There is an obvious contradiction between what we think of Muslim women and their actual life. In order to better understand them and their social and civil life, we need to understand their religion and the way of thinking for both men and women.
In the introductory chapter of the book "The war of Muslim Minds, Islam and the West," Gilles Kepel talks about the online article "Knights under the Prophet's Banner," published on the Internet in December 2001 by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's most valued ideologue and Osama bin Laden's mentor.
According to his statements, the explanation for the attack of September 11 on the World Trade Centre is a simple and rather nationalistic one. Jihad activists came to face the disappointing conclusion that wherever they would go, Afghanistan, Bosnia or Saudi Arabia, jihad activist were unable to motivate and gather up the masses in order to fight and eliminate the current and inefficient leadership of the country. Muslims' most powerful desire is to have a nation of their own, a territory internationally recognized and freedom to choose and rule as they find most suitable according to their personal and religious believes. But to achieve these, they needed to over throne the leadership.
They called this the "nearby enemy" and the activists had to come up with a plan to both intimidate them, as well as convince the people to rise against this leadership.
To intimidate the "nearby enemy," they focused on terrifying the "faraway enemy." They were willing to sacrifice their own lives to prove their strengths and the extent to which they would go for their country.
To mobilize the Muslims, jihad activists had to convince them of their strengths and attacking the most powerful country in the world seemed the perfect way to do so. Once the activists had committed the terrorists acts in America, Muslims' self-confidence would be raised and to strengthen it even more, several other attacks would occur in the nearby future, in non-Islamic countries, France, Spain or Italy.
Considering that the number of jihad activists is quite reduced, they could not afford to loose many people in such an attack. Therefore, they needed a strategy throughout which they could produce a great number of victims and catastrophic damage, with as little human loss for them as possible.
To best meet all the demands stated previously, the activist reached the conclusion that suicidal attacks are the most convenient solution. Nothing is more powerful and dreaded than a man who fears nothing, not even his own death.
Losses for the activists in the case of suicidal attacks are minimal, as one man with one or more bombs can cause more damage then we can imagine. Even more than that, the idea of suicidal "soldiers," man who stand in this life only to fight and protect what they believe in above all, combined with the already existing drama of the attack, would most definitely create global chaos and panic. How could anyone convince another to stop his acts, how could one frighten another to stop the killings, when nor his consciousness convinced him, not the fear of his own death stopped him?
Once this situation of terrorism crisis would take over the world, the Muslims would be convinced of their power to fight and free themselves from the unfair leadership in their state. They would then unite under the holly army and begin war against their leaders. As the entire world would be in terror over the attacks, they would neglect the Muslims and fail to see the true reasons of the attacks. Therefore, international interest would be deviated in another direction, so Muslims could organize their war without much interruption.
To conclude, I might say that if these suppositions turned out to be true, jihad activists played a very smart but dangerous card. They created global panic to convince the Islamists of their power and to motivate them to rise against leadership. They attacked the far enemy to intimidate the nearby enemy, but in the process killed far too many innocent human beings.
Gilles Kepel, "The War of Muslim Minds, Islam and the West," The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 2004
Bernard Lewis and Robin Wright, Laith Kubba, "Islam and Liberal Democracy: Recognizing Pluralism," Journal of Democracy 7.2 (1996) 86-89
Meria, Middle East Review of International Affairs, Journal, Volume 3, Number 1, March 1999, Article "Islam, Islamists and democracy," by Ali R. Abootalebi
Zuleyha Keskin, "Status of Women in Islam," 2005
Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam And Human Rights: Tradition and Politics, Westview Press: Boulder, 3d ed, 1999