POLITICAL SCIENCE

Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS

Random. Sept. 2019. 352p. ISBN 9780399179754. $28. POL SCI
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Moaveni (Lipstick Jihad) explores the reasons young women join the Islamic State (IS). Expanding on her 2015 New York Times story, Moaveni focuses on 13 women from varying socioeconomic statuses and countries. Their reasons for joining IS are complex: some follow husbands or boyfriends, some are seduced by the promise of a “pure” form of Islam, some are unable to leave their homes in the war zone. Alongside the personal narratives, Moaveni presents a compact history of the Syrian conflict and expands on the political and socioeconomic situations that gave rise to extremism in Europe and North Africa. The author pays special attention to the factors behind the women’s choices and where interventions could have been made, as she hopes that by addressing the underlying causes, future occurrences will be prevented. Moaveni’s tone gravitates toward compassion and understanding, given the young age of many of these women, but she also provides more critical counter-narratives, never glossing over or avoiding the gravity of her subjects’ decisions nor the brutality of the IS regime.
VERDICT A compelling read that imparts important lessons about religious extremism. Recommended for readers interested in women’s issues and current affairs.

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