But Where Are All the Women? Examining the Often Overlooked Role of Women in and against Islamist Extremism
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Over the past several decades, Islamist extremism has become an omnipresent topic in discussions of global politics, national security, and international relations. However, women have been conspicuously absent from such discourse. Although women play a unique and profound role in both the perpetuation and opposition of Islamist extremist movements, female voices are consistently overlooked and neglected in both the mainstream media and academic scholarship. This dearth of women’s perspectives is particularly appalling considering that women are often the population segment most intensely affected when religious extremism takes hold in a society. When women are excluded from the conversation and denied a seat at the table, an important component of the discourse is lost. Because women often serve as the backbone of the family and, by extension, society, they are likely to be a key factor in countering Islamic extremism and must, therefore, be an integral part of the conversation in order to find a solution.Although political theorists at one time believed that religion was on the decline as a global political force, the consensus amongst contemporary scholars is quite the contrary—rather than fading into obscurity, religion has emerged as a powerful influence in the wake of increasing modernization and globalization. Islam, as the world’s second largest religion, is no exception to this trend. An Islamic resurgence began with intellectuals in the first half of the 20th century and by the 1970s had become politically influential globally. This revival of Islam in the public sphere led to Muslims the world over demanding regimes that favored Islamic law and morality. Regrettably, this reemergence of religion in public life and international politics has given rise to an increase in religious extremist groups and movements, which include many Islamist and radical Muslim campaigns. Women play a variety of roles in extremist organizations including that of the victim, supporter, dissident, or active participant. This study will attempt to examine the role of women in modern Islamist extremist movements. I will analyze the contributions of women in the formation and maintenance of such movements and the motivations of women who support or join. Additionally, I will investigate current efforts and tactics to hinder Islamist extremism, and the ways in which feminism and women’s empowerment can be mobilized to counter Islamist extremism.
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