The women-extremism nexus

The recent incident of terror committed by woman at Karachi University is not unprecedented. Multiple cases of similar acts have been witnessed in Pakistan’s history involving women participants. If we try to delve into the historical records, we will find a long list of attacks primarily committed by women extremists. It shows that women have always been at the cutting edge either by facilitating or by actively involving themselves in such criminal behaviour.

But the dilemma here in Pakistan is that the security organizations have overlooked the role played by women in such violent and extremist initiatives by considering them anomalous while focusing solely on male radicals. In this way they are paving the way for this kind of behavior to become a norm.

Closer examination of the matter suggests that on one hand women’s radicalization turns out to be beneficial to the recruiting organizations. While on the other hand women perceive it as a panacea to the multidimensional sufferings they face under the prevailing socio-political order.

It is a very demanding task to instill in such mature minds a counter-narrative and motivate them to substantiate it. So, the conundrum that how terrorists carry out the skillful management of educated minds is still waiting to be solved.

The most effective and long-lasting benefit terrorist organizations may get out of women recruits is their role as socializing agents for their children and other family members by instilling in them the spirit and passion required by the terrorist organizations to substantiate their agenda. Young and innocent minds are injected with poisonous and hateful ideologies against the state or system which these rebels counter. And this process starts from childhood when young minds are delicate and could easily be moulded.

It is also worth acknowledgement that women are relatively less likely to be susceptible of being caught by the security officials while they are in the process of suicide bombing or any other such act, which brings a considerable benefit to the extremist organizations at a relatively lower cost. This is particularly true in the case of Pakistani society owing to its respect for Islamic dress like burqa which goes unchecked by the security officials. Owing to these and other benefits conferred from the part of women terrorist organizations are motivated to recruit them as participants.

Participation of women in these organizations could partly be attributed to the society’s denial of empowerment which ends up in releasing the heat of anger through violent behaviour. This view is also shared by the prominent researcher in the field of terrorism, D. Mia Bloom, in her famous book Bombshell: Women and Terrorism. According to her, terrorism is the tool of the oppressed against the powerful for their sufferings.

A fnother widely held belief is that the increasing involvement of women in extremist organizations is largely because of their intent to take revenge in case they have witnessed the murder or other suffering of their beloved ones, including parents and other close relatives.

But the current scenario is depicting neither of the above narratives in that, a multitude of such cases witnessed today assert that most of the violent acts are committed by women who are highly educated and who have no record of marginalization and poor treatment. Neither have their family members been killed or tortured in the hands of state or security officials. This trend could partly be attributed to the notion that these women were inspired from the ideologies of the extremist organizations, started following them and went to the extent of sacrificing their own lives as well as other people around them. The recent incident at Karachi University provides a good example where an educated woman, pursuing an MPhil degree, and having a normal lifestyle, blew herself up along with four other innocent people.

A similar incident was witnessed in 2015 in Lahore where a woman named Noreen Laghari was arrested prior to her suicide attack attempt. She was found to be a follower of the violent extremist organization, Daulat e Islamia. Noreen Laghari was pursuing her MBBS and belonged to an educated family, her father being a professor at a well-known university.

The departure of Bushra Cheema with her four children to Syria to join ISIS in 2016 is not hidden from anyone where she was manipulated in the name of religion. There are a lot of such women like Bushra who could easily be susceptible to such tactics driven by terrorist groups.

It is a very demanding task to instill in such mature minds a counter-narrative and motivate them to substantiate it. So, the conundrum that how terrorists carry out the skillful management of educated minds is still waiting to be solved.

Source: The women-extremism nexus - Pakistan Today 


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