Friday, August 27, 2004

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Islamist women’s group has begun an Internet magazine aimed at recruiting Arab women to fight holy wars against non-Muslims.

The Al-Khansaa magazine, begun about a week ago and expected to appear monthly, also provides fitness tips for female “jihadis,” or holy warriors, information on treating injuries and advice on raising children to fight nonbelievers.

The magazine, appearing on several extremist Islamic Web sites, claims to have been started “at the initiative” of two slain al Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Moqrin and Issa Saad Mohammed bin Oushan.

In June, security forces killed al-Moqrin, who was believed to be al Qaeda’s chief in the Arabian Peninsula. Oushan, who was killed in July, and al-Moqrin were among Saudi Arabia’s 26 most-wanted militants.

The magazine said it was produced by the “women’s media center” in Saudi Arabia, an Islamic nation where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was born and Islam’s two holiest shrines are located.

Cairo-based Islamic expert Mohamed Salah heaped scorn on the 22-page magazine, describing it as a “media stunt [by militants] to show their enemies that they can mobilize everyone, including women.”

“What is new here is the use of the medium of the Internet to recruit women,” he added.

Al-Khansaa, the periodical’s title, was the name of a revered Arab poet who converted to Islam during the time of the 7th century Prophet Muhammad.

She later became associated with Muhammad’s close acquaintances and was known for eulogies written for her brother, a fighter in pre-Islamic days. Al-Khansaa also encouraged her four sons to take part in jihad to spread Islam. Her sons died in battle.

An unsigned magazine editorial says female Islamists “have set our lines next to our men to support them … raise their children and be prepared. May God elevate us to martyrs.”

“We will stand covered in our veils and abayas, with our weapons in our hands and our children in our arms,” it added. “The blood of our husbands and the limbs of our children are an offering to God.”

Women raising children, it says, must understand their “main mission is to present lions to the battlefield.”

Saudi journalist Saeed al-Sereihy condemned the magazine in an article published in the daily Okaz, saying its “rhetoric takes a very dangerous turn when it addresses women in light of their educational role and capacity to influence children’s upbringing.”

Evan Kohlmann, a Washington-based counterterrorism expert, said the magazine appeared linked to Islamic extremists who “know about religion and fighting, but [they are] not necessarily people who have an effect over al Qaeda.”

Its first issue includes tales of famous women fighters and criticism of calls for improved women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, a conservative kingdom where women have far fewer freedoms and rights than men.

The magazine says even though jihad, in terms of actual fighting, is primarily a man’s duty, “women can fight without the permission of their husband or guardian since it would be a duty, and duties do not require consent.”

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