Al Qaeda’s second in command has urged women to become ‘holy warriors’ in opposition to France’s proposed ban on face veils.
Ayman al-Zawahri described the move as one of ‘shameless war’, calling on Muslims to defend their headdress against the ‘secular Western crusade’.
‘Crusade’: Ayman al-Zawahri said the drive to ban the burqa is discrimination
In an audio message on the internet, he said the drive by France and other European nations is discrimination against Muslim women.
The French parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor to ban face-covering veils, such as the burka and niqab, this month.
In the 47-minute recording released on militant websites, the deputy leader said: ‘In France, the pioneer of secularism, there is an overt and shameless war on hijab and niqab.
‘What France is doing… should prompt us to hold on to our true religion in face of their deviant ideologies.
‘My Muslim sisters, hold on to your hijab, even if it would cost you your money, education and jobs.
‘You are mujahedat (female holy warriors) in the most important battlefield.
‘Every single woman who defends her veil is a holy warrior … in the face of the secular Western crusade.
‘France, with all its power and clout, can’t touch the head-cover of a nun, but it can assault any face-veiled woman.’
Al-Zawahri also urged Muslims in Europe to support their women in resisting the Western ban on the veil.
‘We must call upon our girls, our sisters and our mothers to put on the veil. We must support them and defend them,’ he said.
France, Belgium and Spain are debating legislation that would ban the veil.
Other nations in Europe too have struggled to balance national identities with growing Muslim populations with cultural practices that clash with their own.
Al-Zawahri also praised the terror network’s reputed third in command, Mustafa al-Yazid, who was killed with his family in a U.S. strike in Pakistan in May.
He was the group’s prime conduit to Osama bin Laden and played a key role in the day-to-day running of the organisation, with a hand in everything from finances to operational planning, U.S. officials said after his death.
Al-Zawahri praised what he called al-Yazid’s achievements in Afghanistan and claimed that although killed al-Qaida militants in Iraq outnumber U.S. soldiers 100-to-1, it is the U.S. that is withdrawing its troops from Iraq.
U.S. combat forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of next month, and the rest by the end of 2011.
Al-Zawahri said the terror attacks in America, including a May 1 attempted car bombing in New York city’s Times Square, were in response to the presence of foreign troops in Muslim nations like Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘Leave our land and enjoy security in your countries,’ he added.
U.S officials worry that militants of an al-Qaida offshoot have found refuge in Yemen’s remote, lawless areas and could be plotting attacks against American and other Western targets from there.