movement against the Soviets originated in chaos and, at first, regional warlords waged virtually all of its fighting locally. As warfare became more sophisticated, outside support and regional coordination grew. Eventually, the seven main mujahideen parties allied as the political bloc called Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen. Many Muslims from other countries assisted the various mujahideen groups in Afghanistan. Some groups of these veterans became significant players in later conflicts in and around the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden, originally from a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia, was a prominent organizer and financier of an all-Arab Islamist group of foreign volunteers. His Maktab al-Khadamat (forerunner of al-Qaeda) funneled money, arms, and Muslim fighters from around the Muslim world into Afghanistan. Mujahideen forces caused serious casualties to the Soviet forces, and made the war very costly for the Soviet Union leading to the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan in 1989. Many districts and cities then fell to the mujahideen. In 1992 the Soviet-backed
government of Mohammad Najibullah was overthrown. However, the mujahideen did not establish a united government, and many of the larger mujahideen groups began to fight each other over power in Kabul. After several years of devastating fighting, a village mullah named Mohammed Omar organized a new armed movement that came to be known as the Taliban.

‘Taliban’ is the Pashto language term for “students”. It essentially stands for the young Afghan people who had grown up in refugee camps in Pakistan during the 1980s and were taught in Salafist madrassas— religious schools known for teaching the orthodox interpretation of Islam that supports violence as a means of achieving social and political change. From the foregoing linguistic and historical account, it is clear that the concept of mujahideen as referring to holy warriors fighting in defence of Islam has origins in Afghanistan. As holy warriors recruited to fight for Islam, extremist scholars usually claim that the mujahideen are given their last rites on earth before being deployed to battle, such that should they die in battle, their souls would go straight to paradise where they are guaranteed eternal peace and happiness among the angels. And this brings us back to the latest trend of young women crossing borders to join extremist groups as ‘jihadist brides.’ The question here is— brides to whom and for what purpose? As we answer this question, we must keep in mind that where young men are isolated and kept in camps for long periods of time undergoing military training for whatever purpose, issues of sexual emotions due to accumulated testosterone become a matter of concern to the superiors.

It is a fact that many young men who are recruited into terrorist networks undergo some religious indoctrination before being admitted into the mujahideen ranks. One of the things the young men are told during the indoctrination process in order to persuade them to sacrifice their lives in the name of religion is that they would go straight to paradise upon death in battle where they would be rewarded with 72 virgin brides. The million-dollar question now is— if it is true that the mujahideen who die in battle will each be rewarded with 72 virgin brides in paradise, why would young girls be seeking to become jihadist brides? Doesn’t this trend of young women seeking to become jihadist brides contradict the idea of 72 virgin brides in paradise? A logical answer to this question simply renders the claim that mujahideen who die in defence of Islam will be rewarded with 72 virgin brides in paradise a myth. Truth be told— there is NO such thing as 72 virgins in reward for people who die in defence of Islam. Hence, any young man out there who thinks that he can commit murder in the name of fighting in defence of Islam and expect to be rewarded with 72 virgins in paradise should henceforth know that such claim is false.

If anything, it now looks like the so-called mujahideen in the extremist outfits are in desperate need of worldly sex and that it is why they have started encouraging young women to join their ranks to become ‘comfort women’ disguised as brides. Indeed, if a reward of 72 virgin brides in paradise was true, then there should be no need of entertaining the influx of ‘jihadist brides.’ And this is the argument that the on-going counter violent extremism campaign should be
bringing out. In order to get the out the countermessage effectively, the CVE campaign should be able to isolate the true Qur’anic meaning of the term ‘jihad’ from its political and historical corruptions. In this way, the campaign would be able to challenge the violent extremist narrative in a more effective and persuasive manner.

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  • Comment Link Susie Vonstein Sunday, 06 November 2016 08:52 posted by Susie Vonstein

    : Sur la page FB de l'auteur, un com parmi tant d'autres : "Un roman sublimement écrit ,sans aucune vulgarité ni manque de respect envers les personnages mais empreint de beaucoup d'émotions qui ne peuvent laisser indifférent."

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