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Bride of ISIS: Why Women Join Jihad

12-08-2015
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The attack in San Bernardino, California, has raised many questions, including why would a young woman, who was a mother of a 6-month-old, carry out such an evil act of terror?

"It is not a whole lot different than what propels men," Dr. Anne Speckhard, an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University, told CBN News. "The lethal cocktail that makes a terrorist that I found is that there is almost always a group, there's an ideology, there's some level of social support, and then there's individual vulnerabilities and these four things come together."

Dr. Speckhard has interviewed more than 400 terrorists, their families, and supporters. She believes the terrorist couple may have been motivated by a perceived belief that America was at war with Islam and that they had a religious obligation to defend their faith.

*Watch Dr. Speckhard share more insights on why women are joining jihad.

"They probably bought into this whole ideology and narrative that Muslims are under attack around the world, that the West is responsible for it, and that they have a duty to individual jihad, which most Muslims don't believe," she said.

Speckhard has written several books, including Bride of ISIS and Talking to Terrorists.

"It's so terrible to imagine this couple are following the 'Victory or Paradise' slogan in that they win either way in their mind. They don't mind that they left a 6-month infant behind {because} clearly if they minded when they were facing overwhelming force, they would have thrown their hands up and surrendered, but they shot it out to the death because death for them is victory," Speckhard said.

Research shows an estimated 4,500 Westerners have traveled to the Middle East to join jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq. One in seven are women, according to a new report.

In her book, Bride of ISIS, Speckhard documents the true story of Shannon Conley, a young 17-year-old native of Colorado, who decided to become an ISIS bride after converting to Islam.

"She got on the Internet as a new Muslim and tried to figure out who she should be and what she should be following," Speckhard said. "Over time she fell in love with an ISIS fighter who she was Skyping with over the Internet and decided to go over to marry him. A lot of girls go over to be brides, to marry fighters."

The revelation that the 27-year-old San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik, described as "modern," "soft-spoken," "obedient," and "submissive," could turn into a killer and help her husband murder 14 people has shocked many Americans.

But it did not shock Speckhard, who has spent years studying the motivation behind Islamic jihadists who she says are on "the adventure of a lifetime."

"From their point of view, they are joining a new world order. They believe there's so much injustice in the world this terrorist group has convinced them that in claiming a caliphate that they are claiming a whole new world order and that there's going to be a utopia state that rises up," she explained.

Speckhard warns that female Islamic terrorists are growing in number and their attacks more sophisticated.

In a blog for Huffington Post, Speckhard writes, "What this couple's story underlines is that despite our wish to see females as the gentler gender, females can be lethal terrorists, that terrorist groups and now even ISIS are more than willing to make use of them, and that mothers are not an exception."

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