The Salafists' next frontier? 'Sexual Jihad'
Last week we heard about topless Tunisians protesting their right to defy a patriarchal honor society with its male guardianship trappings. This week comes another story from the female underbelly of Tunisia – of teenage girls experimenting with sex, under the banner of religious duty, by performing what’s being touted a 'sexual Jihad'.
Behind this indecent proposal is an apocryphal fatwa that has supposedly surfaced on the web. The Tunisian corner of the net has been teeming with talk of this so-called fatwa, attributed to a Sheikh M. A., (a certain Wahabi Saudi figure) for some time now, in which the preacher calls upon “Muslim women to perform jihad through sex" with Syrian fighters.
This is the tale of how Tunisian girls have been caught up in Syria's plight to bring the Assad regime to its knees.
These women, and rebels with a cause, that are throwing themselves forward to the line of duty, however, are teenage girls, prone to fads, fashions, and flights of fancy. The mother of one such girl, Rahmah, has protested her daughter’s innocence, claiming her seventeen year-old is barely a religious fanatic but fell victim to peer pressure and brainwashing, according to Al-Hayat, the pan Arab newspaper.
Sources close to the sheikh denied that he had issued any such fatwa, going so far as to decry his fanatic followers as fools. Apparently anyone who bought into this decree was 'insane'. Then again, one might backtrack, standing accused of selling young innocents to militant Muslims (without parental consent).
With thirteen girls unaccounted for (and stories circulating of their bodies on the battlefield) and one story leaked of a Tunisian man taking his freshly divorced wife to Syria to ‘engage in sexual Jihad with the mujahideen’, the war-zone could be fast transforming into an underage and swinging sex-fest.
The Tunisian government has responded by issuing a security alert for young girls, akin to a travel ban. On the other hand, many are paying little heed to a story that is being pushed on pro-regime sites, likely to trash the credibility of the rebels’ cause.
Early this month, the North African Magharebia (a US government backed website) ran an interview about this same call to Jihad by Muslim men, and the rapid response by their consenting women folk. A woman from the Tunisian League for Human Rights expressed alarm at the influence of Salafist Sheikhs abroad on Tunisian teens, calling out the Saudi "Sheikh Mohamed al-Arifi's [for] issuing a fatwa that permits fighters to marry few hours with girls as young as 14".
Whether the fatwa exists or not, the universal tradition of granting warriors the privilege of sexual release via a ready supply of women is a reality not unique to the Muslim or Arab world. Be it via prostitution or religiously sanctioned unions (halal hook-ups) as per the Shia Mutta or the Sunni Misyar - both temporary marriages allowing couples to have religiously approved sex for a limited period of time, with no strings or sheikhs attached - the controversial war-time sex-amnesty is as common as the 'world's oldest profession' itself. Hezbollah – Lebanon’s party of God - has reportedly promoted the practice of temporary marriage in the past, notably during the July war with Israel in 2006.
But what remains unprecedented is the fact that fully-blown and bearded adult men are pushing sexual licentiousness on their young girls. Promiscuity amongst teenage girls getting the seal of approval from the most puritanical quarters of Islam is a turn-up for the holy books. With young girls being kidnapped under the protective veil of their religion, has the Syrian war seized upon by a Salafist scourge caused a wanton sacrifice of the hallowed pillars propping up society and Islam?
What do you think - do you believe there was a fatwa or has the net rumor mill run amok with tall tales? Is this an abuse of Islam by male power-brokers, or is it all a consequence of war and mayhem from the Syria spillover?