>From Driving Cars to Leading Al Qaeda

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid

Haylah al Qassir is the subject of much discussion after the Al Qaeda 
organization admitted that she was one of the most active elements in the areas 
of preaching and propaganda, funding and recruitment. The organization revealed 
the secret of this Saudi woman, whose identity remained hidden by the Saudi 
security authorities for three months, as her arrest was announced in an [Al 
Qaeda] audio recording a few days ago. In the recording, the organization calls 
for its members to carry out crimes such as kidnapping princes, assassinating 
state officials and bombing buildings until Haylah al Qassir is released. 
Therefore, al Qassir must be an important element to the organization if it is 
inciting war for the sake of her release. 

Many people have written about the phenomenon of women in Al Qaeda and their 
various roles. This Haylah is not the only Saudi woman [to be part of Al Qaeda] 
as she was preceded by many others. The number of [Al Qaeda] women seems to be 
increasing on the battlefields and behind the scenes where they provide 
logistical support. Despite that it is an organization representing the highest 
levels of religious and social extremism, Al Qaeda is fascinating not only in 
terms of its ability to recruit the young and the old, the educated and 
uneducated, the rich and the poor and people from various social categories; it 
is also fascinating in terms of flexibility, the development of its thinking 
and the way this is implemented within the organization. This is evident in its 
acknowledgment of the importance of women as significant and active members.

The fascinating paradox is that the most extremist and hard-line organizations 
in the world accept women as members, commanders and inspiring leaders. In 
these organizations, women assume positions that deal with the internet, 
fundraising and fieldwork accompanied by their men on the battlefield. In 
comparison however, our civil societies that are supposed to be less extreme 
and more tolerant, are preventing women from thriving. 

If a woman like Haylah, or Wafa al Shahri, or Umm Osama and other Saudi women 
before her who worked in the most dangerous profession on earth i.e. that of 
terrorist activity, are fascinating examples then how can it be that ordinary 
women who respect the law are still deprived of their basic rights such as 
driving a car or working in a retail outlet and are not considered people who 
are responsible for themselves but as subordinates? 

Another aspect that is worth mentioning in the case of Haylah al Qassir is the 
success of Al Qaeda's infiltration. This terrorist organization's ability to 
infiltrate the closed society of Saudi women and its infiltration of the centre 
of Saudi provinces reveals that despite the arrests and the hunts for hundreds 
of Al Qaeda elements, the organization is still active and is spreading like 
cancer. Unfortunately, the consecutive successes achieved by the security 
apparatus have not hidden the fact that intellectual work has failed in its war 
against the terrorist organization. 

At this point we must ask who inspired this woman, who did she listen to and 
which ideology attracted her? In the past, we used to say that people should be 
concerned about their sons but now the message is: look out for your women, or 
rather, look out for yourselves! 

After all these bloody years, extremist thinking is still spreading in our 
region and it is strong on all levels. Some people are apprehensive about 
giving advice out of fear that they would be accused of Takfir [apostasy] and 
they are even apprehensive about touching on the activities that are carried 
out under the guise of religion, which are prevalent and come under various 
pretexts. The new Al Qaeda member, Haylah al Qassir, who is 47 years old, used 
to lecture women as a preacher and was raising funds from among them on the 
pretext of assisting orphans and the poor and would then send the money to 
terrorist groups in Yemen. 

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