Al Qaeda and the United States military do share one thing in common: the debate to allow women in combat.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s second in command, stated in April that the terrorist group does not have women in its ranks and that the women’s role should be restricted to domestic work and nurturing children. This raised an outcry from women eager to fight and who believe their right to fight are being denied.
The director of the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors Internet sites that cater to more militant factions said:
Women were very disappointed because what al-Zawahiri said is not what’s happening today in the Middle East, especially in Iraq or Palestinian groups. Suicide operations are being carried out by women, who play an important role in jihad.
Experts indicate that there are no women in Osama bin Laden’s inner decision-making core group, but outside that group there are many offshoots where women may play important roles. In a bleak variation of starting on the bottom rung, women are increasingly serving as suicide bombers. In Iraq since the 2003 invasion, women have been responsible for at least 20 attempted suicide bombings and the US military has said in the past year they have captured al Qaeda members suspected of being trained to use suicide belts. Though al Qaeda is an all-boys club, women are signing up other places. To find out where, read more.
Other groups in the Middle East have come to terms with the fact that women soldiers should be counted among their ranks. Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, has an open policy when it comes to utilizing women soldiers. Huda Naim, a women’s leader in Hamas said: “A lot of girls I speak to . . . Want to carry weapons. We don’t have a special militant wing for women . . . But that doesn’t mean we strip women of the right to go to jihad.”
The Internet is giving women anxious to serve, a voice. One said, "How many times have I wished I were a man . . . When Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri said there are no women in al Qaeda, he saddened and hurt me. I felt that my heart was about to explode in my chest. . . . I am powerless." Does it stand to reason that if women are compelled to serve in the military, they would feel the same ideological pull to serve in organizations like al Qaeda and Hamas? Should they be allowed to serve?