Name of the Book: Gender Based Explosions
The Nexus between Muslim Masculinities, Jihadist Islamism and Terrorism
Author: Dr Maleeha Aslam
Publisher: United Nations University Press (Tokyo, New York, Paris)
Price: US $ 36
The well-researched book by Dr Maleeha provides a unique argument while building a nexus between Muslim Masculinities, Jihadist Islamism and Terrorism saying we can succeed in rooting out the growing terrorism once we replace the militancy approach with that of people’s centric development and participatory approach and awareness on gender based violence in our society. It is among a few rare studies on linkages of global security and terrorism to masculinities.
The study talks about a different dimension of Jihadist Islamism saying there is no direct co-relation between religion and extremism and Jihad as in many Islamic societies across the world, people do fulfill their religious rituals and fundamentals but they are against suicide attacks. The study is true in the sense that even in Pakistan and Afghanistan, predominant majority of Muslim do not subscribe to the ideology of Jihadi groups who use suicide attacks to impost what they call their narrow minded approach on the fellow Muslims.
In the first week of February 2013, a group of noted Muslim scholars and religious leaders in Pakistan have issued a ‘fatwa’ (a religious decree) that suicide attacks are ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam. Even noted scholars across the world have issues similar decrees and even the Imam of Kaaba has time and again rejected such sort of extremism. This study traces out what actually prompts men to hire young kids, brainwash and use them in suicide attacks, when Islam do not subscribe to the approach of killing human being. This is actually the masculinity and stories of brave attitude of men that instigate men to become terrorists.
The whole saga of Jihadi approach cultivates young boys and men to join their ranks and prove their brave attitude as man. They consider that fighting wars are jobs of brave men and weapons are men’s ornaments. Keeping these fundamental points in mind, Dr Maleeha’s study draws results that it is masculinity and not religion that lure men and young people to Jihadist Islamism and hence it can be checked if seen and analyzed in the gender perspective. The volume speaks of looking at the growing religious extremism and Jihadist approach of the Taliban with gender lens instead of religious approaches as most of Jihadi groups led by all machos try to harm girls and their education, women in public or at home. The results of the study are good for those who are facing Jihadist terrorism and want to get rid of this menace. They need to analyze Jihadist Islamism in the right perspective so that they can find the real solutions.
Dr Maleeha Aslam rightly argues that ‘gender’ is a fundamental battleground on which Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their types have to be defeated. Issues of repressive radicalism, literalism, militancy and terrorism can only be solved through people-centric interventions. Therefore, relevant governments and civil society and media should promote an alternative culture of growth, self expression and actualization for Muslim men.
In her book ‘Gender-Based Explosions’, Dr Maleeha Aslam argues that to achieve sustainable counterterrorism results, we need to see masculinities in the Muslim contexts and expand the scope of required interventions beyond those confined to Islam(ism), the opposing sects and ideological movements of which rarely agree. The study draws data from a pilot study conducted in the context of Pakistani Muslim masculinities.
This unique book is divided into three parts. The Part-I gives an overview of global Jihadist movement, current strategies regarding terrorism and counterterrorism and frames the global chaos associated with these movements and their activities. The Part-II talks about Islam, masculinities and performance and describes further the gender theory, Islamic masculinities and Muslim masculinities and how the Jihadists paly around masculinities disguising it with their brand of Islam by discriminating against women and girls whereas the real Islam does not allow such sort of discrimination and intimidation of women. The Part-III basically describes Pakistani masculinities and vulnerable social groups in the age of terror. This part is based on the author's pilot field study of Muslim men in Islamabad.
At the very outset, the book raises a question whether Muslim men are troublemakers or troubled? And replies to this question saying, ‘the truth lies somewhere in between’. It goes on saying a few men are perpetrators but many are victims of economic, political and, ironically enough, patriarchal socio-cultural oppression. “In postcolonial societies, Muslim leadership has consistently failed to deliver within locally modified Western frameworks of governance. Worse is that the leadership has failed to provide an original/innovative vision and agenda for growth and prosperity to its people. Consequently, the political agency of Muslim social capital, largely consisting of troubled but energetic young men, has been absorbed in Islamists and terrorist networks. This siphoning of Muslim social capital by terrorist networks has to be stopped.”
One would feel no hesitation in concluding that the research conducted by Dr Maleeha is very bold, candid and unique as it has given a new dimension to the world discourse on Jihadist Islamism and terrorism largely seen and linked mistakenly to religious fanaticism instead of looking at it with gender lens.