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For the past few months Myron Love and I have been taking turns writing about the emergence of a new group known as the Winnipeg Friends of Israel.

While the original purpose behind the formation of the group seems to have been to educate supporters of Israel how to make the case for Israel, the group has now also taken on a very interesting role as a forum for lectures by a diverse group of individuals.
One of the first of those lecturers was Kasim Hafeez, the former Muslim who was once highly critical of Israel but who is now a staunch advocate for Israel. Hafeez’s series of talks were so well received that they inspired the two individuals who are primarily responsible for the formation of the Winnipeg Friends of Israel, Yolanda Papini-Pollock and her husband, Bradley Pollock, to ask other individuals to offer similarly interesting talks.
Thus, in addition to Hafeez’s lectures, we have also enjoyed presentations given by two representatives of CIJA – Steve McDonald and Martin Sampson (Sampson’s presentation is the subject of an article elsewhere in this issue by Myron Love); a presentation by Nafia Naso on the plight of the Yazidi community in Iraq (with a follow-up discussion how individuals can help the Yazidis); a talk by David Matas about Israel’s relationship with the UN Human Rights Tribunal; and most recently, a very informative lecture by Professor Tami Jacoby of the University of Manitoba’s Department of Political Studies about “jihadi brides”.
While there is a core group of individuals who have been attending most, if not all of the sessions thus far (including this writer), there are no requirements that would preclude anyone from attending at any time. For information about the Winnipeg Friends of Israel, I suggest you refer to the group’s website:

Tami Jacoby is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts, specializing in International Relations, with particular interests, according to the Arts Faculty’s website, in “Security Studies; Middle East and Gender; Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Politics of Protest”. She says that she has studied the subject of “women and war” for more than 20 years. In trying to understand what would motivate a 15 or 16 year-old girl (the typical age of ISIS’s female recruits) to abandon her home – generally in Western Europe, for the sake of an unknown future in a war zone, Jacoby said that she has tried “to put herself in the shoes of others.”
On Wednesday, May 13 Jacoby spoke to about 20 people about the subject of “jihadi brides” – the phenomenon of Western girls going to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. According to Jacoby, approximately 500 young women have become “jihadi brides”.
A “jihadi bride”, she explained, is someone who has gone to Syria with the intention of marrying an ISIS fighter. Her avowed purpose in doing so would be to produce children “to populate the new state under ISIS control.”
“The vision of ISIS depends upon women acting as housewives and community leaders,” Jacoby noted. Since ISIS has established control over such a large part of Syria and Iraq, it has been responsible for providing the essential services that any government might be expected to provide, and women play a role in providing certain welfare services, she explained.

The crisis of Islam in the 21st Century
In explaining the rise of ISIS from a relatively unknown group to an apparently powerful force in such a short period of time, Jacoby had to give our group a brief overview of the history of Islam, going back to its very formation in the 7th Century.
Following Mohammed’s death in 638 the Muslim world split over who should be his successor. The majority group, which later came to be identified as “Sunni” held that Abu Bakr, who was Mohammed’s father-in-law, should be the leader. Another group, which came to be known as “Shia”, held that the line of succession should go through Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali. For Sunnis the leader became known as the “Caliph” and the lands under Sunni control became known as the “Caliphate”. The much smaller area under Shia control was under the supervision of “ayatollahs”, as in Iran.
Jacoby did go into some detail explaining how the schism between Sunni and Shia has widened to the point where the two groups are now often battling each other throughout the Middle East. Suffice to say though that Sunnis comprise by far the majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.

The emergence of ISIS
The catalyst for the emergence of the various extremist Sunni groups in recent years was the first Gulf War, in 1991. Jacoby noted, however, that the most prominent of those extremist groups, Al Qaeda, for instance, was “never about re-creating a caliphate” – unlike ISIS, which has made that its primary goal.
What led to the rise of Islamic extremism in the latter part of the 20th Century?
According to Jacoby, there were four main reasons:
1.    The American military presence in the Middle East
2.    Hostility to Western culture
3.    The schism between Sunni and Shia
4.    Hostility to secular national regimes that were in power in various Arab countries
But what about the notion of re-establishing a caliphate? Where did that come from?
The caliphate actually ended with the demise of the Ottoman Empire in 1924. Even prior to its dissolution, however, (according to other information I was able to glean about the end of the Ottoman Empire), the “sultans” of that empire, who were also the caliphs, had been primarily interested in their roles as “civil” authorities. The Ottoman Empire was a polyglot of different ethnic groups and allowed relative freedom among those groups. In the 1800s, for instance, homosexuality was even decriminalized in the Ottoman Empire. (Compare that with the brutally repressive attitudes of Islamists toward homosexuals nowadays.)
But, with the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the dissolution of any clear Muslim authority figure, various secular movements arose within the Arab world, including “Arab socialism” and “pan-Arab nationalism”. The failures of those movements, along with the decolonization of the Arab world, were also pivotal factors in the eventual emergence of an extremist form of Islam.
A key development came with the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928. Although one of the principle objectives of the Brotherhood was to assert the role of Shariya law in Muslim society with a concomitant “strengthening of faith” in Muslim communities, the Brotherhood also saw itself as a welfare organization within Muslim societies – thus providing a model for ISIS.
Since the First Gulf War “various offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood have developed more violent tendencies”, Jacoby noted. It was with the Second Gulf War and the overthrow of the Sadaam Hussein regime, however, that some of those disparate groups have been able to coalesce into what is now ISIS.
Following the American invasion of Iraq, various members of the Baath party there, along with former Iraqi military personnel, linked up with Al Qaeda cells to form a deadly force which eventually morphed into ISIS. According to Jacoby, the remnants of the Baath party and the Iraqi army that have since become key components of ISIS were motivated primarily  by money rather than any religious zealotry.
Whatever the case may be, with the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq and the subsequent descent of Syria into complete and utter chaos, there was a gaping void of authority that ISIS was able to fill.

What would motivate a young woman to join ISIS?
With the background given by Jacoby as to how ISIS came into being, she proceeded to launch into an explanation how the recruitment of women became a primary goal of ISIS.
“Before realizing that they would be able to govern the territories they conquered,” Jacoby maintained, “ISIS saw no need for women.” That atitude has changed considerabl in the past year.
In January of this year for instance, a document entitled “Women in the Islamic State: Manifesto and Case Study” was actually released by a branch of ISIS. According to an organization which has studied that manifesto, “The text, which was uploaded by the all-female Al-Khanssaa Brigade’s media wing onto a jihadist forum used by IS, was widely distributed among its Arabic-speaking supporters.”
What are some of the primary components of that manifesto?
According to Jacoby, they include “an appeal to Muslim women’s commitment to the ‘ummah’ (the Muslim community as a whole), telling women to come join ISIS for Islam”; “a vision of women as pious and protected”; and the need for Muslim “women to recruit other women.”
In fact, ISIS now has two all-female battalions. In addition to the aforesaid Al-Khanssaa Brigade, there is also the Umm al-Rayan battalion. According to different sources on the internet, however, the real purpose of these battalions is to “expose male activists who disguise in women’s clothing to avoid detention when stopping at the ISIS checkpoints.”
With that in mind, what might be said about the psychological make-up of a typical young woman who would be lured into joining ISIS?
Here is what Jacoby surmised. (Since there are almost no first-hand accounts of interviews with women who have joined ISIS, Jacoby admitted that much of her analysis is based upon conjecture):
To begin with, these women have the same goals as Muslim men: “Continuity and belonging”.
But, beyond those fairly amorphous terms that might fit anyone who could conceivably be drawn into joining a militant group, what particular characteristics would a young woman thinking of joining ISIS exhibit?
Jacoby offered three plausible explanations, each of which is fascinating in its own right.
The first explanation is that these young women are “victims”. Most of these young women are 15 or 16, Jacoby suggested, coming from a state of “powerlessness”. They are largely recruited “online the same way” young women are often victimized by “pedophiles” or “sexual predators”, she posited.
Their victimizers “build a secret relationship with the girls, slowly establishing trust” with these vulnerable young women.
In some cases, the women may be “high achievers who think they can make a difference.” Whatever the case may be, Jacoby insisted, the men who prey on these vulnerable young Muslim women are nothing more than “human traffickers”.
The women are told that they can serve a noble and higher purpose by coming to Syria and marrying ISIS warriors, thus enticing them with the allure of “marriage, commitment and piety”. They are told they will play an “important role in the history of Islam,” Jacoby suggested.
As well, since women in Islamic society are generally marginalized to begin with, these ISIS recruiters can work on a young woman’s sense of marginalization – something that is may resonate particularly withv any young woman who already finds herself in an unhappy home situation.
Finally, a typical 15 or 16-year-old might find life “boring or monotonous.” There is a certain excitement inherent in the notion of going to Syria to join ISIS.
Jacoby noted the efforts of other Muslims to counteract the pernicious attempts by these online ISIS “traffickers”, citing the work of Shaheena Sidiqui in Winnipeg, for instance, as someone who has been laboring intensively to neutralize the appeal of ISIS to young Muslims.

A second explanation for the appeal of ISIS recruiters online is the notion of women as “warriors”. In this explanation, Jacoby noted, the appeal being made to women “is no different than to men. It’s raging against the U.S. and the West.”
Women have “always been active in revolutionary movements,” Jacoby said. There’s nothing particularly unique about ISIS’s attempting to recruit women in this regard.

Jacoby’s third and final explanation for the lure of ISIS for young Western women is also the most fascinating - and, she admits, the most contentious. (Jacoby didn’t say that she finds any one explanation more plausible than another. Remember, these are all theories, since there are no interviews yet available with women who have gone to join ISIS.)
This explanation is that what these young women are doing is asserting their “feminism” – in the same way that women have moved into combat roles within the Israeli and American armed forces. These women, thus, are “asserting their right to fight”. In this case though, it’s fighting “for the other side”, Jacoby pointed out.
“Jihadi brides may be challenging the gender hierarchy of societies in which they live – ‘I wonder whether I can enter the battlefield’,” these women must be saying to themselves.
Whatever the case may be – whether these women see themselves as “victims”, “warriors”, or what surely must be a far-fetched explanation, as “feminists”, they are terribly naïve about what awaits them if they do make it to Syria. They are being “brought in to stabilize the male population,” Jacoby observed. Their role is as breeders, subservient to the men they are destined to be paired with.
Yet, we shouldn’t underestimate for one moment the appeal that Islam has for so many young Muslims by suggesting they are so terribly marginalized and can only find true fulfillment by joining ISIS. In time, no doubt, we will find out quite a bit more about some of the individuals who have made their way to Syria. In the meantime Tami Jacoby offered a fascinating overview of what forces may be at play in the minds of young women who have been succumbing to those pernicious ISIS recruiters.

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