A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Questioning the Tunisian "Sexual Jihad" in Syria Story

You've probably already seen the stories, all over the media, claiming that Tunisian Islamist women are traveling to Syria to wage "sexual jihad" by providing comfort to jihadi fighters in Syria. Even the Tunisian Interior Minister has confirmed the story, saying his Ministry is blocking such travel. But Sana Saeed questions the bona fides of the whole story:

Unfortunately for what seems to be that blind spot people have when it comes to stories on Muslims and sex, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of Tunisian female warriors going to fight a holy sex war.
Sucks, I know.
Despite the lack of clear evidence of a sex war pandemic, this hasn’t stopped news media outlets all over the world from grabbing, expanding, and running with this story.
She links the story to earlier wild stories about fatwas on sexual issues and notes that the evidence remains scanty and in some cases denied by those being quoted:
In December, Lebanese news channel Al Jadeed reported that hardline and popular Salafi scholar Shaykh Mohamad Al Arefe, a loud and inciting opponent of the Syrian regime, had issued a fatwa (a non-binding religious opinion) allowing the gang rape of non-Sunni Syrian women by rebels. Not only did the scholar vehemently deny expressing any such opinion, on Twitter and in later sermons (both links in Arabic), but the story was debunked by the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah.
On March 27, 2012, the Pan-Arab news site Al Hayat, published a piece discussing the apparent crisis of young Tunisian girls and what was being referred to as “Sexual Jihad.” It claimed that the impetus behind this was another fatwa from Al Arefe, in which he urged young women to go in engage in the so-called sexual Jihad by offering themselves to the rebels. There was, however, no proof of this fatwa and those close to Al Arefe also thoroughly denied the cleric had ever made such a ridiculous statement.
Usually most of these stories that seem to have no clear  sourcing are not endorsed by the country in question's Interior Minister, admittedly, but Saeed's takedown of the story seems to have some solid points.


Anonymous said...

This is how the story played out, at least on one EGYPTIAN TV channel, the private Dream II: Young women facing away from the camera...seemingly a clip from Tunisian TV, tell their story of a recruiter [dressed as a preacher]trying to lure them to Syria for this purpose.

They never got there, one mother took her daughter's passport, etc. The security services stepped in. At least one girl was underage.

This was followed by a well-known "mainstream" Tunisian cleric preaching a condemnation of the whole thing as prostitution and warning girls and their families about the scheme....this, too, is on video.

This is but one of the "jihadis and sex" stories making the rounds. Raping female hostages is one, one that HAS been verified is the uptick in underage marriage among poor girls in the refugee camps or being lured into jobs that turn out to be prostitution.

One version has suicide bombers given "a taste of heaven" here on earth before meeting the "hur" in paradise through a marriage to a young virgin who knows [or her family knows] that he won't be around for long.

I would doubt if 'Uraifi would support this idea. It has been my impression that he is neanderthal but not stupid. On a recent TV Q&A that also covered this subject of life in the camps, he clarified that in those refugee camps where sometimes more than one family is squeezed into the one tent, it does NOT create an obligation for the young men and women of the families to marry each other. The only thing all the residents should do is be careful about modesty and covering.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Thanks for the added perspective.