Examining Women’s Agencies in the Context of Terrorism

Self-agency refers to a woman’s capacity to discover herself and make life choices. Saba Mahmood (2006) reveals that agency is not only in the form of resistance or rejection of certain norms, but is also present in various ways a person carries out norms. That is, passivity or even resignation can be a manifestation of self-agency.

In the context of terrorism, women’s agencies vary widely depending on the terrorist group they belong to (Bloom & Lokmanoglu in Nuraniyah, 2021). Some of the motives found in women who are members of the Islamic State are driven by personal crises and political complaints.Starting from searching for religion, experimenting with different interpretations of Islamic groups (both online and offline), to consciously deciding to join ISIS. The factors that cause them to join extremist groups are not just ideological factors, but also emotional factors such as feelings of acceptance, empowerment, and the development of new interpersonal bonds with members of extremist groups. (Nuraniyah, 2018).  

As women learn about the ideological principles of the Islamic State and socialize with the ansar daulah both online and offline, the women gradually adopt group norms as part of themselves. They also change their lifestyle and goals, although often against the wishes of their family. When joining groups, some women challenge the gender norms of jihad, such as the prohibition of work and violent jihad. But in general, women prefer to work within group rules rather than openly oppose them (Nuraniyah, 2018).   

Nuraniyah’s findings (2018) show that women who are involved in extremist groups have four stages to their involvement with the Islamic State. First, cognitive opening, which is the stage where individuals search for religion caused by a personal crisis. Second, religious seeking, namely the process of seeking religion and self-enlightenment. In this case, the caliph offered new hope and purpose for women. Third, frame alignment, namely the stages of individual connectedness in extremist groups and the feeling of being accepted. Fourth, socialization is the stage of entering the knowledge and values of extremist groups to individuals. Furthermore, after joining an extremist group, it turned out that women accepted and negotiated the assigned roles.

Most female jihadists accept assigned gender roles and they can maintain their subordination, but that doesn’t mean there is no agency (Nuraniyah, 2018). After joining extremist groups, women try to hone their piety and show good mujahidah personality such as shyness and patience. But at the same time they also show independence and readiness to be abandoned by their husbands to fight in the way of Allah. So in addition to doing household tasks, many women take up jobs that require minimum mobility. Some of them run online shops selling Muslim clothing and jihad training equipment (including archery equipment). There are also those who open herbal therapies specifically for women such as blood cupping and massage, as well as selling food with their husbands.

Women’s agencies are very melted and relational. Within the agency itself there is continuous adaptation and negotiation. Therefore, in examining women’s agency in the context of terrorism, it is necessary to explore several things. Important elements to check are (1) to see the choices women make, the motivations behind the choices they make, and the experiences of influential power relations; (2) women’s interpretation of their own situation, efforts to negotiate in the midst of power relations that apply in women’s lives, including their bodies and sexuality; (3) imagination or self-image in the future (Rukun Bestari, 2021). 

Exploring the role, position, and agency of women is an important aspect in studying terrorism. Because a rigid understanding of gender roles will lead to a wrong perception of counter-terrorism. In this case, gender dimension analysis is very important so that policy makers and related stakeholders can make an effective and focused approach in preventing terrorism.


Prevention of Terrorism and the Importance of the Role of Women Ulama

The Indonesian government has issued Presidential Decree No. 7 Year 2021 on the National Action Plan for the Prevention and Countering of Violent Extremism that Leads to Terrorism (RAN PE). One of the important principles is gender mainstreaming and child fulfillment.

In line with RAN PE, Rahima as one of the initiators of the Indonesian Women’s Ulama Congress (KUPI) has made various efforts in responding to the issue of terrorism. In 2021, Rahima developed a pocket book containing counter-religious narratives that are intended for prison officers in accompanying terrorist convicts (convicts) with an Islamic religious background. Rahima has also collaborated with AMAN Indonesia in strengthening the capacity of female clerics related to the issue of extremism in Solo, Malang, and Tasikmalaya in 2019.

In this regard, the involvement of women ulama in terrorism prevention is very important and strategic. They have a base and are close to the grassroots, and have the power to take spiritual and cultural approaches. As agents of peace, women ulama are at the forefront of spreading Islamic narratives that are rahmatan lil alamin, upholding human dignity and universal values such as justice, equality, tolerance, and fraternity. (Andi Nur Faizah)


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