Al-Qaida's female warrior

Malika El Aroud represents women's growing, although restricted, presence in Islamic extremism.

Published May 29, 2008 10:00AM (EDT)

The New York Times has a fascinating profile of Malika El Aroud, a self-described holy warrior for al-Qaida and rising star in radical Islam. Under the handle "Oum Obeya," the Internet jihadist urges Muslim men to fight and women to support the cause. In general, women's role is also on the rise: Suicide bombings carried about by women (some mentally disabled) more than doubled this year. "Women are coming of age in jihad and are entering a world once reserved for men," Claude Moniquet, president of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, told the Times.

El Aroud, who has been declared the "female holy warrior of the 21st century," told the Times, "Normally in Islam the men are stronger than the women, but I prove that it is important to fear God -- and no one else. It is important that I am a woman. There are men who don't want to speak out because they are afraid of getting into trouble. Even when I get into trouble, I speak out." Translation: Men may often be stronger than women, but I am an unusual woman.

However, El Aroud actually typifies the role women play (as well as the limitations placed on them) in global jihad; they are most often "organizers, proselytizers, teachers, translators and fund-raisers." Last month in an online Q&A, al-Qaida deputy Ayman al-Zawahri clarified that women cannot join the terrorist organization. (On a similar note, the Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta made sure his will expressly banned women from his funeral and visiting his grave.)

So, what do you know, there's even a glass ceiling in jihad.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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