Why it is necessary to fight extremism and encourage the empowerment of women in this struggle?

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Why it is necessary to fight extremism and encourage the empowerment of women in this struggle?

The recent terrorist attacks by Islamic fundamentalists in Paris and Brussels, but also in Turkey, Kenya, Tunisia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Yemen, show us that we are facing a global threat that needs to be combated with measures affecting different aspects in which this terrorism is based.

In some cases, the military response can be useful and even necessary, but even when this response is chosen, it is necessary to address the causes of this terrorism and try to fight them at the origin.

Under this point of view, it is interesting to know what the role of women in societies where these extremist movements are caused and what role women play in these extremist groups. Probably this research leads us to consider to what extent a change in the role of women in these societies would facilitate the fight against fundamentalism. But also knowing what is the role that is expected of women in these terrorist organizations would deter many young people, especially young people from Western countries, to begin a path of no return.

All terrorist organizations who claim to act on behalf of Islamic fundamentalism would impose a social and political model in which there is no separation between religion and state, where civil laws are subordinate to religious rules and in which women have a subordinate role compared to men. That’s the model that currently exists in Iran or Saudi Arabia, for example.

In this model of society, it is important to keep the subordinate role of women, from the legal and social point. For that to happen, in addition to laws characterized by misogyny, it is very important that women do not have access to education and that they cannot be economically independent.

In some countries in Africa and the Middle East, are the governments and its laws that prevent normal access of women to education and productive sectors. This is done in the name of tradition or religion and without reference to account the positive impact that empowering women can have in these countries. In fact, for many years, international cooperation agencies find that when economic resources are in the hands of women, greater benefits are obtained for society.

Despite this evidence, fundamentalist groups deny women the empowerment because they realize that an educated and economically independent women is a threat to those who believe that women are inferior beings who should be subjected by men and whose own space it is only the family home. So they prefer to maintain social and economic underdevelopment to maintain its dominance over women.

The main purpose of the terrorist group Boko Haram, for example, is to fight schooling for women.

This terrorist group active in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali seeks to impose sharia as a rule in force in all states of Nigeria and not just in the north where there is a Muslim majority. Although Sharia is accepted by sectors of the population in the north, in the south, where there is a greater proportion of Christians, it is rejected.

One of the actions of this terrorist group that has had the greatest international impact was the kidnapping of more of 200 young girls who were in school in a town located in the south of the country (Chibok).  Two years later they remain in the hands of their kidnappers forced into sexual slavery or forced wives. Of course they have not returned to school.

It is easy to understand why Islamic fundamentalism attacks the heart of Europe through their terrorist actions because Western values are absolutely contrary to the values that these groups defend. However it is more difficult to understand why European citizens who are attracted by the violence of these fundamentalist groups and why go against their fellow citizens. It is true that the perpetrators of the latest attacks have North African origin or Middle Eastern countries. However they and even their parents were born in Europe and therefore have grown between Western values.

But additionally, a large number of European citizens and other Western countries, despite not having their family origin in any country in North Africa or East, have gone to Syria to join ISIS.

One of the causes of this phenomenon is related to the existence of a misunderstanding multiculturalism that has allowed in European cities the existence of ghettos in which the apostles of this fundamentalism have been able to convince some young people without reference values, making them believe that they could give a heroic meaning to their lives through violence. And all this has happened for years while the rest of society looked away. But it has also been permitted in these ghettos that many young girls stopped going to school when they became teenagers, that their life was controlled by their father, brother or husband, and they are forced to marry against their will. In many of these cases, the authorities of these cities have done absolutely nothing.

There is a chain formed by the subordination of women; social, economic and political backwardness and violence which has to be broken. Therefore, equality between men and women and the empowerment of women benefit equally men and women. In an egalitarian society, in which all have equal rights and duties, it is much more difficult to impose violence.

GARI DURAN

FORMER SPANISH SENATOR

April 15, 2016

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