A new magazine is “making waves” in Europe and North America—or so it would seem from the media coverage. Al-Shamikha, a publication directed to women and published by Al-Fajr Media Centre (Al-Qaeda’s online propaganda distributor), has been defined as “Al-Qaeda’s Cosmopolitan” or “Jihad Cosmo.” The magazine, which is roughly 30 pages long, covers a variety of topics that range from beauty to “proper” wifehood and motherhood. The magazine’s conception of “jihad,” which it defines specifically as violent actions against those deemed to be against Islam, including Muslims who reject these acts of violence or befriend those against them, is always present explicitly or implicitly in the articles.
The magazine has received lots of media coverage. The Week questioned its authenticity, while The Toronto Star reports that the magazine not only encourages women to marry mujahideen, but it also teaches them how to raise children who will want to follow in their footsteps. The Mail Online states that suicide bombing is glamorized in this magazine and the women featured are proud of the men that risk their lives in the name of “jihad.” The magazine also invites women to join the “struggle” and to support their men, while offering beauty tips and interviews with fellow Muslim women who have complied with the lifestyle that the magazine promotes.
Much has been written describing the magazine, but little attention has been paid to what Muslim communities think of the magazine around the Western world. None of the articles covering Al-Shamikha include Muslim women’s voices— either those who might be interested in the publication, or those who are against it. In addition, once again, the media makes it difficult to distinguish between extremism (religious and political) and Islam.
There is no doubt that the publication of such a magazine is troubling for Muslims and non- Muslims. However, the high profile coverage Al-Shamikha has received isn’t ordinary. Extremist magazines are not uncommon: publications such as Bombardero Skinhead and American Renaissance feature racist and anti-Semitic content for white-supremacist readers. Moreover, Al-Qaeda has also published Inspire, to encourage people to become fighters, just as the Tea Party advances its own agenda through its online magazine. And yet, the only publications to receive press are Al-Shamikha and Inspire.