By Raphael Israeli
2ND PART OF 4
The Debate over Women
We have thus a new situation in which terrorism by Islamikaze, though hitherto solely the trade-mark of Muslim radicals, and rarely at that for the daring few, has become since 11 September an acknowledged universal and common modus operandi in and by Muslim societies, as a mind-boggling comment of displeasure about domestic or international politics. On September 11 alone, 19 self-sacrificing young Muslims died in the
The debate surrounding the "martyrdom" of Wafa Idris, the first Palestinian woman Islamikaze, who has been followed by others since, is in itself indicative of the new mood. Arafat's "al-Aqsa Brigades", took responsibility for Wafa's explosion in the central street of
Yassin, bowing to operational requisites, later amended his position, realizing that the lone operation of the martyr woman would become unfeasible if she is accompanied by someone who would attract attention and might himself die in the attack. Therefore, he stated that only if the woman were to stay out for the day and the night, for operational considerations, she needed company, while if her absence was shorter, like in the case of martyrdom where she was not supposed to return, she might go alone. But in a previous case of a would-be woman-martyr, who had been arrested by Israel for attempting to blow herself up, and was released after the Oslo Accords of 1993, she invoked a Hadith where the Prophet was said to have allowed women to go to Jihad even without their husbands' consent, when the land of Islam was invaded, which she thought was the case then. Thus, for her, as for Yassin, necessity permitted the usually prohibited modes of behavior. At
Although Yassin explained that women were simply not needed in the Hamas ranks of martyrs for the moment, because more male volunteers were available than his organization could absorb, the debate continued to rage in the Arab world. Egypt's Al-Sha'b glorified the woman who could teach all Arab men, rulers, princes and women, a lesson in the heroic defense of their country, in "the battle of martyrdom which petrified the heart of the enemy's entity, and shocked the enemy with her meager, thin and weak body,… when with her exploded all the myths about women's weaknesses, submissiveness and enslavement". A Jordanian columnist, who prided himself for the "dignity that women enjoyed in the Arab and Islamic world", accused the Western human rights activists of "robbing women of their rights to be human, and viewed them as bodies without souls", and stressed that Wafa, "never dreamt to own a BMW or a cellular phone, and never carried makeup in her bag, but rather explosives to fill the enemy with horror…". He said that it was the West who demanded that Eastern women should become equal to men, and that was the way the martyr Wafa understood equality. "Oh Wafa Idris!!! Mercy upon you and shame upon us !!!" was his concluding cry. Similarly, Afaq 'Arabiya, the mounthpiece of the Muslim Brothers in
giving [Arab] countries their drug-addicted young men and women… who have perverse [homosexual] relations, commit rape, theft, and murder… But they are still a minority, even if they make a lot of noise. The majority of young Muslims are still in good shape. It is true that they are silent, but we have seen how the silence of Wafa Idris ended.
While it was to be expected that the Palestinian terrorist organizations who dispatched Wafa to her death would eulogize her in laudatory terms for her martyrdom, it is much harder to explain in any rational terms the swelling support, symbolic and otherwise, that her act produced throughout the rest of the Arab world, not only Egypt. if one can understand the political machinations of Saddam Hussein, when he decided to erect a memorial in her honor, one is aghast when a woman film-director, an Egyptian PhD to boot, Amira Abu-Fattuh, writes under the headline "An Oscar-winning film":
This is not a movie like all other movies. The heroine is the beautiful, pure Palestinian woman, Wafa Idris, full of faith and will-power. I could find no one better than she, and I could find no film more wonderful than this, that shocked
This short-lived but symbol-laden "Wafa Festival", was triggered by the London- daily al-Quds al-'Arabi, but was immediately picked up, like other sensational issues in the Arabic press, and repeated like a mantra, by Arab and Muslims writers of all political convictions. It was as if their oppressed frustration and hatred for Israel and the Jews, regardless of the "peace" Accords that their countries (Egypt and Jordan) had signed with Israel, at a considerable cost to the latter, were merely a new starting point to force her to disarm, to absorb attacks and to duck for more, at the hand of new heroes like Wafa. She was seen as " a spark of light and hope in the midst of darkness, and courageous in deeds, not words"; a Mona Lisa, only more beautiful than the original, with her "dreamy eyes and the mysterious smile on her lips", and in general "more beautiful than any picture of a woman painted by any artists"; or her suitcase of explosives that carried her to her death as "the most beautiful prize any woman can possibly win. Her spirit was raging, her heart filled with anger and her mind convinced by the calls of peace and coexistence…". Even the horrifying detail of her act sounded like music in the ears of those columnists: "… she quietly made her decision, sought explosives, went to pray, and then chose her target carefully. She went to a big restaurant with dozens of customers. She asked Allah for a Martyr's death and victory… she kissed the soil of the homeland and went calmly to her fate. She inscribed her name on the forehead of history". What is even more terrifying is the wish of the writer that the number of victims could have been higher, because Wafa killed "only" one victim, an 81-old lady-passerby in the main street of
And so Wafa the martyr was made a model of behavior in one Arab paper after another, by columnists of all walks and opinions, government and opposition, especially in "moderate" Egypt , and her act of "donning the belt of explosives and talking to Israel, America and the world, in the only language they understand",was made the ideal for other youth to emulate. A female columnist, Nagwa Tantawi, dismissed Western culture and pledged victory to the superior culture of the Arabs and Muslims. She just forgot to say explicitly whether the values she was boasting about included martyrdom and wanton killing, but one could infer that from her comparison of Wafa with President Bush's daughters:
Bush, who leads an oppressive campaign to educate the world, cannot even educate his own daughters. Note the difference between Wafa, the daughter of Arabism and Islam, and Bush's daughters. The difference is the same as the difference between our culture, based on beautiful and noble values, and on the values of homeland and martyrdom, and the materialistic culture [of the West]. This proves that whatever developments will be, victory will be ours – because we have culture and values.
There was yet another, rather debasing, aspect touching upon women's position in the Islamic world, in connection with the Islamikaze acts of terror, and that was the discussion of the sexual rewards the male-martyrs were promised in
The controversy centered around the translation of the houriya term, which all Muslim conventional interpretations, including the Muslim ones as we shall see below, are proud to render as "virgins" , usually with the epithet of "black-eyed", while some Muslim organizations in the West insisted that it was a metaphoric appellation of "angels" or "heavenly beings". While it would have been much less important to focus on sexual fantasies of the killers than on their horrific acts of indiscriminate killing among the innocent, the news-worthy sexual controversy persisted nonetheless. To counter those denials, Sheikh Palazzi, an Italian Muslim leader, gave references in the Qur'an as well as in Islamic tradition (Sunna or Hadith) where the doctrine of the 72 (not 70) "black-eyed" "wives" is elaborated in rich and plastic detail, and took the other Muslim leaders in the West to task for their ignorance of the sources. Among Muslim clerics in the Muslim world, by contrast, there is no equivocation, things are clearly and unabashedly stated. In response to an Australian Muslim query about the reward of female martyrs in Paradise, in comparison with the males who got the black-eyed virgins, the Deputy Director of the authoritative Al-Azhar University, Sheikh 'Abd al-Fattah Jam'an responded:
The Qur'an tells us that in Paradise Believers get the black-eyed, as Allah [namely the Qur'anic text] has said: ' And we will marry them to the black-eyed'. The black-eyed are white and delicate, and the black of their eyes is blacker than black, and the white [of their eyes] is whiter than white. To describe their beauty and their great number, the Qur'an says that they are "like Sapphire and pearls", in their values, in their color and in their purity. And it is said of them : ' They are like well protected pearls in shells, that is they are as pure as pearls in oysters and are not perforated, no hands have ever touched them, no dust or dirt adheres to them, and they are undamaged'. It is further said :'They are like well-protected eggs, that is their delicacy is as the delicacy of the membrane beneath the shell of an egg. Allah also said: ' the black-eyed are confined to pavilions, that is they are hidden within, save for their husbands…
Most of the black-eyed were first created in Paradise, but some of them are women who acceded to
If a woman is of the dwellers in Paradise but her husband in this world is not among them, as in the case of Asia, the wife of Pharaoh,, she is given to one of the dwellers of
It is quite understandable that these verses that are attributed to Allah, may be taken as folkloric metaphors by some Muslims who are remote from the front of combat of the Islamikaze. There is no doubt, however, that for Muslims whose pursuit of Jihad is an active and preponderant aspect of their lives, particularly so among young Palestinians, the question of reward in
The Hamas mouthpiece, Al-Risala, for example, published the will of Sa'id al-Hutari who carried out the horrendous massacre of 23 teen-agers at the Dolphinarium Discotheque in Tel-Aviv on June 1, 2001. It said: "I will turn my body into bombs that will hunt the sons of
Similarly, Palestinian clerics and "educators" such as Dr Yunis al-Astal of the Islamic Law Department in
The most prominent Palestinian cleric in Israel, Sheikh Ra'id from Umm al-Fahm, who served as mayor of his town for more than 10 years, asserted in no uncertain terms in an interview to the major Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, that he "had proof" that the story of the virgins had a leg to stand on and that was, of course, the writings in the Qur'an and the Sunna. He specified that the shahid received from Allah six special gifts, including 70 virgins, no torment in the grave and the choice of 70 members of his family and his confidants to enter
Do not show signs of uneasiness and of tension; be joyful and happy, set your mind at ease, and be confident and rest assured that you are carrying out an action that Allah likes and that pleases Him. Therefore, a day will come, Allah willing, that you will spend with the black-eyed in
 . See Articles 17-18 in the Hamas Charter. R. Israeli, "The Charter of Allah : The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement", in R.Israeli, Fundamentalist Islam and
 . See Al-Sharq al-Awsat (
 . Kul al –'Arab, 1 February, 2002
 . Middle East News Online, 28 January, 2002; and Al-Sha'b (
 .Al-Sha'b (
 .Al-Sharq al-Awsat (
 . Ibid. 2 February, 2002. In Memri, Ibid.
 . Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 31 January and 2 February, 2002. Ibid.
 .Afaq Arabiya (
 .Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 31 January, 2002
. Al-Sha'b. (1 February, 2002). See Memri, Ibid.
 .Afaq 'Arabiya(
 . Ibid.
 . Al-Akhbar,(
 . Ibid.
 . Al-Ahram, 2 February, 2002
 . Hadith al-Madina (
 . Al-Ayyam, (Palestinian Authority), 1 February, 2002. Memri 85, 14 February, 2002.
 . Al-Wafd (
 .Al-Quds al-'Arabi, 28 January, 2002.
 .Al-Wafd (
 . Al-Ahram, (
 . Al-Dustour (
 .Al-Wafd. See ftn. 73 above.
 Al-'Arabi (
 . Al-Wafd (
 .Cited in print by Memri 74, 30 October, 2001, article by Yotam Feldner.
 . Ibid.
 .There are no less than 6 references for the virgins and the black-eyed in Paradise that are mentioned or hinted to in the Holy Qur'an, and massive elaborations on those brief references in the vast literature of the Hadith, Palazzi specifes that those women are available not only to martyrs but to any Believer who accedes to Paradise.
 .Cited in Memri. See ftn. 96 above.
 .Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), 21 July, 2001; and al-Istiqlal (Palestinian Authority), 4 October, 2001.
 . Al-Risala, 7 July, 2001; another case of such a posthumous "wedding" was publicized by Al-Hayat al-Jadida, also within the Palestinian Authority, 4 October, 2001.
 .Al-Risala, 16 August, 2001.
 . Al-Hayat al-Jadida, of 17 August and 11 September, 2001. Memri, ibid.
 .USA Today, 26 June, 2001. Memri, Ibid.
 .Al-Risala, 11 October, 2001.
 . Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 17 September, 2001; see also Palestinian Authority Television, 17 August, 2001.
 . Ha'aretz, 26 October, 2001.
 . Al-Sharq al-Awsat (