New Age Islam News Bureau
Pull of the net: social media is key to attracting women (Picture: Getty)
• Saudi Women Prefer To Marry Foreigners
• Washington Condemns ISIS Slavery for Iraqi Women and Treating Them as War Spoil
• Six-Year-Old Hazara Girl Murdered In Quetta after Attempted Rape
• Booming KSA Beauty Market Attracts Investors
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Internet Brides of Jihad: IS Using Social Media to Lure Young British Women
07 November 2014
An official in Raqqa, capital of the Islamic State “caliphate”, is answering questions on Ask.fm, the controversial social networking site. A question pops up from an anonymous woman. “Will you marry me, I’m a sister 26 years old. I need to get away from my life now,” she says. The official, who has admitted he’s “looking” for a wife, responds: “Have you gotten married before? Do you have kids?”
In response to other questions, apparently from different users, he explains a few things about the jihadist marriage situation, and other things, to those watching the Q&A. “So the matchmaking begins on ask.fm,” comments one user. “Yeah, or if you know someone in IS already he can fix things for you,” says the official. A user asks if jihadists who have promised to marry a woman who travels to Syria have to honour their commitment. He says yes.
“How do you proceed to find a husband for me and my sister. Criteria?” asks a woman. “I ask myself and my fellow brothers,” says the official. “What characteristics do you look for in a potential [wife]?” comes another question. “Deen [a Muslim], beauty, medium height,” he replies.
Eight minutes after the marriage proposal from the 26-year-old woman, she returns, explaining that she lives in a “land of kufar” — meaning unbelievers. “No I haven’t been married before. I don’t have children… It’s time I join my real family. I hate kufar and it’s reciprocal.” The official seems satisfied. “OK, make another Twitter account, a new one, and ask for DM [direct message]”.
Within hours of the exchange, the official — known as @Maxxabes, who says he came from the US — is barred from Ask.fm. In that time he has acquired dozens of new Twitter followers, some of them clearly women, some almost certainly from London, most of them using popular Islamic nicknames that recur time and again in the weird, ephemeral web universe that has emerged in recent months thanks to IS.
Back home, IS’s ground-breaking use of the web has been on the lips of everyone with a stake in the Syrian crisis. Robert Hannigan, the new director of government listening service GCHQ, wrote that sites like Ask.fm, Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook have effectively become “command-and-control networks” for the jihadists, and urged the Silicon Valley firms to cooperate with the security services. Yesterday Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said parts of the web were becoming “dark and ungoverned” thanks to anonymous sites and encrypted messaging, where “terrorist plots are progressed”.
And a major report from anti-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation described the internet as “the new frontline of the crisis”, saying IS’s web strategy and use of social media is “unprecedented for a terrorist organisation”. The organisation has developed its own smartphone apps — like the app Dawn of Glad Tidings, which tweeted thousands of times a day from users’ accounts until it was closed down — and uses an effective network of both centralised and decentralised Twitter accounts to project its inspiring, utopian message to potential recruits on the one hand, and fear and misinformation to its enemies on the other.
The report also addressed the noticeably increased presence of women in the IS online chatter. “In stark contrast to most other jihadist groups, IS recruiters work hard to bridge the gender gap,” Quilliam said, in a line that could almost sound sympathetic if read in isolation. “Indeed, its appeal is not, like most others, gender-biased. Over the last few months, there has emerged a limited but growing network of female IS supporters.”
The organisation’s attempts to attract women over the internet — to become web “fan girls”, and, more worryingly, to travel to the caliphate and marry IS fighters and officials — is unprecedented. The Twitter accounts of women supporting or attracted to IS aren’t difficult to find. They often use the moniker Umm (Arabic for mother) before a chosen name, are overwhelmingly in their teens or twenties, choose profile pictures of women in black garments in generic desert scenes in the Arabian peninsula and describe themselves as muhajira (migrant) in their accompanying biographies.
One prominent woman tweeter from Syria, Umm Ubaydah (who uses the handle @Flamesofwar), wrote recently: “Advice to sisters, pack heavily, clothing here are bad quality” and “PS: If you’re married or planning to get married, the Syrian clothes have colours of the rainbow on them and frills… bring nice clothes.” Another one retweeted a post from an IS account, claiming that “Islamic State offers the best education of any Muslim woman”, showing a picture of women in full-body black outside what might be Mosul university in Iraq — whose supposed excellence is repeatedly cited as a reason for women to travel.
Lest anyone think it is one-way traffic in jihadist recruitment, there are plenty of instances of women persuading men to join up. Sometimes they seem to goad Muslim men who haven’t gone on jihad, like the “white feather girls” did in the First World War, comparing them unfavourably with strong, brave, spiritual jihadists. A popular meme among them is a picture of a fighter prostrating himself in military fatigues, reminding Muslims back home that the mujahideen are “the true warriors of Allah”. And a French woman called Umm Salamah, whose biog reads “The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world”, tweeted last week: “After arguing with my brother for almost an hour I might have convinced him about Islamic State.”
When the Standard revealed in July that Lewisham woman Khadijah Dare had travelled to Syria, where she married a Swedish fighter called Abu Bakr, adopted the name Maryam and started a Twitter account, a former London friend hinted that Dare might have been escaping trouble back home. She said: “There’s a lot of violence in the community, domestic violence. And the community does nothing and brushes it under the carpet. So that’s why she looked for a real man, a man who can protect her, a fighting man.”
Quilliam’s senior researcher Erin Marie Saltman says the web messages directed at Muslim women play on their frustrations. “Part of the radicalisation process for women is the propaganda that offers them a bigger world than they are currently experiencing,” she says. “Many of the women will not have travelled alone before, so it is almost part of an independence movement for them.”
According to the latest estimates by Quilliam, more than 2,500 Western Europeans have gone to Iraq and Syria, most of whom join IS, with 200 women having gone to marry them. Dare is the highest profile — described by an M16 source as a “top priority” who had “achieved a celebrity-like status” among jihadists — but more recent departures have included twins Salma and Zahra Halane, student Aqsa Mahmood and missing schoolgirl Yusra Hussien, who is thought to have travelled with 17-year-old Samya Dirie from Stockwell.
IS needs a stream of women both because the offer of an attractive young Western bride is central to its recruitment of foreign fighters and because producing what they call “young lions” is a requirement of state-building.
Shown Maxxabes’s Ask.fm chat with various women, Saltman says: “It isn’t surprising that women who feel repressed in their own community would find the idea of chatting online in real time to what they think is a jihadist soldier titillating. Especially with younger women, they are being told they are desired by these individuals abroad.”
“I think social media is a very, very big factor for girls,” says Sara Khan, head of counter-extremism group Inspire and organiser of the Twitter campaign #makingastand, which seeks to counter IS’s messages to women. “Most mosques in this country fail, unfortunately, to provide a strong Muslim education to Muslim men, let alone women — many don’t even let women in. So the question arises: where do young Muslim women find out about their faith? For the girls, a lot of it is going to be on the web.”
As Hogan-Howe and Hannigan have suggested this week, the increasing savvy of jihadist web users means the authorities have their work cut out if they want to detect IS sympathisers online and continue the strategy of censoring extremist content. Tellingly, last weekend Maxabbes told his followers to find him on encripted messenger Surespot.
It is almost impossible to tell whether the woman who approached Maxxabes followed through on Twitter, let alone in the real world by preparing to travel. If she does, she will presumably encounter the same horrifying disconnect between the online descriptions of the caliphate and its reality. “There have been cases reported of local women being hospitalised for domestic abuse and there have been cases of women abandoned by men, not to mention that IS are taking women as sex slaves,” says Saltman. “The real situation for women on the ground is very tormented and not at all romantic.”
Saudi Women Prefer To Marry Foreigners
7 November 2014
Saudi women are turning to foreigners for stability and security in the marital world.
Many say they would rather marry foreigners to ensure that the marriage doesn’t end in divorce or polygamy, not to mention the greater social and cultural freedom they say they would enjoy by getting hitched "outside the box."
“Countless young women are afraid of marrying into Saudi families because of soaring divorce rates and social restrictions,” Hady Makki, a hospital nurse, told Arab News.
“Many just want to travel and pursue a more open lifestyle, which they say they can’t do within their society.”
Suad Ali, a Saudi married to an Arab expatriate, said intercultural marriages are more common in cities such as Makkah, Jeddah, Madinah and Taif, mainly thanks to cultural interaction with Haj and Umrah foreigners.
By contrast, women in Riyadh and other southern regions with deeper tribal routes are less prone to marrying outside their culture.
Legal consultant Abdulaziz Dashnan said Kuwaiti men top the list of Gulf nationals married to Saudi women, according to a 2012 statistical study.
Yemenis, however, got the lion’s share of non-Gulf expats married to women within the country.
The study also showed that 118 Saudi women married Pakistanis despite the social taboos over marrying non-Arabs.
Dashnan, nevertheless, warns against the perils of intercultural marriage.
“While marrying a non-Saudi man might be a dream come true for some Saudi women, there is economic uncertainty to take into account, not to mention the obstacles these women’s children will face within the social security system,” he said.
Dashnan also warned women not to fall prey to men who are after their money.
Nora, a Saudi married to an Arab, regrets marrying out of her culture, saying she was conned.
“I wish I listened to my relatives’ advice,” she said.
Khairiyah Ali, another Saudi woman, said she and her children found themselves in a financial crisis after her expat husband was thrown in jail following a dispute with his sponsor.
Saudi writer Nora Al-Saad stressed the need for fair laws to protect the rights of children born of Saudi women and expat men.
“The biggest problem their children face is acquiring Saudi citizenship,” she said. “Children born to Saudi men get the passport without any issue and even their wives eventually acquire it too.”
Shoura Council member Sadaqah Fadel said there are 700,000 Saudi women married to foreigners, accounting for 10 percent of the Saudi female population.
The council is currently studying a bill that proposes granting Saudi nationality to foreigners married to Saudi women in order to foster security in marriage and make their daily lives easier.
Still, many have warned women of giving expats an easy shortcut to material and sociopolitical gain.
Abdullah Asiri, a psychiatric consultant at Abha’s local mental health hospital, backed the view that Saudi women are looking for greater stability and security in searching for non-Saudi partners.
“Security is, no doubt, a fundamental need within a marriage,” he said. “Yet while security is vital, women may find themselves suffering other shortcomings, such as financial and social inferiority, down the line.”
Washington Condemns ISIS Slavery for Iraqi Women and Treating Them as War Spoil
The United States of America has condemned the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria "ISI" organization of taking Iraqi women and treated them as war booty.
A statement issued by the US State Department said ,"We condemn in the strongest terms, the captivity of women and girls as spoils of war and exposing them to the sexual assaults , in addition to intimidation and deprivation of freedom ."
According to the statement, the "number of prisoners, could be up to several thousand," stressing that " the United States is following closely, the effects of slavery, which is carried out by ISIS, from sale, forced marriage, and sexual assaults against Yazidi women and other women of minorities."
The statement stressed the need to "account the perpetrators of this brutal and unprovoked violence with full responsibility".
Officials at the US State Department met last week with Yazidi leaders "to discuss the continuous security and humanitarian concerns facing the Yazidi community, including the crisis of women and children who are taken as captives by "ISIS" according to the statement.
The statement added that US officials expressed during the meeting, their deep concern from the harsh conditions being experienced by the rest of the Yazidis in Shingal Mount, pointing that Peshmerga forces have deliver aid to civilians trapped in the mountain with the support of the US Air Force.
Six-Year-Old Hazara Girl Murdered In Quetta after Attempted Rape
QUETTA: Police in Balochistan are investigating after a six-year-old girl was strangled and dumped near a garbage heap after apparently being subjected to rape attempts.
The girl who was from the minority Hazara ethnic group, was found on Wednesday last week in Quetta, the capital of the restive southwestern province of Balochistan.
Hazaras are mostly Shia Muslims and have borne the brunt of the wave of sectarian violence that has swept Balochistan in recent years, mostly perpetrated by Sunni Muslim extremist groups.
“It is a heinous crime and police are making all out efforts to solve it,“ Inspector General of Police for Balochistan, Amlash Khan, told AFP.
Khan further added that some potential suspects were being questioned.
Quetta city police chief Abdur Razzak Cheema said the victim, who was the daughter of a gardener working at an army facility, was found near a dump close to her home. She had been strangled with a rope, he said.
“There were a lot of bruises on the girl's body that show that attempts were made to rape her,” he added.
The victim's distraught parents were at a loss to understand the crime.
“We have no enmity with any one,” the girl's mother told AFP.
“On the day it happened, our daughter went to throw out rubbish close to the house but did not come back, I went out in search of her, but could not find her.“
A neighbour told Bibi her daughter was at the dump.
“She was already dead, with blood from her mouth and nose while her whole body bore bruises,” Bibi bemoaned.
The girl's father, demanded the “beast” who killed his daughter be brought to justice.
“My daughter insisted I give her a ride on my motorbike in the morning before work, I didn't realise this would be the last time I ever saw her,” he said.
Booming KSA Beauty Market Attracts Investors
7 November 2014
Saudi Arabia’s many affluent and beauty conscious women are spending on average SR14,256 a year on cosmetics, which has seen many leading international companies setting up shop in the country.
This is according to data released by Euro monitor, which publishes reports on industries, consumers and demographics in Saudi Arabia.
With a population of 28.8 million and a growth rate of 1.9 percent, Saudi Arabia has the highest percentage, at 42 percent, of women in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Euromonitor has found.
With over 50,000 registered providers, the Kingdom’s beauty industry is booming, driven by high disposable income, a young population, a high presence of international cosmetics brands and an ever-expanding retail landscape.
The Kingdom’s large and buoyant economy has been a key growth market and investment focus for brands and retailers. Over the past four years, Boots, the United Kingdom’s leading pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer, and Bath & Body Works, America’s retailer and fragrance provider, have entered the market, increasing their store portfolio to six and 15 locations respectively.
In 2012, L’Oreal solidified its presence by further expanding its product offering and introducing supplements for cosmetics purposes. One of its aims was to boost Saudization and employ more women, who are the key drivers of cosmetics growth in the Kingdom. More recently, in 2014, Marks & Spencer, UK’s retail chain, unveiled two of its world-first lingerie and beauty stores, with plans to open a further eight in the Kingdom over the next two years.
The Saudi cosmetics market is the largest in the Middle East, estimated at over SR60 billion annually, with a forecast of 11 percent annual growth rate, according to Euromonitor.
“Over the next five years, the average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate is expected to be 4.4 percent. By 2020, GDP per capita is forecast to reach SR112,500, up from SR71,250 in 2010,” it stated.
The International Monetary Fund has said that the Kingdom currently ranks as the 26th economy out of 189 in the “ease of doing business” category and an increasing number of beauty and cosmetics businesses are recognizing the potential for growth in the market.
Euro monitor has identified a marked shift in the attitudes of consumers, who have become increasingly sophisticated and demanding. An increase in the number of people having access to the Internet — 60.5 people out of 100 in 2013, up from 41 in 2010 — has led to an enhanced awareness of products and services. With cosmetic surgery on the rise, the sector has grown tenfold over the past five years.
Since going under the knife for aesthetic reasons has become more socially acceptable, cosmetic procedures such as liposuction, rhinoplasty, Botox injections and fillers, and laser hair removal have become common. Furthermore, the Kingdom is being increasingly viewed as an attractive shopping destination by religious tourists, with the country expecting to receive 88 million visitors by 2020.
According to statistics, only 1 percent of operators in the Saudi beauty market travel outside the Kingdom to participate in international beauty shows and exhibitions in the region, so a local presence is necessary to gain exposure to this sector.
Recognizing this opportunity, Reed Sunaidi Exhibitions is organizing the first international and in-country exhibition, the Saudi Health and Beauty Show 2014, which will take place at the Jeddah Center for Forums and Events from Nov. 24 to 27.
John Hooke-Tappin, show director at Reed Sunaidi Exhibitions, said: “With over 120 international exhibitors set to showcase at the event, it is evident that the global health and beauty industry is keen to tap into the substantial Saudi market potential.”
“We aim to play a leading role in the development of this important sector and believe that investment from international brands will foster innovation and attract new talent, promote healthy competition and create jobs.”
Shaa’ Al-Duhailan, chairperson of the salons committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that salons and beauty services have come to a virtual standstill because of the lack of staff, with many businesses now seeking skilled and unskilled employees.
“Businesspeople now want Saudis to fill these positions. The Eastern Province itself needs at least 7,000 Saudi workers for the region’s 4,000 salons and beauty shops.”
“With the government focusing heavily on infrastructure and reform to enhance its value proposition to businesses, the Kingdom remains a lucrative market for strategic investment,” she said.