Tracing the Literature of Extremist Women: Part II

A poem written by a radical women in the U.S.

A poem written by a radical women in the U.S.

For decades, women have been crafting messages of violence to reach a wider audience. Before social media, extremist women published articles in magazines, newsletters, and pamphlets distributed widely to Muslim-majority communities to persuade, push and urge other men and women to join violent extremism. Today, new social media has made extremist messaging that much easier for these women (and men). We know now that extremist women use Facebook, Twitter, online chat rooms, and other social media accounts to contribute to extremist propaganda.

Why Do They Write?

As a sign of protest, extremist women write to be seen. Their invisibility is exactly what enables them to grow their readership and engage with an online audience. In their print and online literature, women stress ‘4 Reasons to Protest,’ a model I use in lectures. They are:

  • Prestige. Women are as capable as men. Writing empowers these women, who are given a voice and an opportunity to actively participate in violent extremism, thereby elevating their status as contributors to terrorism.
  • Protect. Women write on behalf of their families, communities and a network of men to ensure their survival. Women write for and about men. They celebrate the death of men in their literature, calling them martyrs and heroes, which protects the narrative of Heavenly rewards for those who make the ultimate sacrifice, or death.
  • Power. The power of the pen cannot be understated. In writing, extremist women can inflict damage on the enemy by drawing in male and female recruits to attack the enemy, thus strengthening and growing their membership. By writing, some extremist women have proven to be persuasive and powerful—women can shame men with words, especially when their husbands are killed.
  • Peace. Women demand an end to the conflict that they have vowed to join. Like men, women desire immediate political transformation and may hope for greater equal opportunities and rights, once the conflict is over.

Note: The 4Ps are not comprehensive, as there are likely other explanations that motivate Muslim women to write for and on behalf of a male-led terrorist organization.

Part III will be posted on March 28th. 

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