The first issue of As-Shamikha (The Mighty One), a self-described "Islamic jihadi magazine for women," has been released by Al-Fajr Media Center, an online distributor of Al-Qaeda materials.
Released in March 2011, a majority of the articles in the inaugural issue of the Arabic-language magazine emphasize the essential role women should play in the jihad movement, and employ anti-American and anti-Semitic narratives to inflame passion for their cause.
The magazine cover depicts a smoking AK-47 machine gun under headlines which include: "Interview with the Wife of a Mujahid (jihad fighter);" "Pages from the Notebook of a Mujahida (female jihad fighter);" as well as the starkly contrasting title, "Therapeutic Steps for Clean Skin."
An editorial introducing the publication describes the central role of women as "the vanguard of the struggling ummah (Muslim nation)," calling for a Muslim woman to be "the educator of the next generation…the sustenance, the aide, the support of today's opportunity for the men of Islam."
The articles detail in greater depth the possibilities for women striving to be part of the jihadist movement. One piece, "Pages from the Notebook of a Mujahida," is informally offered as a conversation a female jihad fighter had with herself one night. She argues that participation in jihad is a pivotal part of her "Islamic duty." In her notes, she explains:
The woman is an important element in the conflict, and she must be present with all her capabilities and her sentiments, and her presence is not an accessory to the conflict, but her presence is the cornerstone of victory and continuity on the path.
As part of the feature story, "Interview with the Wife of a Mujahid," a mother intimates in detail how she watches videos of the mujahideen fighters from the battlefront with her children, "particularly the one with the leader Khattab." Ibn Al-Khattab fought with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviet army and later with Chechen rebels.
Relating the children's curiosity and enthusiasm about the men, the mother notes that at the end her son expressed how much he wants to be a mujahid fighter as well. She then manages the conversation as a segue to tell him about his father's death. Her role is depicted by the interviewer thus:
She said to him 'you love the Mujahideen' and spoke to him about martyrdom, making him long for it more. She told him about her desire that his father would become a shaheed like Zarqawi or Khataab…Then she informed him of the news, and he was very pleased, she had improved his state of mind. His brothers understood the matter and received it with the same happiness.
Not surprisingly, intense anti-American sentiment is also part of the magazine's effort to appeal to Muslim women. In an effort to stoke the anger and passion of the readers, it casts the U.S. has having "smashed and demolished" thousands of locations all over the world. The mujahideen are those who "paid the price with their blood and their souls – for the sake of God (i.e. as martyrs) – to protect the land of their Ummah."
While militants fighting jihad are rendered heroic in action, American leaders are depicted with degrading and offensive imagery:
The Mujahiduun who cut – with the help of Allah – the oxygen from Petraeus' (General David Petraus) brain …until he fell in the center of his people. (The American people) are the ones who made America choose a black slave for the first time in the hopes of rescuing (themselves) from the cowboy who brought them peril and destruction.
Jews are portrayed as the incarnation of the enemy, both through the use of historic Islamic narratives as well as via contemporary events. In the "Interview with the Wife of a Mujahid," the female interviewee recounts the story of Sufia of early Islamic history, naming her as the first woman to engage in physical jihad when she killed a Jew who was hovering around her.
Another article recalls a battle against a Jewish tribe in the Medinan period, waged "for the sake of one Muslim woman after an evil Jew exposed her private parts, and she sought aide from the Muslims."
A short article under the section on current events characterizes Israelis as having "black hearts," that are incapable of recognizing the "white flags" of surrender. Reporting an incident in which a Palestinian woman was killed during the Gaza Operation of 2009, the article reads: "…this incident is fixed in the dossier of the Jewish occupation army – which includes thousands of crimes against humanity which the Jews launched during the War on Islam."
The magazine is not without a warning for those women who are not "where they should be." One article features a missing persons poster with the head of a woman covered in the black abaya (long black robe with a headscarf and/or veil). She symbolizes, according to the corresponding article, those women who have lost their way on God's path and need "a strong blow with a shoe on the bulls eye of the cheek!"
The last page of the magazine notes that female readers will soon read articles on "The Electronic Mujahida" and "Jihadi recreation." in the next issue. No date for the release of that issue is provided.
As-Shamikha is part of a larger effort by terrorist organizations to encourage women to play a more direct role in the global terrorist movement. For example, in a statement disseminated online in January 2010, Umaymah Hasan Ahmed Muhammed Hasan, the wife of Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, delineated the role of women in the movement. Hasan encouraged women to keep themselves "in the service of the Mujahideen (jihad fighters)," and argued that women "should fulfill whatever they ask of us, may it be through monetary aid to them or any service or information or suggestion or participation in fighting or even through a martyrdom operation." Throughout her statement, Hasan praised the "many sisters" that have carried out "martyrdom operations" and asked Allah to allow her and other Muslim women to follow them.
Reports also surfaced in 2010 that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda's affiliate based in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, had formed a brigade of non-Arab women who carry Western passports. The women were reportedly recruited to carry out suicide attacks against American and Western targets in the region. Al Qaeda members in Iraq have also allegedly recruited women to carry out suicide attacks.
The number of American women charged for their involvement in terrorism activity has grown in the past few years. In addition to planning terrorist plots, these American women have allegedly raised funds and provided material goods to foreign terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups.