Arab women both at home and in the Diaspora have often been faced with issues relating to their Muslim affiliation. Due to the difference in the practices and beliefs of these communities, Muslim women have often felt confused and stranded. In fact, they are expected to embrace modernity but uphold their society’s tenets. Indeed, the concepts of Jihadist, cultures, and feminism are some of the contributing factors to this controversy. In addition, due to the anthropological features attached to the Arab women, the world has always viewed them as different people. Therefore, the discussion scrutinizes the three concepts in depth; relate them together, and connect their concept with the anthropological aspects attached to the Arab women.
It is worth noting that Jihadist comes from the word “Jihad.” However, this word and its connotations have often been misunderstood by the Non-Muslims while Islam believers have abused it too (Abu-Lughod, 2013). In English, Jihad is translated as a holy war, a concept which suggests forced imposition of Islam on Non-Muslims. However, in Arabic, this term refers to either striving hard or ensuring that one makes all possible efforts or struggles. While jihads in the past were regarded to be only men, women are nowadays being recruited into the secular practice. Currently, more women are joining the ISIS group in Syria with personal claims that they are fighting in a holy war to eliminate all Non-Muslim believers (Bakker & Leedde, 2015). Other uninformed reasons are that they are actively participating in building a holy nation of pure Islam as it is commanded by Allah in Koran. In fact, there have been various women involved in secular jihadist, including Aqsa Mahmood and Moexdalifa. Indeed, all the above-mentioned women have had particular reasons for joining the holy war against the Non-believers. Some of the reasons are a misinterpretation of this concept and distorted understanding of the term “jihad” due to conversion to Islam at later ages (Bakker & Leedde, 2015).
Culture refers to a set of shared traditions, behavior, and belief systems. In essence, the people’s culture is shaped by their history, ethnic identity, religion, nationality, and language. Particularly, the Arab culture strongly advocates for family values within their extended families, which shows the adherence of honor, loyalty, and respect. However, due to diversity, the Arab culture differs globally (Slyomovics & Joseph, 2001). Therefore, with references to these cultures and practices, Arab women are often seen as being culturally oppressed. Specifically, the most significant feature that leads people towards this thought is the wearing of a Hijab. While the world thinks that wearing a Hijab is oppressive, Arab women have contrary opinions because most of them do so with great pride. As such, this garment symbolizes their identity, demonstrates their adherence to religious duties, promotes respect, and gives them self-esteem. Nonetheless, due to these firmly embedded cultural features, most Arab Americans today are faced with a lot of controversies because they try to live Americanized lifestyles while living up to their religious beliefs and cultural expectations. For instance, in the Middle East, women are mostly considered as property. In fact, Naber (2012) gives an example of Jumana who illustrates how Arab girls are brought up to live both Americanized and Arab lifestyles.
Certainly, feminism is established as a modern way through which Arab women have come up to fight for their rights expecting governments to promote gender equality. In the recent past, feminism has quickly gained momentum, but opinions on this matter are strongly divided due to the Arab culture and the modernized expectations. In the Arab culture, it is believed that feministic ideas have no place in their society. On the other hand, western states are aggressively engaging in debates on the status of an Arab woman. After all, the primary perception exhibited by the West is that Arab women are weak, passive, and oppressed (Abu-Lughod, 2013). However, such a condition is termed as a misconception because the Muslim culture shows concern for their women’s reputation, behavior, thinking, and talking. On the contrary, Arab women are ready and willing to copy their western counterparts because they view them as liberal. Nonetheless, the notion of feminism needs to be debated in some Arab regions because women are denied their human rights which would assist them to engage actively in the political arena. For example, in Saudi Arabia women are restricted from receiving any benefits as male citizens because of the class, patriarchy, and race exclusion practices (Slyomovics & Joseph, 2001).
Relating Culture, Feminism, and Jihadist Concepts
There is a relationship that ties the culture, jihadist concepts, and feminism in Arab women. Concisely, the Arab culture provides a framework for the structuring and creation of feminism and jihadist (Abu-Lughod, 2013). Due to these cultural regulations, women are expected to adhere to the religious hierarchies. Consequently, the religious institutions draw attention to the rest of the world which establishes that women are treated as a minority; thus, there is no need to empower females in societies. Notably, that is why feminism has been on the rise because there is a call for Arab women to be treated equally and eliminate the misconception of oppressed and weak gender. On the other hand, culture has led women into participating in secular Jihadist. Therefore, women are expected to perform their religious duties of supporting their men into liberalizing the Islamic religions (Bakker & Leedde, 2015).
Relating Arab Women Anthropology to Feminism, Jihadist, and Culture
The anthropology around Arab women suggests that they are from a bounded and discrete society. While the Arab culture is portrayed as one with positive intents, it has extensively worked on ensuring that this community is labeled as the “other” (Abu- lughod, 1993). Thus, culture and anthropology collaborate in constructing, producing, and maintaining the idea that Muslim women are different in the world. On the other hand, anthropological aspects have provided a way through which feminism can create the idea of hierarchy. Therefore, feminists are always imposing ideas that a Muslim woman is the one being referred to the adjective “different” (Abu- lughod, 1993). Consequently, due to the segregation attached to Arab women, they are pushed into joining secular jihadist. As a result, these women have gone ahead to cite reasons for joining jihadist including the claims that Muslims are oppressed globally (Bakker & Leedde, 2015). However, religious dogmas and ideological duties also lead them into practicing secular jihadist.
In sum, the above discussion has clearly defined the culture, jihadist, and feminist concepts. On a closer look, all three concepts are interrelated considering that the Arab culture has given birth to both jihadist and feminism mainstream. Ultimately, the anthropological aspects of the Arab women have extensively worked in cultivating the idea of the difference of these females globally.