Saturday, February 23, 2008

Palestinian Women and Children in the Throes of Islamikaze Terrorism Part I

by Raphael Israeli





Palestinian clerics and leaders have, of long date, and often with the support of radical and establishment clerics and columnists from other Arab countries, lent their support to Islamikaze, or what is popularly called "suicide bombing". That development has made room for the ever widening circle of participants in those horrific bombings: first, avowedly non-Islamist organizations, such as the Tanzim, the Aqsa Brigades and the Force 17 troops, began taking part in those attacks, in the process claiming for themselves the "benefits" in Paradise which accrue to the martyrs; then women joined in, against the established tradition of Muslim women participating in active hostilities and exposing themselves to "indecency"; and finally with children throwing in their lot, with the encouragement of their elders, among the Palestinians and elsewhere in the Islamic world.



Even prior to 11 September, and certainly much more so thereafter, Muslim clerics such as radical Sheikh Qaradhawi, the Egyptian exile in Qatar; the Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Muhammed Tantawi, who is considered the highest authority to deliver Muslim verdicts; Sheikh 'Akrama Sabri, the hand-picked Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, and many others who took up residence in the West, such as sheikhs  al-Bakri and al-Masri, Muslim-Arab radicals pursued by the justice systems in their countries, who received political asylum in Britain and settled in London, pronounced themselves in favor of the Islamikaze killings for the sake of Islam, especially against Israelis.[1] Tantawi is perhaps the most duplicitous among them, for unlike others, who have been either clearly for (and this is the majority of those who articulated their thinking) or emphatically against, such as Sheikh al-Ansari from Qatar, Tantawi has both attended the  Alexandria Inter-faith Conference in early 2002, where those acts of terror were denounced, but then his position has constantly eroded. He came first to justify  the Wafa Idris act of terror, the first perpetrated by a Palestinian woman (in Jerusalem in early 2002), and then accepted in fact the indiscriminate attacks against civilians as legal. His position is particularly sensitive because while he responds to the Egyptian establishment and has to toe the official anti-terrorist line espoused by his government which appointed him, he is also in a responsible and prestigious enough location to heed the popular resentment of the masses against the US and Israel.

The involvement of women, first as victims of terror and then as its progenitors, was brought up by Syrian-born Sheikh 'Umar al-Bakri, who took refuge in London , advocated at some point that "all homosexuals there ought to throw themselves down from the Big Ben"[2], called the British MP's "monkeys"[3], and vowed that the flag of Islam would "fly high on Downing Street 10 and at the Elysee"[4]. He justified and defended the 11 September New York and Washington horrors, which for him came as a "compensation for the atrocities the US had committed against Islam", and exhorted Muslims to unite and fight, sacrifice themselves and their wealth in order to gain access to Paradise and to make the difference between "truth and falsehood, Belief and heresy, oppressors and oppressed, the alliance of Satan against the Alliance of Allah"[5]. After the American attack against Afghanistan was launched, he issued a fatwa against Pakistani President Musharraf and other Muslim leaders who let their territory be used by Americans against a fellow Muslim state. In that verdict, for what it is worth, he raised, inter alia, many aspects of the status of women in Islam and in general, in the context of what we call terrorism and he insists on dubbing  Jihad. For him, the Muslims who collaborated with the US, were murtaddun (apostates), if "at all they were Muslims to start with", and since they are involved in the war against Muslims, the sentence of murtadd harbi (an apostate who should be fought) applies to them, to wit :

1.      His blood becomes permissible and he must be killed;

2.      His marriage becomes invalid, as does his guardianship of his children and relatives[6];

3.      His property is permissible and he will no be able to bequeath it;

4.      He cannot be buried in a Muslim cemetery;

5.      He must be treated with animosity and hatred…;

6.      There is no difference between a man and a woman… The blood of a woman who is a heretic harbiyya is permissible, even if her fighting is limited to singing… Thus acted the Prophet against the fighting women of the Quraysh tribe. He permitted their blood and ordered them killed, although he generally  prohibited killing women[7].


This verdict, which allowed the killing of Muslim women under certain circumstances, appeared under the emblem of "The Shari'a Court of the United Kingdom", and was signed jointly by al-Bakri himself, under his title of "Shari'a Court Judge in London", and Muhammed al-Musa'ari, the Secretary General of the Committee  for Protection of Legitimate Rights in Saudi Arabia, which lends to it authority and respectability. Its English version, however, was slightly different and signed by "Muslim Jurists from Syria, Lebanon, Kuweit, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom", with the names of the original two signatories, Bakri and Musa'ari, appearing at the bottom, with their phone numbers for further inquiries. In this version, the Qur'anic verse was added which threatened that "the punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and strive to make mischief in the land, is only this – that they should be murdered or crucified, or their hands and feet should be cut-off  on opposing sides, or they should be imprisoned"[8]. And the section about the women of Quraysh who were killed by the Prophet, was replaced by a paragraph that reads :"Therefore we ask Muslims with the capability, especially the armies of Muslim countries, to move quickly and to capture those apostates and criminals involved in these crimes, especially the ruler of Pakistan [President Musharraf], King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and  [President] Rabbani of Afghanistan".[9]

The exposure of women to harrowing physical mutilation, on authority of the precedent set by the Prophet, though it was concealed in the English version, where women were omitted from those horrors, together with the determination to dissolve marriages of "apostate" men, naturally had an impact on the developing debate on the active participation of Muslim women (and by extension also children),  in the Islamikaze attacks as actors, or on suffering the consequences thereof as passive spectators. For once the taboo was lifted on involving women (and children) in the course of Muslim violence during this brand of Jihad, or in the hardships that resulted therefrom, no obstacles could be envisaged any longer for including them in that struggle. Here, we shall focus on Palestinian women and children, because their people, who have been engaged in a murderous battle against Israel, have become the chief model of Islamikaze in the Muslim world. The Palestinians have  emerged in effect, not only as the most active agents  in the implementation of the idea, but have also widened the circle of the participants beyond the few self-sacrificing radicals, into a legitimate and all-encompassing national form of struggle, in which women and children have taken the initiative, or were led, to partake. Unlike  al-Bakri and al-Masri's fantasies where they articulate their wishful thinking to confront the world, bring down the West, kindle a world Islamic revolution and subvert their western countries of exile from within, Palestinian clerics are unified by the theme of what they perceive as a concrete, daily and all-pervasive national struggle to which they are pushed to provide theological responses. And once they sanctified Islamikaze as a legitimate form of struggle, indeed encouraged it, they could not exclude women and children from it, nor refute them when they pressed for participation. Other Muslim clerics were also dragged into the debate, but let us first focus on the Palestinian clerics' stated positions on Islamikaze, which by necessity generated the inclusion, first of individuals who did not belong to the Islamists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but were members of the avowedly "secular" Fatah and Aqsa Brigades,  followed by women and then children, in those horrendous acts of terror.



The Role of Palestinian Doctors of the Holy Law


A pertinent place to start would be the Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh 'Akrama Sabri, who was appointed by Arafat (not by the Hamas or some other fanatic group). Just one week prior to the disastrous act of Islamikaze against the discotheque in Tel-Aviv, where 21 teenagers who were making merry were blown to pieces, in early June 2001, and as a sinister prophecy of things to come, he delivered a Friday sermon in the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. By legitimizing and even praising the killing of Israeli children, just as the killing of women in general was justified by Bakri, both Muslim Women and children would now become potential casualties for the sake of Islam. Sabri first praised the Islamikaze martyrs in general, criticized the Saudi Mufti who had prohibited these acts (in the meantime the said Mufti qualified his prohibition), and demanded that the Americans release the four Muslims who were convicted for the first attempt to blow up the Twin Towers in 1993. Then came the text of his sermon:

Oh Muslims!! Let me begin my sermon with a quote from the words of the Prophet's Companion… in a speech to his army before the battle of Mu'tah[10], where he said : Oh people, I swear by Allah that the thing you hate [meaning death] is what you are going out to seek today-, namely the shahada (martyrdom)…

 with a large army nor with force. We are fighting only with this religion of Islam with which we have been blessed by Allah. So, attack and you will gain one of two blessings: either victory or martyrdom. In the eighth [sic,  ought to be seventh) Century, the Muslim army consisted of 3000 fighters while the Romans [sic, ought to be Byzantines], had 100,000… Nevertheless the Muslim commanders decided to go into the battle…

Oh Muslims ! The first Commander of the Muslim Army sacrificed his life in Mu'tah…, so the command was taken over by another Companion until his right-hand palm was cut-off. He passed the banner to his left hand until that was severed too, so he continued to hold the banner with the two stumps of his severed hands until he was struck down…His body was cut in two, in his body there were 50 stabbings, but none of them entered in his back because he did not retreat… That is the nature of Believers who do not retreat at the time of assault. I am asking: was his breaking into the ranks of the enemy called "suicide"? No !! Allah Forbid!! That was martyrdom for the sake of Allah ! The Prophet then named him ja'far (the Flyer), because Allah granted him two wings when he reached Paradise, in place of his two hands lost in combat. He persisted in attacking the enemy until he attained martyrdom…We say this to those who think it is an act of "suicide"…Be careful with your rulings[11]

[Finally, after the pool of commanders was depleted], came along Khalid Ibn al-Walid [later a famous fighter in the conquests of Islam], fought fiercely and devised a brilliant plan for withdrawal, sustaining only minimal casualties. … Before the Prophet sent the army to Mu'tah he gave instructions not to kill innocent people, women or children, not to uproot a tree of destroy a house. This is our great Islamic religion. It encourages good ethics and high morale in peace and in war… On the other hand, our enemies destroy houses, kill children…and uproot trees. They prevent pregnant women from reaching hospitals…They use airplanes against defenseless civilians. Yes, they are occupiers and do not deserve any sovereignty.

We tell them that as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and strives for martyrdom. He does not fear the oppression of the arrogant or the weapons of the blood-letters. The blessed and sacred soil of Palestine has vomited all the invaders and all the colonialists throughout history, and it will soon vomit, with Allah's help, the present occupiers.[12]


This statement of the preference for death over life, citing the precedents of the Companions of the Prophet, not only sanctifies martyrdom and posits is as an ideal in itself, and not only as a necessity, but pushes Muslims to fight against all odds, even when they are certain to die, as it posits martyrdom as a worthy alternative to victory. What is interesting is that the venerable Sheikh skips over the logic of his own sermon by:

a.       Bringing up the precedents of the Prophet who spared the lives of the innocent, but at the same time pushing young people to die amidst indiscriminate killing, which is in the nature of Islamikaze attacks, where the maximization of civilian casualties is an ideal; and

b.      While he unremittingly praised the martyrs, who fought against all odds, he also lauded the brilliant act of withdrawal of Kahlid ibn al-Walid, which is exactly the reverse of martyrdom, namely the admission of the vanity of sacrifice in the face of reality, and the praiseworthy abandonment of it and the election of life over death.


If this was the official Palestinian attitude prior to September 11, how much more so subsequent to it, when the escalation of the Palestinian Intifadah and the total mobilization of the Palestinian people against Israel produced a stepped up resort to Islamikaze acts on a scale, with a frequency and  continuity, and with a zealotry and rage, never experienced before by Muslims anywhere, and  deserving of the comparison with the Japanese Kamikaze at the end of the Pacific War. But there was a difference: while the kamikaze aimed at military targets in order  to destroy the American fleet in the Pacific,  the Palestinian Islamikaze aim primarily at Israeli civilian targets in order to maximize casualties, terror, disarray  and demoralization among them, something akin to what the perpetrators of the Twin Tower horror had devised against the US. True, at first, Yasser Arafat tried to appear as negating acts of Islamikaze that the world had rejected with disgust after the New York disaster, and he declared his siding with the war against terrorism. His troops even killed three jubilating Hamas youth, who could not hide their delight at the sight of  terror-stricken America. But soon thereafter, not only the Hamas escalated their war of terror through martyrdom against Israel, but they were joined by Arafat's own forces, the Aqsa Brigades, Force 17 and the Tanzim. In fact, the Fatah, Arafat's movement within the PLO, embraced the Hamas concept that martyrdom operations had achieved a kind of balance of deterrence for the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israel., and they were in fact an "act of self-defense" against what they saw as "Israel's aggression[13]. Consequently, there was an intensification of the incitement to more Islamikaze attacks by Imams throughout the Palestinian Authority. Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, who incidentally doubles up as a lecturer in ecology at the local Aqsa University in Gaza, delivered a clear message to his Palestinian audience on a Friday service at a mosque in Gaza:

…We are convinced of the victory of Allah, we are convinced that one of these days we shall enter Jerusalem as conquerors, and to Jaffa, Haifa, Ramla… and all Palestine as conquerors…All those who did not gain martyrdom yet will wake up in the middle of the night and say : " My God! Why did you deprive me of martyrdom, for the shahid lives by Allah Our enemies now suffer more than we do, because we know that our dead go to Paradise while the Jewish dead go directly to Hell and to their cruel lot.…This is the reason for our steadfastness, out of obedience to Allah… The Jews are expecting their false Messiah, but we are waiting for our Mahdi and for Jesus, Blessed be He …He will kill with his own hands the Jewish false Messiah, in Lydda, Palestine. Palestine will then be, as in the past, the cemetery for the invaders, as it had been for the Tatar, Crusader and the old and new colonialist invaders…

A Hadith says that "The Jews will fight you, but you shall dominate them".  What could be more beautiful than this tradition? It will be Allah who would put the Muslim in a position of dominance over the Jew…until the Jew hides behind the rock and the tree. But the rock and the tree will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah!, a Jew hides behind me, come and kill him!' Except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews"… We believe in this hadith, we are also convinced that this hadith heralds the spread of Islam and its rule all over the land…

Oh beloved, look to the east of the earth, and you will find Japan and the Ocean. Be assured that these will be owned by the Muslim nation as the hadith says " from the Ocean to the Ocean"…

Oh Allah, accept our martyrs in the highest Heavens…

Oh Allah, show the Jews a black day…

Oh Allah, annihilate the Jews and their supporters…

Oh Allah, raise the flag of Jihad across the land

Oh Allah, forgive our sins…[14]


This incessant self-aggrandizement of the Muslims as the future rulers of the entire universe on the one hand, and the incitement for action and glorification of death, which have seeped down to all the crevices of the grassroots of Palestinian society on the other, impel the Palestinian populace to identify instinctively with their martyrs  and eo ipso to encourage more sacrifices among them. Thus, when visitors come to the homes of the martyrs to greet (not to bring condolences) to the "delighted" (not bereaved) families of the Islamikaze, the mothers declare to the gatherings that are well publicized in the official press and television, their vow to send in the rest of the boys too, some present some yet to be born, into Jihad and  acts of Iskamikaze.  Children from kindergarten age on, also appear on Palestinian television during their regular "educational" activities, brandishing weapons and vowing, with visible excitement and joy over something they ill-comprehend, their desire to be martyrs. The constant nurturing of the flames of the Intifadah by this never-ending, ever growing, enthusiasm for Jihad and martyrdom, which they say is well rooted in Islamic history, is the most revolutionary and lasting contribution of the Palestinian leadership, clerical and political, to the idea of the Palestinian struggle. So much so, that when Arafat was confined to his office by the Israeli siege around and in Ramallah in April 2002, his most cited declaration to the press was that he aspired to become a shahid (martyr) himself, among the million martyrs that he envisaged marching on Jerusalem.



[1] . See e.g. al-Jazeera Televison (Qatar), 16 September, 2001; Memri 227, 26 September,2001 , 4 April 2002; Memri 363, 7 April, 2002; Ak-Quds al'Arabi  (london),. 21 July, 2001.

[2] . The Times, 9 September, 1996; and The Guardian,  9 September, 1996.

[4] Le Monde, 9 September, 1998.

[5] .Agence France Press (Paris), 14 September, 2001.

[6] .Even in relatively moderate Egypt, whose regime is one of the closest to America in the Muslim world, a case became cause celebre recently, when an outspoken woman writer, Nawwal Sa'dawi, who criticized the Hajj to Mecca as an act of paganism, was declared heretic by Islamists, and her husband was ordered to divorce her. Previously, an academic from Cairo University, Dr Nasir Hamid abu-Zeid, who had been equally accused of heresy, was ordered to divorce his spouse and created a worldwide outrage. He exiled himself to the West rather than submit. For this note, I am indebted to my colleague, Dr Rivka Yadlin.

[7] .

[8] . Sura 5:33

[9] . See ftn. 8.

[10] .In the year of AD 629, after the reoccupation of Syria by the Byzantines, the Prophet sent  a 3,000 men expedition to Mut'ah in southern Syria which made a show of force there. For the general context, see Marshall Hodgson, The Venture of Islam,  Vol. I, University of Chicago, 1974, p. 194.

[11] . Reference is made, obviously, to the Saudi Mufti mentioned above, before retracting his fatwa by qualifying it very heavily.

[12] . Memri No. 226, 8 June 2001.

[13] .See the Announcement released by the Hamas,  commenting on Arafat 's speech of 17 December, 2001 which pledged to close the Hamas down  and put an end to terrorism.

[14] .Palestinian Authority Television, 12 April, 2002. Memri, 17 April, 2002.

Palestinian Women and Children in the Throes of Islamikaze Terrorism Part II

           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 US; and since, about one hundred Palestinian terrorists died in the same fashion, taking with them the lives of hundreds of Israelis. The cross-over from an extreme and unusual act  to a current and routine way of action, not only necessitated the widening of the circle of volunteers within Palestinian ranks, but also engendered a new attitude towards the participation of women and children in this sort of battle. Hitherto, Muslim clerics have frowned upon active military service of women in any of the Muslim countries, and the heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have reserved for their women the role of educators and "manufacturers of men"[1]. The current cross-gender and cross-national universalization of  Islamikaze terrorism, however, has widely opened the door towards banalization and routinization of this stunning phenomenon. Because what it takes from now on is not a trained, strong-willed  and resolute fighter, with high physical skills, battle-field experience, endurance under stress and technical sophistication, but only a common person, male or female, adult or a child, indoctrinated and eager to die for Allah, who knows how to push a button and evaporate instantly into Paradise, while pushing his victims and their loved ones into Hell.


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  Jerusalem in January 2002, killing one woman and maiming dozens of others. Much of the initial debate went over her motivations to sacrifice herself, citing personal difficulties[2]. But  when  fellow Palestinians began to justify her act, quoting the precedents of other renowned Palestinian women-fighters, like Laila Khalid, and predicting that more women might follow suit[3], the religious aspect of it all broke into the open. Hamas leaders said that Jihad was an obligation that applied to women also, and that Islam had never differentiated between men and women in the battlefield, based on a precedent of the Prophet who used to draw lots among women who wished to join the battle[4]. Jamila Shanti, the Head of the Women's Activities of the Palestinian Islamic Movement, concurred with the idea of equality of women in the struggle, "provided they avoided inappropriate behavior".  However, the women-martyrs are allowed,  to her mind, to relinquish the veil for the occasion in order to "mislead the enemy". She believes that since the clerics share a consensus that Islamikaze operations are the highest form of martyrdom, there is nothing wrong with them[5].  The Head of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin, however, had some reservations, stating that while women had a role in Jihad and martyrdom, their uniqueness warranted that they must be accompanied by a chaperon[6], exactly as puritanical Muslims would not allow women to drive or to roam the streets unaccompanied by a brother, a father or a husband.


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[7]. 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.[8] Thus, for her, as for Yassin, necessity permitted the usually prohibited modes of behavior. At al-Azhar University, where disputes converge in expectation for the rulings of Sheikh Tantawi, an internal debate ensued. While Sheikh  Abu-al-Hassan decreed that the act of Jihad by women against Israelis was permissible, especially when the enemy has "plundered even one inch of Muslim land", in which case they are entitled to "wage Jihad  even without their husbands' consent, and the slaves without their masters' permission", Tantawi ruled in favor of those acts provided they were not directed against civilians. Abu-al-Hassan also quoted precedents from the time of the Prophet when women were said to have been allowed to fight and kill men from among the enemy Infidels[9].


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[10], 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"[11]. 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[12]. Similarly, Afaq 'Arabiya, the mounthpiece of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, accused the West of wasting money in vain,  attempting to "disrupt the consciousness of the Muslim women and make them believe that their bodies and needs were most important". The writer, sociologist Dr. al Maghdoub, launched an all-out attack against that western intervention, which "invokes women's liberation, equality with men, and their right to be prostitutes, to strip, to reveal their charms", and assured that those concept were doomed to fall on deaf ears[13]. For this "enlightened"  sociologist, those  Westernized  "superficial women " served the West by

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[14].


In Egypt and the rest of the Arab world, words of support for Wafa Idris also abounded. Dr. Samia Sa'd a-Din, a women herself, proclaimed the end of gender classification in the Palestinian struggle, once Palestinian women have decided to "write the history of their liberation with their blood, and will become time bombs in the face of the Israeli enemy. They will not "settle for being mothers of martyrs any longer", she assures[15]. Another columnist from the same mouthpiece of the regime, Al-Akhbar, found it strange that while Swedish Foreign Minister, Anna Lind, was criticizing the American position [of support to Israel], Wafa carried out her act of martyrdom; for when Lind spoke up, men kept silent for fear to criticize American policy. Thus, one brave woman spoke up while another brave woman acted.[16]. For Al-Ahram columnist, Zakariyya Nil, Wafa Idris was nothing less than a modern Jeanne d'Arc[17], and another, 'Abd al-Halim Qandil, of the weekly al-'Arabi, elevated her to new heights, asserting that "a nation who has in it Wafa Idris can never be defeated…, for she became the "most beautiful of women in the world, and in the world to come, once she rose to Heaven". He considered her martyrdom as "a death which instilled life" and "a chunk of flesh and blood transformed into illuminating spirit and purity for the generations to come". He praised her beauty when she liberated the Arabs from their sins and "elevated the humiliated nation to Paradise"[18]. No one, however, reached the summit of praise for her as the Egyptian psychologist, Dr 'Adel Sadeq, the Head of Psychiatry at Cairo's Ein Shams University, who compared Wafa to no less than Jesus Christ. He said that perhaps the Holy Spirit that placed Jesus in the womb of Mary did the same by "placing a bomb in the heart of Wafa and enveloped her pure body with dynamite", and it was no coincidence for him that "the enemy in both instances was the same [the Jews]"[19].


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[20], 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 Israel's heart… From Paradise where she is now, she shouts with all her strength : 'Enough glorification of the dead ! Enough glorification of the victories of your forefathers!!!'. They have played their part, and now it is your turn…[21].


This short-lived but symbol-laden "Wafa Festival", was triggered by the London- daily  al-Quds al-'Arabi[22], 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"[23]; 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"[24]; 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…"[25]. 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"[26]. 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 Jerusalem, but the over-enthusiastic columnist carried her in his dreams to a "restaurant with dozens of customers". This time he was wrong, but at other times, other terrorists like Wafa did kill dozens of unsuspecting  civilians, children and entire families of customers in restaurants, much to the delight, one has to assume, of that zealous writer and opinion-maker.


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",[27]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[28].


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 Paradise, something that has no parallel with regard to the female martyrs. The rewards of the hereafter after martyrdom are the most concrete promise, indeed certainty, that pushes the Islamikaze to cross fearlessly the last obstacle of hesitation and embark on the martyrdom venture. Therefore, it is within the Palestinian community, which has trained and sent to self-immolating Jihad the greatest proportionate numbers of its sons, daughters and children, that these promises  are the most vividly described and debated, once they have become a matter of practical and close at hand routine, and no longer of theoretical and remote theology. The debate did not begin in the aftermath of the 11 September events, but it was triggered at the end of the 1990's in the context of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad activities within Israel and against Israelis and Jews. On 19 August, 2001, barely three weeks before the New York horrors, CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a program on the Hamas in which one its operatives, Muhammed Abu Wardeh, was asked to tell of his recruiting activities among would-be Islamikaze. He said, inter alia, that part of his technique was to describe to the novices the way Allah would reward them after they became martyrs by "giving them 70 virgins, 70 wives and everlasting happiness"[29]. Embarrassed by the carnal temptations that were involved in what was to be a pure act of self-sacrifice for the sake of Allah, Muslim leaders in the West (not in the Islamic world where this doctrine enjoys widespread currency), raised questions about the accuracy of the translation of the interview and tried to discredit CBS, accusing it of "fabrication" and defamation of their faith, and demanding retraction and apology[30].


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[31], 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"[32], in their values, in their color and in their purity. And it is said of them : ' They are like well protected pearls in shells[33], 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[34], 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[35], 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 Paradise from this world and are obedient Muslims who observe the words of Allah :' We created them especially and  have made them virgins, loving and equal in age'. This means that when the women of this world are old and worn out, Allah re-creates them after their old age into virgins who are amiable to their husbands; 'equal in age' means equal to one another in age. At the side of the Muslim in Paradise are his wives from this world, if they are among the dwellers of Paradise, along with the black-eyed of Paradise

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 Paradise who is of the same status. Regarding the woman who was married to more than one man in her lifetime, and all her [former] husbands are dwellers of Paradise, she may choose among them, and she chooses the best of them…Thus, it is known that women in Paradise also have husbands. Every woman has a husband. If her husband in this world is a dweller of Paradise, he becomes her husband in Paradise, and if he is an Infidel, she is given to one of the dwellers of Paradise who is suited to her in status and in the intensity of his belief[36].


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 Paradise has been a crucial portion of their worldview, and playing a major role in their motivation for battle. In the Palestinian press, and in the death announcements of the martyrs,  which are usually pre-recorded in person by the Islamikaze and then kept as part of the cultivated "patrimony of martyrdom", that the Palestinian death organizations weave in order to then impart it to their youth, there is no mincing of words; indeed, there is boasting, desire, expectation  and impatient eagerness to take the shortcut and join in one stroke the pleasures of Paradise.  Chilling wordings  as they may sound, such announcements as "Greetings will be accepted immediately after the burial and until 10:00 PM… at the home of the martyr's uncle", or "With great pride the Palestinian Islamic Jihad marries off the member of its military wing, the hero Yasser al-Adhami, to the black-eyed", appear prominently in the Palestinian press[37], both before and after  September 11.


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 Zion, blast them and burn their remains… Call out in joy, oh mother! Distribute sweets, oh father  and brothers!. A wedding with the black-eyed awaits your son in Paradise"[38]. Similarly, the bombing of the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem ( 9 August, 2001) was "celebrated" by the Hamas with the announcement that the Islamikaze, Izz al-Din al-Masri's, relatives had "distributed sweets and accepted their son as a bridegroom who married the black-eyed, not as someone who had been killed and buried in the ground"[39]. Other Palestinian youth announced their preference for the black-eyed rather than marrying "women of clay" in this world, while their leaders confirm to them that if "the martyr dreams of a black-eyed, he will get her"[40].. When Jack Kelley of the USA Today visited a Hamas school in Gaza, he saw an 11-year old boy speaking to his class: "I will make my body a bomb that will blast the flesh of the Zionists, the sons of pigs and monkeys… I will tear their bodies into little pieces and will cause them more pain than they will ever know". His classmates shouted in response: "Allah Akbar!!", and his teacher shouted :"May the virgins give you pleasure" A 16-year old youth leader in a refugee camp told Kelley :"Most boys cannot stop thinking about the virgins"[41].  Convinced more and more, literally ad nauseam, of the inextricability of the expected heavenly wedding from the senseless death at the best of their youth,[42]  they commit the act, pulling with them to the abyss of death and destruction hundreds of innocent civilians, and wiping out entire families.


Similarly, Palestinian clerics and "educators" such as  Dr Yunis al-Astal of the Islamic Law Department in Gaza University, Sheikh Sabri, already cited above, and the Palestinian Police Chief Mufti, Abu Shkheydem,  spoke chillingly about the weddings of the Islamikaze  with the black-eyed in Paradise, and the joy of their mothers. Al-Astal  asserted that Paradise was the abode of the martyrs, and in it were "the black-eyed confined to pavilions, and also there were women with downcast eyes whose chastity had not been violated before by either man or jinn (Devil)", and that  the world that the Americans and their Arab "eunuchs", i.e. those who supported them, figured to themselves, was "in our eyes, not worth the wing of a mosquito". As a bonus, the Sheikh of the Police force, who is probably actively engaged in recruiting those young would-be martyrs, promised them that from their first drop of spilled blood, they will not feel the pain of the wounds, and they are forgiven for all their sins; they see their seats in Paradise; they are saved from the torments of the grave; they marry the black-eyed; they vouch for 70 members of their families; they gain the crown of honor, the precious stones of which are better than the entire world and everything in it[43]            .


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 Paradise with him[44]. In the instructions given to the Islamikaze of September 11, a copy of which was found in the car of one of them,Nawwaf al-Hamzi, the black-eyed were mentioned twice :

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 Paradise… Know that the gardens of Paradise have been decorated for you with the most beautiful ornaments and that the black-eyed will call to you: 'Come, Faithful of Allah', after having donned their finest garments[45].


[1] . 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 Israel,  the University Press of America, 1993, pp. 144-5

[2] . See Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), 2 February, 2002; Al-Ayyam (the Palestinian Authority), 31 January, 2002; Kul al-'Arab (Israel), 1 February, 2002. All in Memri 83, 12 February, 2002.

[3] . Kul al –'Arab,  1 February, 2002

[4] . Middle East News Online, 28 January, 2002; and Al-Sha'b (Egypt), 1 February, 2002

[5] .Al-Sha'b (Egypt), 1 February, 2002.

[6] .Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), 31 January, 2002.

[7] . Ibid. 2 February, 2002. In Memri, Ibid.

[8] . Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 31 January and 2 February, 2002. Ibid.

[9] .Afaq Arabiya (Egypt),  30 January, 2002; Al-Quds al-'Arabi (London), 31 January, 2002. In Memri, ibid.

[10] .Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 31 January, 2002

[11]. Al-Sha'b. (1 February, 2002). See Memri, Ibid.

[12] .Al-Dustour,(Jordan), 5 February, 2002. Ibid., Part II.

[13] .Afaq 'Arabiya( Egypt), 7 February, 2002; Al-Quds al'Arabi (London), 8 February, 2002. Ibid.

[14] . Ibid.

[15] . Al-Akhbar,( Egypt),  1 February, 2002.

[16] . Ibid.

[17] . Al-Ahram,  2 February, 2002

[18] .Al-'Arabi,(Cairo) 3 February, 2002; and Al- Quds al-'Arabi (London),  4 February, 2002.

[19] . Hadith al-Madina (Egypt), 5 February, 2002; and Al-Quds al-'Arabi, 6 February, 2002. Memri, 84, part II. Op. cit.

[20] . Al-Ayyam, (Palestinian Authority), 1 February, 2002. Memri 85, 14  February, 2002.

[21] . Al-Wafd (Egypt), 7 February, 2002; Al-Quds al-'Arabi (London), 8 February, 2002. Memri, ibid.

[22] .Al-Quds al-'Arabi, 28 January, 2002.

[23] .Al-Wafd (Egypt), 3 February, 2002

[24] . Al-Ahram, (Egypt),  10 February, 2002

[25] . Al-Dustour (Jordan), 24 February, 2002.

[26] .Al-Wafd. See ftn. 73 above.

[27]  Al-'Arabi (Egypt), 3 February 2002; Al-Quds al-'Arabi (London),2 and  4 February, 2002. See also  Al-Ahram (Cairo), 3 and  5 February, 2002; Al-Wafd (Egypt), 1 February, 2002; Al-Gumhuryya (Egypt) , 31 January, 2002; Sawt al-Umma  (Egypt), 3 February, 2002. All in Memri, Ibid.

[28] . Al-Wafd (Egypt), 3 February, 2002; and Al Quds al-'Arabi (London),4 February, 2002.

[29]  .Cited in print by Memri 74, 30 October, 2001, article by Yotam Feldner.

[30] . Ibid.

[31] .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.

[32] . Surat Al-Rahman, verse 58

[33] . Surat Al-Waqi'a, verse 23

[34] . Surat Al-Safat, verse 49.

[35] . Surat Al-Rahman,  verse 70

[36] .Cited in Memri. See ftn. 96 above.

[37] .Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), 21 July, 2001; and al-Istiqlal (Palestinian Authority), 4 October, 2001.

[38] . 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.

[39] .Al-Risala, 16 August, 2001.

[40] . Al-Hayat al-Jadida, of 17 August and  11 September, 2001. Memri, ibid.

[41] .USA Today, 26 June, 2001. Memri, Ibid.

[42] .Al-Risala, 11 October, 2001.

[43] . Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 17 September, 2001; see also Palestinian Authority Television, 17 August, 2001.

[44] . Ha'aretz,  26 October, 2001.

[45] . Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), 30 September, 2001.M emri, Ibid.