Afiya Shehrbano Zia
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Drivers or decoys?
Women and the narrative of extremist violence in Pakistan
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Midway into the war on terror, in 2007, Pakistan witnessed the spectacular and bloody encounter between state forces and the resisting disciples of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in the capital city of Islamabad. This event exposed the lack of national consensus about religious extremism and the place of religion in Pakistan. This chapter outlines CVE policy discussions about terrorism and counter-terrorism in Pakistan as exclusively steered by the military establishment. These have been masculine and imbricated in religio-nationalism and have excluded the voices of women, minorities, civilian or secular sensibilities. The radical role played by the women of the Lal Masjid defied the post-9/11 theories about Muslim women’s docile agency, or those that portrayed Islamist women as victims of ‘liberal-secular’ demonising and misunderstanding. Instead, the uprising of the women of the seminary of the Jamia Hafsa directly challenged the proposal that mosque women’s politics benignly and rationally pivots simply around their piety. It revealed the precarious nexus between piety, agency, and radical or extremist politics. The chapter argues that CVE is unlikely to progress unless this connectivity between piety and radical religious narratives is recognised and opposed, and women’s voices are included in CVE policymaking.

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Encountering extremism

Theoretical issues and local challenges


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