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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 17 Oct 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Malaysian Muslim Doctors against Female Circumcision

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 Oct 2016

Two Chinese Hui Muslim girls read the Quran (file image) Copyright 2016 The Associated Press


 Turkey Needs ‘New Mobilization’ To Keep Girls in High Schools

 Indian Muslim Women Support UCC But Seek More Clarity

 Saudi Princess, Ameerah Al-Taweel who broke the Hijab Bondage to Fight for Islamic Women Rights!      

 An Egyptian Woman Becomes the First Ever Female Director of the London School of Economics

 Muslim Personal Law: Shayara Bano Case Outcome May Be Far Greater Than That of Shah Bano Case

 China Bans Parents from 'Luring Children into Religion' In Muslim Province

 Europe Wakes Up To Prospect of Female Terrorists

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Malaysian Muslim Doctors against Female Circumcision

October 17, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Female genital mutilation (FGM), or female circumcision, is not part of Islamic teachings despite being widely practised by a large section of Muslims in this country, say two Muslim medical experts.

“There is not a single verse in the Quran or anything from the collections of Hadiths (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) that makes female circumcision a requirement,” said Farouk Musa, a cardiothoracic surgeon and senior medical lecturer at Monash University in Petaling Jaya.

Farouk, who heads Muslim youth empowerment group Islamic Renaissance Front, said hadiths claiming that the practice was to preserve chastity and honour of women were not considered authentic.

FGM involves the removal of parts of the female genitalia and is controversial, with opponents saying it was rooted in gender inequality.

In Malaysia, FGM is widely practised among the Malays, who are predominantly Muslims subscribing to the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence.

Islamic authorities in this country have in the past recommended FGM, despite the practice being frowned upon in other parts of the Muslim world.

In 2009, the National Fatwa Council’s Consultative Committee ruled that female circumcision was obligatory, but could be dispensed with if there was harm in the procedure.

That stand contrasted with the view taken by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, widely regarded as an authority of Islamic jurisprudence among contemporary Sunni Muslims.

The Qatar-based scholar had in 2009 decreed that FGM was not sanctioned by Islam and must be abolished.

Sexual control

A common argument by those who advocate FGM is that it promotes sexual virtue in women by curtailing their sexual desires.

But Harlina Siraj, associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, dismissed such a view as insulting to women.

“It is very insulting,” she said. “According to the Sirah (life story) of the Prophet, he never carried out circumcision on his daughters.

“As medical practitioners, we only carry out something with medical and scientific basis,” she said. “Unlike male circumcision, there has not been any finding to show that FGM is beneficial. In fact, the procedure is risky.”

According to Farouk, FGM is an Arab cultural practice, as stated by contemporary Egyptian Islamic scholar Mohammad Salim Al-Awa

He said it was not the practice of Prophet Muhammad and therefore not part of Islamic teachings.

Farouk said such a practice stemmed from a patriarchal interpretation of culture and religion.

Anti-FGM campaign

Several Muslim countries have recently taken steps to eliminate FGM, and these included Egypt and Indonesia, which have strengthened laws prohibiting the practice and launched public campaigns against it.

In 2006, Jakarta’s move to outlaw FGM was resisted by some Islamic scholars, including the hard-line Indonesian Ulema Council.

Jakarta has since renewed the campaign against FGM by cooperating with Islamic organisations and women’s groups to increase public awareness of its harmful consequences.

Last month, Egyptian lawmakers passed stiffer punishments against those who carry out FGM.

Egypt, where nine in 10 women aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, has banned the practice.

FGM is also rampant among African Christians, and is considered normal in countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.

According to Farouk, compared to how it is done in other countries, FGM as carried out in Malaysia does not involve too much mutilation.

“But it is best not to do it,” he said.

“What right do we have? There is nothing good, only harm, because of the physical risks such as infection and psychological effects on the girl.

“I urge the muftis to revisit their fatwa by taking into account the views of Qaradawi and Al-Awa,” he added.



Turkey Needs ‘New Mobilization’ To Keep Girls in High Schools

October 17, 2016

Having achieved important progress in girls’ access to primary education through a series of successful campaigns, Turkey now needs to revive the same mobilization spirit to keep girls in higher education, according to Candan Fetvacı. Staying focused remains a key issue in tackling girls’ problems, the Aydın Doğan Foundation head tells the Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey has achieved significant progress in enrollment of girls at primary schools through public and private mobilization, but efforts to keep them in higher education need to be stepped up, Aydın Doğan Foundation director has Candan Fetvacı told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The foundation has overseen the “Daddy, Send me to School” campaign across Turkey, but similar mobilizations are needed to prevent girls from dropping out of school.

Tell us about the “Daddy, Send me to School” campaign.

In the early 2000s there was still a serious difference between girls and boys in Turkey in access to education. As we were thinking of what to do about it, Hanzade Doğan Boyner, the chairwoman of Doğan Gazetecilik who is also the charwoman of the Aydın Doğan Foundation, decided to initiate a campaign in this field. Joining hands with the Association for Supporting Contemporary Life [ÇYDD], in 2005 Doğan Gazetecilik launched the “Daddy, Send Me to School” (BBOG) campaign. At that time there was a very serious political will and resoluteness. The Education Ministry was working very intensively on the issue.

Other foundations, as well as representatives of the private sector, also started to focus on the issue as a social responsibility project. Actually, Hanzade Doğan Boyner did not call the BBOG campaign a “project” but rather a “mobilization.” With this overall mobilization throughout Turkey, together with the steps taken by the state, there was a boost in awareness. Ten years ago, one in 10 girls was not going to school in Turkey;

but today we can say that nearly all girls are going to school. Girls’ access to education is not yet 100 percent but the progress is extremely significant.

What were the key steps that led to these results?

Many girls were suffered from lack of physical access to schools. Some villages do not have schools, for example, so the BBOG campaign specifically focused on building girls’ dormitories. A total of 33 dorms were built with the support and donation of numerous individuals and organizations, and handed over to the Education Ministry. Also important was the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program, where mothers are given monthly payments in return for their children’s regular school attendance. With this, the argument saying “I have no money so I can’t send my children to school” was weakened.

The Aydın Doğan Foundation also gave more than 11,000 scholarships for an average of 3.4 years, while house visits were also very significant in terms of convincing families to send their children to schools.

What lies ahead?

We don’t think there is a serious problem left in terms of access to primary education, despite halts and even some regression in the indicators. But where there is a very serious problem is in high-school attendance. There are too many dropouts, too many girls not graduating from high schools. Currently only 80 percent of high school-age girls are enrolled.

We need to find out the reasons and address them with the same resolve that was displayed in the 2000s for access to primary education. We need to repeat the same mobilization and resolve for all stakeholders to work together.

What are the reasons for the high dropout rates?

Many families have financial difficulties, so we need some incentives. There is also the issue of child brides. Although secondary education is compulsory, many students opt for “open” secondary education [where they don’t have to regularly attend school]. But there are question marks as to what degree distance education is fruitful.

But one might think that with progress and access to technology, the problem of geography is no longer such a big problem for education.

Children should attend a school and have a teacher contributing to their learning until they finish high school. Also important is children’s social development. Education is not only limited to being able to solve some mathematics or physics problems on the computer at home. Children need to be present in that social environment. There is also a need for boys and girls to socialize together. Getting quality education at school contributes to the shaping of your character and gives you self-confidence.

What are the other problems that girls are facing?

Safe and clean schools, including lavatories, and safe transportation to schools are still important problems - not only in Turkey but also in the world. Another very important issue is the empowerment of girls. We need to avoid discriminatory attitudes. Families and society need to internalize the fact that girls are not different than boys. Girls need to be approached with that understanding, from the examples that are given in textbooks to the treatment they receive in schools.

Teachers and school principals in Turkey generally embrace a traditional, rather than egalitarian, view on gender. Teachers attribute different roles to, and have different expectations from, girls and boys. For example, boys are generally chosen to be head of the class rather than girls.

Getting girls to enter university, having them graduate from university, and increasing female employment also remain key issues. There are too many young women between the ages of 15 and 29 in Turkey who are neither educated nor employed.

The BBOG campaign contributed to raising awareness of access to primary school. What about awareness in terms of attendance to high school and issues like child brides?

We still have a long way to go in terms of increasing awareness on those issues. We recently listened to Fatma Şahin, the former minister of family and social affairs who is currently the mayor of Gaziantep. Şahin is working very much on these issues.

We are currently hosting three million Syrians. Currently 400,000 Syrian children can’t go to school. Many Syrian families with no income are trying to marry their children off as soon as possible. They think perhaps they are doing a favor and offering some kind of opportunity; but on the contrary, forcing a girl to marry at the age of 13 or 14 is very sad.

What is your advice to others inspired by the BBOG campaign? What should be the key elements in similar projects?

Proximity, being close to the school; safety; the confidence that there is a secure way of getting to school and that the school itself is secure; conditional cash transfers and house visits; and face-to-face communication always make a difference.

What difficulties does the foundation encounter?

We have difficulty in working together, in sustainability, in showing continued resolve. We initiate something, we get excited about it, but then five years later no one is around. Obviously we live in a country where the agenda is constantly changing, but we need to focus on our targets.

Struggling to change mindsets must also be an uphill struggle.

Changes in mentality cannot happen overnight. But you need to have faith in it. Political will and political resolve are very important. If that wasn’t there we could not solve all these problems by ourselves. There’s nothing you can’t solve when the representatives of civil society, the private sector and the public sector come together.



Indian Muslim Women Support UCC But Seek More Clarity

17th October 2016

HYDERABAD: Even though the Central government and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) are at loggerheads regarding the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), Hyderabadi women of the Muslim community support the efforts of UCC. But they have their own concerns.

“The women I work with and have spoken to in Old City have all been openly supportive of the UCC. In Hyderabad, the triple Talaq system has been phased out over months, there is no Talaq given over phone or by WhatsApp here,” said Jameela Nishat, founder of Shaheen, an NGO that works on gender issues and communal harmony. Women are in support of abolishing polygamy and the triple Talaq system. This would also mean that women giving verbal divorce will also come under the scanner, she added.

However women showing support are not completely happy about how the Central government has gone about trying to implement the UCC. “The women are pointing to the beef-lynchings and beef-bans. They also spoke of the Centre’s stand on the free hand given to Gau Rakshaks,” Jameela added.

“It was the women’s movement that first raised the issue of the UCC. But in the 1990s this issue was hijacked by the right wing RSS and its organisations including the BJP,” allege Kavita Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA). They implied that UCC was needed only to reform Muslim personal laws and rescue Muslim women. Therefore, UCC began to sound like imposition of a Hindu code uniformly on minority communities, “A very far cry from the real issue of gender justice”, she added.

“I am not sure whether the Central government is pushing its Hindutva agenda here,” said Nour Nazar, a blogger. The Centre, earlier this month, had asked the law commission to examine how UCC could be applied in India. Following which the law commission had sought public opinion on the matter.

The Centre also had filed an affidavit with the SC seeking a ban on the Muslim practice of triple talaq and polygamy. The AIMPLB, coming out against the Centre, boycotted discussions with the law commission. Muslim organisations have been rallying against the UCC with online petitions and also collecting signatures for a petition from those visiting mosques.



Saudi Princess, Ameerah Al-Taweel who broke the Hijab Bondage to Fight for Islamic Women Rights!      

Oct 17, 2016

In a world where Islamic women in Iran are put behind bars for letting go off their hijab in public, Saudi Princess, Ameerah Al-Taweel broke all forms of societal norms by freeing herself from the bondage of a hijab, burka and a life within the four walls of the house.

Ameerah married one of the richest businessmen in the world, Al-Waleed bin Talal at the age of 18 in 2001. Although this was the then 46-year-old Prince’s third marriage, Ameerah believed they had clicked during their very first meet.

Stating that she didn’t intend to live her life by just being someone’s wife, Ameerah soon made it to the spotlight by becoming the vice-chairperson of Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundations. She began advocating for women civil rights; right from the right to driving to the right of retaining custody of children post the divorce.

Ameerah not just stood for the Saudi Arabian women, but also made immense contributions for women, children and the needy around the world. Having met several notable personalities from the political world, she was able to use her influence in areas of concern.

In a world where a Muslim woman till date struggles to have an identity of their own, Ameerah has shown us what an oppressed woman is capable of achieving!



An Egyptian Woman Becomes the First Ever Female Director of the London School of Economics


Egyptian-born Dame Nemat Shafik just became the first woman to be appointed Director of LSE, one of the world's most prestigious academic institutions.

Omnipresent writer, reporter and researcher. Original author of War & Peace.

Egyptian-born Dame Nemat Shafik is set to become the first female to ever run the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The economist, who is a British and US national, resigned from her prominent central banking job as Deputy Governor of the Bank of England only two years into her five-year contract, in order to accept her upcoming position heading up LSE, according to The Guardian.

Shafik - who hails from the coastal city of Alexandria and is widely known by her nickname 'Minouche' - will officially commence in her new position as Director of LSE in September 2017. Shafik herself studied at the LSE and has since then gone on to hold a slew of prominent roles in high profile, highly prestigious institutions. Prior to her role at BoE, Shafik was Deputy Managing Director at the IMF from 2011 to 2014. Notably, over a decade ago, she also became youngest ever Vice President of the World Bank.

In 2015, Queen Elizabeth II honoured Shafik for her outstanding contributions in her field and named her a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE).

Regarding her upcoming role at LSE and decision to leave her term at the Bank of England early, Shafik said in a statement that she was leaving because it was “impossible to resist the opportunity to lead a world-class university like the LSE," according to the Financial Times.

Shafik also said, “I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead the LSE. The School’s long tradition of bringing the best of social science research and teaching to bear on the problems of the day is needed now more than ever. LSE is a unique institution that combines intellectual excellence and global reach. I am looking forward to working with both staff and students to guide it through what will be a time of challenge and opportunity in the higher education sector.”



Muslim Personal Law: Shayara Bano Case Outcome May Be Far Greater Than That of Shah Bano Case

Oct 17, 2016

There are, no doubt, striking resemblances between the Shah Bano case of 1985 and Shayara Bano case of 2016 as regards the plights of the victims. But the social outcome of the Shayara Bano case this year could be strikingly different from that of the Shah Bano case three decades ago when the high expectation of the reformation of the Muslim Personal Law had come to a naught.

Both the cases pertained to Muslim women. Both the Muslim women had moved the court to seek gender justice. In both the cases, these women were asking for the court’s intervention against certain provisions of Muslim Personal Law that discriminated against women.

Shah Bano had asked for maintenance from her husband (they were married for four decades) who divorced her (after uttering talaq thrice at the same time) on account of inheritance dispute among his children from his multiple marriages. Shah Bano’s maintenance plea was as per the Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) that states: a First Class Magistrate could order a husband to provide a monthly allowance to his wife\divorced wife (as long as she has not remarried) if he neglected to maintain her and she was unable to maintain herself. This provision is religion-neutral. It is a ‘benign provision enacted to ameliorate the economic condition of neglected wives and discarded divorcees’, as a court judgement had said.

Shah Bano’s husband pleaded in the court that he – along with his divorced wife -- were primarily governed by the Muslim Personal Law (given the fact that they were Muslims) which did not provide for maintenance beyond the iddat period (three months following the divorce). He argued that he was only obliged to pay Mahr ( gift given to a Muslim bride in consideration of marriage) and as he had done the same, he had no further obligation to maintain her. All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which impleaded itself in the case, argued that Section 125 of the CrPC could not override the provisions of the Muslim Personal Law.

Representational image. Firstpost/Naresh SharmaRepresentational image. Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Shayara Bano was subjected to the same misery of instantaneous divorce based on triple talaq by her husband in October last year after 15 years of marriage. In her case, adequate maintenance was not the issue; she went on to challenge the very provision of instantaneous triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and two other evils associated with it – polygamy and nikah halala (a debased practice that forces divorced women willing to go back to their husbands to consummate a second marriage before returning to the original fold). Her petition wants the Supreme Court to declare all three discriminatory practices as illegal and unconstitutional as they violate the rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 14, 15, 21 and 25.

Shayara Bano’s husband has opposed her plea on the same ground that Shah Bano’s husband had done – being Muslims, they were governed by the Muslim Personal Law and triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala are sanctified provisions under Muslim Personal Law.

In both the cases, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has taken the patriarchal view and justified that ‘no maintenance to a divorced wife’ and ‘triple talaq as a mode to divorce wife’ were integral norms of the Muslim Personal Law. It made the preposterous contention that if the provision of triple talaq was banned, the Muslim husbands would be forced to kill or burn their wives! (Do such men deserve to live in a civilised community?) In any case, the AIMPLB insisted that it was beyond the purview of the court to adjudicate on the personal and family matters of Muslims.

In the Shah Bano case, all the three courts – the lower court, the high court and the supreme court – adjudicated that Section 125 of the CrPC did not make any exception for the Muslim community and therefore, it would override the provisions of the Muslim Personal Law.

In the Shayara Bano case, as the Supreme Court is hearing the matter, no decision has been taken yet. No decision is likely to be taken soon unless the Supreme Court constitutes a Constitution bench and holds its hearing on a priority basis. Given the Supreme Court’s predilections and earlier judgments in similar cases, the judicial outcome of the Shayara Bano case is most likely to go the Shah Bano way.

The societal outcome is, however, likely to be different in both the cases on several counts: in last three decades, the number of Muslim women who want Muslim Personal Law to be reformed has increased manifold. In 1985, when Shah Bano case became a major bone of contention between the Muslim clerics and the judiciary, the All india Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) was able to mobilise hundreds of thousands of Muslims on the streets who defended the obscurantist provisions of the law. But supporters of Shah Bano within the Muslim community who hit the streets were just a few hundreds.

That is why Rajiv Gandhi, the then prime minister, who had initially supported the Supreme Court judgement and had fielded Arif Mohammad Khan, a progressive Muslim MP, to defend the decision on the floor of Parliament, later changed his stance when he came to realise that his party would lose the major chunk of the Muslim vote bank. He pushed through a new law in Parliament to override the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case. Ironically, the Act was named Muslim Women (Protection of Rights in Divorce) Act, 1986 where as it actually undermined the very rights the Muslim women had been granted by the Supreme Court in its Shah Bano judgement the previous year.

Like in 1985\86, AIMPLB still retains a large base among the orthodox Muslims who refuse to get out of the antiquated tradition (they are impervious to the fact that many Muslim-majority countries including Pakistan have reformed the Muslim Personal Law and have banned triple talaq and have provided for maintenance for the divorced Muslim women).

But, at the same time, the number of Muslim women and men supporting Shayara Bano today is many times larger compared to the corresponding figure during the Shah Bano case. The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), which has impleaded itself in the case in the Supreme Court in support of Shayara Bano, has more than one lakh registered members.

The Muslim clerics must know that the time has come for them to realise that they are not the sole spokesmen of the Muslim community. They succeeded in pressurising Shah Bano to disown the Supreme Court verdict and give up on maintenance in 1986, but they cannot repeat the feat in 2016. One-lakh strong Muslim women have come out in the open to challenge their authority. They have the support of the silent millions of oppressed Muslim women.

Shayara Bano case is most likely to be the catalyst to reform the Muslim Personal Law in India. That would be a blow for gender equity and justice. That would be a just victory for the underprivileged Muslim women over the patriarchal orthodoxy of the Muslim clerics.



China Bans Parents from 'Luring Children into Religion' In Muslim Province

October 17, 2016

The Chinese government is calling on people to report their neighbours, friends and relatives for “luring minors into religious activities” in a province home to the country’s largest Muslim population.

New education rules coming into force in Xinjiang on 1 November threaten to remove children from their parents’ care and send them to “receive rectification” at specialist schools.

The autonomous region, which borders Pakistan and Muslim-majority nations including Kazakhstan, is home to the greatest concentration of Muslims in China because of its significant ethnic Uighur population.

But restrictions are enforced on the practice of Islam, as well as China’s four other officially recognised religions, and the new rules threaten further punishment.

They say parents and guardians cannot “organise, lure or force minors into attending religious activities”, according to the state-controlled Xinjiang Daily.

Neither should they promote “extremist” beliefs in children, nor force them to dress in “extremist clothing” or other symbols, the newspaper said, echoing the tone of previous bans on Islamic dress including beards for men and headscarves for women.

“Any group or person has the right to stop these kinds of behaviours and report them to the public security authorities,” the rules said.

If parents are unable to remove their children from “harmful extremist or terrorist ways” and they cannot continue to study at their existing schools, they can apply to have their children sent to specialist schools to “receive rectification”.

Religious activities are banned in schools, which must guide students away from separatism and extremism, to create an environment that “esteems science, seeks the truth, refuses ignorance (and) opposes superstition”, the rules continue.

While China officially guarantees freedom of religion, children are not supposed to participate in religious activity.

The Communist government restricts religious practice to five officially recognised faiths and only in officially approved premises, auditing the activities, employee details, and financial records of religious bodies.

Other religious groups are classified as “evil cults”, allowing authorities to imprison leaders and criminalise followers.

Officials have destroyed Christian churches under laws against “illegal structures” and detained those protesting against the demolitions, while authorities have cracked down on underground Islamic schools, or madrasas, in Xinjiang in recent years.

Hundreds of people have died in the province over recent years in unrest blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants and separatists, although human rights groups say the violence is more a reaction to repressive Chinese policies.

The government strongly denies committing any abuses in Xinjiang and insists the legal, cultural and religious rights of the Uighur people are fully protected.

But many resent restrictions on their culture and religion, and complain they are denied economic opportunities in favour of Han Chinese.

Uighur  activists who have campaigned for better treatment of their people have been imprisoned, the most prominent being economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was jailed for life in 2014 on separatism charges.

He was awarded a prestigious annual human rights award on Tuesday, drawing an angry response from Chinese officials who said he was a criminal who praised terrorists.



Europe Wakes Up To Prospect of Female Terrorists

October 17, 2016

I meet 34-year-old Laura Passoni in a Brussels hotel. The mother of two small boys grew up in a Catholic family in the Belgian town of Charleroi. She converted to Islam at the age of 16 because she says she liked the religion and her best friend was Muslim.

Later, Passoni married a Muslim man and they had a son and everything was fine — until her marriage collapsed. "My husband met another woman and left me and abandoned his little boy," she says, "and I went into a deep depression."

And that's when Passoni met an ISIS recruiter. She says she was extremely vulnerable and he played on that. "He told me I could be a nurse and help the Syrian people. He told me I could start my life all over again. He made me believe in dreams," she says.

In June 2014, Passoni went to Syria. The terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels over the last two years were carried out by male citizens of France and Belgium who had been radicalized by ISIS. In the most recent attempted attack in September, four women tried to blow up a car filled with gas canisters in central Paris. Two of them were teenagers. Europe is now waking up to the prospect of female terrorists.

"Most of the women who radicalize have had some sort of trauma in their lives," says Faoud Saanani, the imam at a French government supported deradicalization center in the city of Bordeaux. Here, at an unpublished address behind heavy, locked doors, psychologists and counselors try to get through to youths being seduced by ISIS propaganda.

Saanadi says half of the 33 people they are currently counseling are women. "They've nearly all been a victim of violence or have been raped, or have been marginalized in some way. This makes them more vulnerable to ISIS' messages of a utopian society and revenge against the West," he says.

While the ISIS agent was recruiting Passoni online through the new Facebook profile she had created, she met the new man in her life. Also online. The couple went to Syria along with her 4-year-old son. Passoni says while her partner was fighting, she was at first housed with dozens of other women from the West.

"Some had come to try to help, some were there for love because they had followed a fighter, Passoni says. "But there were plenty of women who were full of hatred. All they wanted to do was get a Kalashnikov and launch attacks."

Passoni says she was shocked that some of the mothers didn't even try to hide the horrors from their kids, like the crucifixions every Friday in the town square. "Some even let their kids go up and touch the dead bodies," she says.

Passoni was eventually moved in with a Syrian family where she was confined inside all day to clean house and cook. She got pregnant. Aside from the horrors and the isolation, she now worried about dying in childbirth. After nine months, she and her partner escaped and returned to Belgium.

Last month, following the arrest of four women in connection with the car bomb plot, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said it was clear ISIS intends to turn women into attackers. "The vision of women as simply wives and mothers in the group is simply passé," he said.

Molins said the female combat unit in Paris had received guidance directly from Syria. Police had bugged one of the women's cell phones and heard them planning other attacks at Paris train stations before they were caught. Two of the women stabbed police officers as they were being arrested.

French journalist Mattieu Suc, who has written a book about female jihadists, says ISIS has changed the nature of terrorism. "Under al-Qaida, men left their families and went to Afghanistan alone. But in Syria it's become a sort of family jihad," he says. "Couples go together, sharing a common project. It's almost like buying a house together. And the role women play is as strong as that of men."

Now back in Belgium, Laura Passoni has written a book about her experience. It's called, In the Heart of ISIS With My Son. She's hoping to stop others from making the same mistake she did.

Passoni was given a suspended prison sentence. Her partner is in jail. They are not allowed to communicate, and Passoni is also prohibited from going on line.

Still, Passoni considers herself lucky because the judge gave her a second chance. She has custody of her two children. She says her oldest son, now 6, is back in school and doesn't appear to remember much about what happened in Syria.



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