The XX Factor

Is “Al-Shamikha” for Real?

In a news cycle that includes Fox News’ failure to see through a hoax story about a Pakistani Islamic Council banning padded bras and recommending that Muslim researchers “try to invent an innerwear that makes female assets unnoticeable,” are we really going to accept that al-Qaida’s “media wing” has created a glossy magazine marketing jihad and beauty tips ? Al-Shamikha supposedly comes from the same source as Inspire , an English-language title that included a feature called “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.” When it first appeared, Max Fisher at the Atlantic gave us ” 5 Reasons to Doubt Al Qaeda Magazine’s Authenticity .” Some of those same reasons suggest the media might want to hesitate before anointing Al-Shamikha the magazine of a-Qaida’s women’s auxiliary.

Fisher doubted specific articles from Inspire , like articles purporting to be written by Osama bin Laden (unlikely to write for the Yemen-based “al-Qaida spin-off” that published Inspire) and by a Guantanamo inmate. Al-Shamikha isn’t written in English, so I haven’t yet seen a detailed parsing of its contributors-but Fisher also doubted both the tone and content of Inspire , and we should be asking ourselves some of the same questions about Al-Shamikha . Neither beauty tips nor man-catching advice seem consistent with the womanly ideals of the conservative Muslim, and it’s hard to reconcile a cover image of a woman posing with a sub-machine gun with a culture that does not allow women to drive.

Al-Shamikha is definitely out there, but places like the  Middle East Observatory haven’t dubbed it an al-Qaida production, U.S. analysts haven’t commented, and most of the media coverage is little more than a re-hash of the Independent ‘s original coverage, although HuffPo adds a link to the actual text . If any Arabic readers out there have anything to add on whether  Al-Shamikha reads like the real thing-and just whose real thing that would be-let us know.