Women’s rights activist Sara Khan penned a letter to young Muslim girls who want to join the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Women and men in the terrorist group reach out to young girls via social media with promises of a great life to serve Allah. Khan provides the girls with a huge dose of reality:
There is no religious obligation to make hijra or to pledge allegiance to this self-declared leader who claims to be Caliph. Muslims for centuries have lived in lands that were not under Muslim rule. Even during the Prophet’s lifetime, he did not ask those early Muslims who initially made hijra to Abyssinia to make hijra to Medina, when Medina was ruled by the Prophet (pbuh).
But this self-appointed caliph Baghdadi calls on you to make hijra you say? But I ask you, what kind of a caliph is this person who in direct contrast to the teachings of the Qur’an and our blessed Prophet Muhammad pbuh, justifies killing Muslims who declare the shahaadha including convert Abdul Rahman Kassig? How does he this so-called caliph justify killing innocent people? How does he justify the killing of Muslim leaders and scholars who only call for peace and love? The taking of even one innocent life is a great crime in Islam equated to killing the whole of humanity. Yet with so little regard, this same caliph justifies killing Muslims and non-Muslims alike including humanitarian workers like Alan Henning; a man who chose to give up celebrating Christmas with his family to instead help Syrian children.
In early February, three teenagers left England for Turkey to travel into Syria to join the Islamic State. Officials believe Aqsa Mahmood, a Muslim immigrant in Scotland, tempted the young girls. Mahmoud left Scotland in 2013 when she was only 19-years-old. She published a blog post a few weeks ago that warned “would-be jihadi brides to prepare to be widows.” From The Evening Standard:
Writing under the name Umm Layth, Mahmood — who is believed to be a member of the all-women militia group in Raqqa, the Al-Khanssaa brigade — told would-be wives of terrorists: “Sisters with this comes the great acceptance and hefty reality which is that this decision means we will most probably have to sooner or later hear the news of our husbands’ success, which is his shahadah [martyrdom].
“So maybe even before his death you have spent time preparing for it emotionally, but unfortunately many are not educated on what comes next.”
The Islamic State women and men promise a life that adheres to strict Islamic interpretation. The jihadists destroy shrines, museums, libraries, and churches. The girls and women attracted to the group who eventually make the voyage into Syria and Iraq do so despite the knowledge that Sharia law treats women as second-class. Women must be veiled from head to toe and cannot leave the house without a male guardian. The al-Khansa, the all-female brigade, terrorizes the streets to make sure women obey the strict laws. In one particularly gruesome instance, they used a bear trap known on as a “biter” on a woman’s breasts as punishment for public breastfeeding. They also passed a law that said men may marry girls as young as 9 years old. Khan argues that this is not in compliance with Islam, although Mohammed had a 9-year-old wife, Aisha:
ISIS state that girls should be married from the age of 9 and that women should remain “hidden and veiled from society” – but this stands in stark contrast to Muslim history. Islam produced some of the most amazing women who were anything but hidden away from society. Muslim women contributed to all walks of life including Fatima al Fihri who in 859CE founded the first academic degree granting university in Morocco. Asma Bint Shihab al-Sulayhiyya (d480/1087) who ruled Yemen with her husband as did her daughter in law, Arwa. Both these female heads of state were so respected that the Friday sermon in mosques were proclaimed in their names. Hidden, these women were not. The ISIL narrative of women flies in the face of Muslim history, the honour that Allah has conferred on women, and insults such great Muslim women who were pioneers in all walks of life.
ISIS claim to be calling for women’s liberation but do not be fooled – this is no liberation. This is subjugation and an abuse of women’s independence and authority that God has bestowed on women to be used serving humanity. Freedom is an essential core of Islam; ISIS only ever seem to deny it. Respect for life is a sacrosanct teaching of the Qur’an, yet ISIS only seem to cheapen it. Peace is what the Qur’an calls for again and again; yet ISIS only ever seek war and bloodshed. Some of the women who call you to ISIS are the same women who glorify the deaths of Muslims and non-Muslims and who call for the bloodshed of children in our country here in the UK.
Khan reminds the readers there is no easy way out of the Islamic State. On February 3, The Japan Times spoke to one man who managed to escape the Islamic State. He recounted “the indiscriminate killing, the abuse of female recruits, the discomfort of a life where walls were optional and meals were little more than bread and cheese or oil.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the group killed over “120 of its member in the past six months.” Ghaith, who only provided one name out of fear of the group finding him, said he escaped by surrendering to Syrian soldiers. Another man, Ali, escaped after the group made him a courier:
After four courier trips in three weeks, he left the group in disgust. On one trip to Tunisia, he simply stayed.
He described his journey while sitting in a public park in Tunis, dropping his voice low if anyone approached. When a man sat near him, he moved to the other side of the park.
“I feel like I was a terrorist, I was shocked by what I did,” Ali said. He had a piece of advice for would-be jihadis: “Go have a drink. Don’t pray. It’s not Islam. Don’t give your life up for nothing.”
Khan ends her letter with a plea to young girls not to destroy their lives. She also asked them to join the #MakingAStand campaign, which condemns the Islamic State.
“We are making a stand for peace, mercy, compassion and respect for others,” she requests. “And we are making a stand against ISIS who instead, calls for bloodshed, death destruction and rape. I hope you join our call over theirs.”