Following a long trial, this month Aafia Siddiqui was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder of U.S. soldiers and FBI agents while being held in custody in Afghanistan in 2008. Known as “Lady al Qaeda,” she was identified in 2004 as the only woman among seven most wanted al Qaeda operatives.
The media coverage of her trial has made much of her extensive psychiatric testing, which eventually concluded that she had faked her mental illness. Doctors stated that she was “intelligent and at times manipulative… [and] showed goal-directed and rational thinking.” In contrast to images of Muslim women, especially those who cover, lacking confidence, Siddiqui’s many outbursts and demands regarding her situation, particularly those relating to her paranoia regarding Jewish people, were trumpeted in headlines internationally, the prosecution even declaring that she was “no shrinking violet” in their closing argument.
In a Vogue magazine article titled “The Most Wanted Woman in the World,” everything—from her education and her strength of character to her mother’s devotion to women’s Islamic rights—is held up as exceptional and ominous. She is uniquely threatening, yet a warning of the neglected danger represented by Muslim women. It is claimed that Siddiqui “sheds light on what psychiatrist and former CIA analyst Marc Sageman calls ‘the neglected role of women’ in motivating men to fight for radical Islamic causes.” Just as in Newsweek’s analysis of Defne Bayrak, Siddiqui has been portrayed as a master manipulator.