Sociologist Hasna Hussein recently published an op-ed in Libération discussing Salafism’s dangerous presence in young women’s literature.
In June, President Macron spoke before the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) and promised to fight Daech’s propaganda and hate speech “step by step on theological grounds.” The radical jihadist ideology attracts more and more young people, notably women. The percentage of those radicalized is estimated to be nearly 27%, according to the Coordination unit of the fight against terrorism’s (Uclat) most recent statistics. According to the same source, 17% of radicalized women are minors and 35% are converts. How can young women be seduced by a violent ideology that is also sexist and misogynist? How can girls, often born and raised in France, reject an “egalitarian” system and its rights and protections?
Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in Paris is known for its Islamic literature bookstores with Salafist leanings. These stores add an “Islamic label” to fashion, perfumeries, and eating spots. One can find shelves dedicated to Islamic women’s literature, with books that respect the color codes assigned to the fairer sex: pink, red, fuchsia and pastel.
The covers are invariably covered with flowers (often roses) or even illustrations of veiled female silhouettes. The titles announce their contents: Secrets of the hijab: the woman’s veil and clothing in Islam; Working hand in hand for your success my dear husband; and Housewife: rediscover your home.
These works are often translated from Arabic, invoking an image of the “Muslim woman,” always “veiled,” “pious,” a good wife and exemplary mother: “Certain religious women neglect the act of serving their husbands. This woman does not take care of his needs, such as feeding him, washing his clothing, etc. She neither worries about keeping her house clean, nor her own cleanliness…All this for a single reason: her carelessness and laziness…It’s an obligatory duty according to the Most Just opinion.” This book, entitled Collection of fatwas concerning women, contains more than 535 fatwas that instruct women how to act in daily life. The majority of books are edited in France by Al Madina or Dar al-Muslim, or in Belgium by Al-Hadith.
This is what Daech preaches, before convincing women to adhere to its radical violent ideology. The jihadist woman is conceived of as “chosen,” “pious,” and a “model” of devotion (to her jihadist husband). The promotion of this ultra-patriarchal system is a characteristic of said-Caliphate. Women must completely obey their husbands; they must be content with their role as spouse and mother and must devote themselves to the education and rearing of “future jihadists.” Certain female jihadists–particularly those that participate in disseminating propaganda–go even further in urging their counterparts to accept polygamy, or “legitimizing” sexual slavery, two common practices in the so-called Caliphate.
These observations lend credence to those that notice a number of ideological similarities between “quietist” Salafism and jihadist Salafism. It is important to counter these violent, radical ideologies’ manipulations. Yet the security approach to fighting terrorism is insufficient. It is important to attack the ideological base of the jihadist movement. The Muslim community’s authorities and representatives should become more directly involved in countering these messages, because these threats violate the rights of children and gender equality, which are fundamental Republican principles.