"Women Warriors for Allah brings the Western women of the jihad to life. It describes their everyday life and, in the process, undermines preconceptions based on media sound bites and prejudice. . . . The reality is more complex and interesting and resists simplistic description. But only after we learn to understand these young people set on destroying Western society will we be able effectively to defuse the real threat they pose."—from the Foreword, by Marc SagemanWhere are the women of jihad? Though there have been female terrorists since the advent of nonstate terrorism, women appear to be all but absent from today's global Islamist terrorist movement. In most accounts of al Qaeda and its affiliated networks, Muslim women are cast either as pacifist nurturers who steer their husbands, sons, and brothers away from violence or as passive bystanders who play a mere supporting role in networks run by radical men.
In Women Warriors for Allah, Dutch investigative journalists Janny Groen and Annieke Kranenberg offer an indispensable corrective to these conventional views. Their study is based on two years of extensive interviews with young Muslim women associated with the so-called Hofstad network, the jihadist group responsible for the shocking murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004. Far from being nonviolent nurturers or passive supporters, the Hofstad network's female members were confident, well-educated women who played an active part in the group's activities—and, the authors find, often held more radical views than their male counterparts.
Women Warriors for Allah gives voice to these women and provides a unique window onto the complex nature of their involvement with the Hoftstad group. In addition to deepening our understanding of the ways gender shapes Islamist terrorism, Groen and Kranenberg's ground-level narrative offers insight into the social dynamics of the terrorist network, explains the processes through which young Muslims in one of Europe's most tolerant societies became radicalized, and traces the network's evolution following the arrest and imprisonment of its key members.
Janny Groen and Annieke Kranenberg are reporters for the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. Robert Naborn is director of the Dutch Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
A forensic psychiatrist and counterterrorism consultant, Marc Sageman is author of the bestselling Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad, both also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.