This week, we’re going to look at two short but very different reads. The first one under discussion is a new Islamic State recruitment manifesto, translated in late February by the Quillam Foundation. This manifesto is aimed at Arabic women living in the Gulf, not English-speaking Western women, which is one of the reasons why it has been passing under the radar for a while.
The second book is a completely different and definitely more hopeful read from the AnonLit team, The Parade With The Drums. We have previously featured an interview with AnonLit about the book’s publication. It’s a children’s book centred around Occupy Wall Street, but is still general enough to introduce children to the concepts of free speech, the right to assemble and lawful civil disobedience.
Women of the Islamic State
This 40-page document was translated and analyzed by the Quillam Foundation. Originally posted in forums used by ISIS, its target is, as mentioned above, Arabic women living in the Gulf, and not Western, non-Muslim women.
The manifesto was authored by the Al-Khanssaa Brigade, the women’s media arm of ISIS. It deals with issues specific to women, like the role of women in a Muslim state, the problems with the “Western programme” and feminism, and a comparison between life in the Caliphate and life in Saudi Arabia.
From my definitely non-expert, non-Muslim, non-Gulf point of view, this manifesto makes for interesting reading nonetheless. The manifesto rejects the view that women who follow Shariah law are “backwards” and uncivilized; instead, it elevates the religious Muslim life, taking the position that such a life is the only one worth living. In the place of Western education and liberation of women, the author(s) approve of what is “divinely ordained” in Sharia law; in other words, women must stay in the home to raise their families.
It must be noted that the manifesto does not necessarily condone ignorance: “It is the harmonious way for her to live and interact amidst her sons and her people, to bring up and educate, protect and care for the next generation to come. She cannot fulfil this role if she is illiterate and ignorant, though. Hence, Islam does not ordain the forbidding of education or the blocking of culture from women.” It’s also interesting that it doesn’t ban the kinds of knowledge that are necessary for health and the basic structure of society, like medicine and building.
The comparison between life in ISIS-controlled territory and in Saudi Arabia is probably the most interesting part of the document. Against an obviously idealized life in Mosul and Raqqa, where women are separated from men and are, according to the document, taken care of in respect of their position in life (there are fascinating ideas here about the nature of poverty and social justice!), they compare women in Saudi Arabia and how they face an unfair justice system, skewing media images, the possibility to learn in Western universities among men and Christians, and even (gasp!) “a way … to express themselves, publish their words in the despicable press, as writers.”
The document interestingly constantly elevates women, despite asking them to happily accept one specific kind of life devoid of choice. There’s an interesting comparison with TV and movie directors that strikes me as a strange use of a Western archetype to support a totally anti-Western document:
It is always preferable for a woman to remain hidden and veiled, to maintain society from behind this veil. This, which is always the most difficult role, is akin to that of a director, the most important person in a media production, who is behind the scenes organising.
I think this is a fascinating document that you need to read for yourself, if only to understand a little more about how IS recruits supporters not only from Western countries but also from Muslim cultures.
The Parade With The Drums
On a completely different note, I also took a few minutes to read through the first book by Anonymous Publications, a children’s book titled The Parade With The Drums.
This beautiful, high-quality children’s title is gorgeously illustrated and introduces children to the reasons and values behind protest and free speech.
Loosely based on Occupy Wall Street, the book tells the story of Sam, who one night hears a parade with drums outside. With courage and curiosity, he heads outside to ask people what they are doing there. He meets protesters with drums, guitars, signs and food, and even a police officer and a horse.
One thing I appreciated about the book is that it encourages independent inquiry. Sam goes out on his own and asks questions; he doesn’t wait for his mother to take him to the parade (even though she eventually makes it there with him). The book highlights interdependence (people protect each other and need each other) and the need for people’s voices to be heard.
I received two copies and gave one away to a friend with a toddler; I hope that it encourages him to ask questions, investigate injustices and exercise his right to free speech and peaceful assembly.