If one were to find a single question that defines the geo-politics of our age, it might well be the question Farhana Qazi has been asking herself for almost 20 years: why do so many Muslims kill in the name of their religion?
If she has not found all the answers, Qazi has done much to facilitate our understanding of the issues, primarily as they relate to Muslim women and the rise in women extremists. A Muslim herself, she has worked largely behind the scenes: at the Counter-Terrorism Center in Washington, D.C.; at the Rand Corporation think tank; as an instructor on terrorism for the U.S. military; and as an author. Her work has taken her back to her native Pakistan, where she has immersed herself in the lives of Muslim extremist women, met with the mothers of suicide bombers, come to know women who have endured imprisonment, and shared stories with women who, in her words, “have tried to break the barriers of patriarchy and patrilineal traditions.”
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Qazi came to America with her mother at the age of 1, joining her father who was already working in Tennessee. Soon after, the family moved to Austin, Texas, which Qazi considers her hometown. Her work since then, both in the service of her country and as a beacon for moderate Muslims seeking to reconcile their beliefs with the violent extremism facing the world, has received lavish praise and numerous awards. She is now working on a book that examines why Muslims turn violent, and the ways in which recent political events contribute to violent extremism.
She told us her story in a recent interview, and shared her crucial insights on radical Islam, women terrorists, and where we stand now in the face of the radical Islamist threat.
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