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From Driving Cars to Leading Al Qaeda - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Haylah al Qassir is the subject of much discussion after the Al Qaeda organization admitted that she was one of the most active elements in the areas of preaching and propaganda, funding and recruitment. The organization revealed the secret of this Saudi woman, whose identity remained hidden by the Saudi security authorities for three months, as her arrest was announced in an [Al Qaeda] audio recording a few days ago. In the recording, the organization calls for its members to carry out crimes such as kidnapping princes, assassinating state officials and bombing buildings until Haylah al Qassir is released. Therefore, al Qassir must be an important element to the organization if it is inciting war for the sake of her release.

Many people have written about the phenomenon of women in Al Qaeda and their various roles. This Haylah is not the only Saudi woman [to be part of Al Qaeda] as she was preceded by many others. The number of [Al Qaeda] women seems to be increasing on the battlefields and behind the scenes where they provide logistical support. Despite that it is an organization representing the highest levels of religious and social extremism, Al Qaeda is fascinating not only in terms of its ability to recruit the young and the old, the educated and uneducated, the rich and the poor and people from various social categories; it is also fascinating in terms of flexibility, the development of its thinking and the way this is implemented within the organization. This is evident in its acknowledgment of the importance of women as significant and active members.

The fascinating paradox is that the most extremist and hard-line organizations in the world accept women as members, commanders and inspiring leaders. In these organizations, women assume positions that deal with the internet, fundraising and fieldwork accompanied by their men on the battlefield. In comparison however, our civil societies that are supposed to be less extreme and more tolerant, are preventing women from thriving.

If a woman like Haylah, or Wafa al Shahri, or Umm Osama and other Saudi women before her who worked in the most dangerous profession on earth i.e. that of terrorist activity, are fascinating examples then how can it be that ordinary women who respect the law are still deprived of their basic rights such as driving a car or working in a retail outlet and are not considered people who are responsible for themselves but as subordinates?

Another aspect that is worth mentioning in the case of Haylah al Qassir is the success of Al Qaeda’s infiltration. This terrorist organization’s ability to infiltrate the closed society of Saudi women and its infiltration of the centre of Saudi provinces reveals that despite the arrests and the hunts for hundreds of Al Qaeda elements, the organization is still active and is spreading like cancer. Unfortunately, the consecutive successes achieved by the security apparatus have not hidden the fact that intellectual work has failed in its war against the terrorist organization.

At this point we must ask who inspired this woman, who did she listen to and which ideology attracted her? In the past, we used to say that people should be concerned about their sons but now the message is: look out for your women, or rather, look out for yourselves!

After all these bloody years, extremist thinking is still spreading in our region and it is strong on all levels. Some people are apprehensive about giving advice out of fear that they would be accused of Takfir [apostasy] and they are even apprehensive about touching on the activities that are carried out under the guise of religion, which are prevalent and come under various pretexts. The new Al Qaeda member, Haylah al Qassir, who is 47 years old, used to lecture women as a preacher and was raising funds from among them on the pretext of assisting orphans and the poor and would then send the money to terrorist groups in Yemen.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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