Jihad of a more potent kind sweeps the world

Sandhya Jain

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; 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 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and returned home pregnant, to the chagrin of the authorities. Tunisian 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 the 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 IS. 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 is drawn to the ideology and barbarism of the IS, especially its manner of dealing with declared enemies, notably beheading two Americans (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 have escaped this group unscathed. The Narendra Modi Government and the Union 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 Quran 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.”

editorial articleSandhya Jain
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