ROME — Al Qaeda has introduced an online women’s magazine with articles including dietary advice for suicide bombers and tips on how to “dominate the passions” before blowing yourself up, according to Italy’s SISDE secret service.
SISDE analysts disclosed the existence of Al Khansa, the unusual monthly Internet publication for female militants that is hosted by several Islamist Web sites, in the Italian spy service’s quarterly review Gnosis.
Khansa is a popular name for Arab women, recalling a 7th century female poet, Tumadir bint Amr, who was known by the sobriquet of Al Khansa — meaning “gazelle” or “snub-nosed” — because of her beauty and exquisite, petite nose.
She became “the historic symbol of the woman warrior, and, at the same time, of all the mothers of the martyrs,” according to SISDE, which is responsible for preventing terrorist reprisals against Italy’s deployment of troops in Iraq.
“If you want to read up on the latest model of hijab [veil] or abaija [tunic], don’t let yourself be taken in by the rosy image on the front of Al Khansa,” the newspaper La Stampa of Turin quoted one SISDE analyst as saying.
“Among the Web pages of this newly born female review in Arabic, you won’t find the usual fashion features that fill the pages of ladies’ magazines the world over, except for a section dedicated to fitness with advice on diet and training to follow so as to acquire not a catwalk waistline, but martyrdom in the holy war.”
With its bizarre format including articles on “breathing gymnastics to conquer the passions,” evidently essential knowledge for those tempted to have a final fling before strapping on an explosive-laden corset, Al Khansa could indicate that al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has made a strategic choice in favor of “women’s emancipation through martyrdom,” according to the Gnosis report.
“This is a turning point in the project planning of international terrorist networks, which until now, unlike in the Palestinian intifada or in Chechen nationalist extremism, were limited to the exclusive employment of men in operations,” the SISDE analysts said.
But, the Italian spy review said, it is not clear whether al Qaeda’s call to arms for women represents “female emancipation,” or rather “a tactic to involve all components of the [Islamic community] in the global jihad.”
The enhanced role for women evidently reflects a sense of urgency to drive foreign forces from Islamic territory, Gnosis concluded. It noted that as recently as May 2003, the influential Egyptian sheik Yussuf al-Qaradawi issued an edict blessing “aspiring [female] kamikazes for use in the interests of the holy war, freeing them of the duty of modesty and public invisibility.”
An aspiring female martyr, or “mujaheda,” must learn the Koran by heart, have basic first aid training [and] be able to prepare an emergency kit “in which natural honey and water from the Zemzem spring at Mecca are indispensable since they flow directly from Paradise,” Al Khansa advised.
A female militant must also “be content with what is strictly necessary, sending televisions and air conditioners to be burned.” She should offer her own money for the cause and know how to shoot and “how to carry munitions on her shoulder,” the Web site said.
“This is obviously an ‘emancipation’ that is light-years distant from what the West means” by the word, the SISDE essay said.
“The portrait of the new heroine is of a woman paladin suspended between tradition and renewal, capable of protecting the family and the community against both outside aggression and the moral degeneration that insinuates its way inside society dominated by the ‘corrupt’ Saudi royal family.”
Al Qaeda’s concept of emancipation does not extend to “the promiscuity of Arab television stations,” SISDE’s analysis added. Al Khansa considers “as a form of prostitution the presence of female announcers without burqas on the Saudi television network Al-Ekhbariya.”
In Al Khansa, the theorists of al Qaeda offer women “a path to reach freedom that would be denied in every other way — using the dominion of religion to oppose the dominion of men,” the Italian secret service report said.