Sally Jones was a waste of space. The principal purpose of the former British punk rocker turned Islamic extremist was to titillate the British tabloids, who dubbed her the ‘White Widow’ and gleefully reported her juvenile threats to bring death and destruction to the streets of her native London. She did no such thing before she was apparently killed in a drone strike in June. And where’s the evidence of the role attributed her by the international Counter Extremism Project, who declared that Jones ‘was responsible for training all European female recruits in tactics including suicide missions’? Perhaps she didn’t have time as she was too busy threatening to behead infidels ‘with a nice blunt knife’.
Others also got carried away with the hype. Azadeh Moaveni, author of Lipstick Jihad, described Jones as one of Islamic State’s ‘most iconic recruiters’, who was ‘really important in terms of projecting the idea that Isis could get into the very furthest reaches of British society. They could pluck up this woman who was a punk rocker, who was white, who was kind of attractive and they could put her up as their kind of poster woman’.
In which case, why when one searches online for photos of Jones are there none but that the mocked-up image of her dressed as a nun? Isis are skilled in the art of propaganda, as they demonstrated in milking poor John Cantlie for all he was worth, so why aren’t there photos of Jones instructing her fellow British recruits to make suicide bombs, or leading the sisters into battle with a blood-curdling cry of Allahu Akbar?
The attention-seeking, twitter-obsessed (if indeed it was her) Jones may have got a kick out of being described as a ‘poster woman’, but she was a poor recruiter. How many other British women of her age or background followed her across the Turkish border? Jones was neither a warlord nor a poster woman; she was a sad, stupid 50-year-old wannabe, who found in Isis the recognition and fame that had eluded her during her singing career. The only wonder is why Isis tolerated her for nearly four years. She had no military experience and her child-bearing days were behind her.
But Jones did have one thing that Isis wanted – her young son. Jojo was eight when he arrived with his mother in Syria and how the Islamists’ eyes must have lit up at the thought of turning a young white British boy into a fight-to-the-death fanatic who could one day return home to wreak havoc. This is why women are important to the Islamists. It’s nothing to do with guns or bombs; a woman’s most effective weapon in the war against the West is her womb. Procreation not devastation. When Isis was at its peak, in 2015, its glossy magazine, Dabiq, explained to its female readers what it expected from them:
‘As for you, O mother of lion cubs…. what will make you know what the mother of lion cubs is? She is the teacher of generations and the producer of men.’
This strategy isn’t just confined to the Middle East. In an interview with Le Figaro on Saturday the acclaimed Algerian writer Boualem Sansal warned the West that the birthrate in North Africa is ‘a weapon of mass destruction’. For the moment, said Sansal, the weapon isn’t primed but it soon will be. ‘The Islamists are convinced that Europe is on its last legs,’ he said. ‘The problem is that there still aren’t enough radicalised Muslims in Europe for the final phase, the seizure of power….but they are patient.’
Patient, and plain-speaking. In March, President Erdogan of Turkey called on his compatriots living in Western Europe to ‘make not three, but five children, because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you’. A similar strategy was advocated by Yasser Arafat in Palestine’s war against Israel, when he said: ‘If we can’t defeat them in war, let’s outbreed them’.
Sally Jones wasn’t able to help in that regard but there are many young western women who are. According to a report earlier this month, the number of women who have had the babies of Isis fighters in the last four years is 5,000. ‘The women who chose to leave the UK and go there need to be responsible for what they did’, said a British official. ‘They will not be coming home. The children, though, deserve compassion’.
France’s defence minister, Florence Parly, struck a more cautious note, warning that the estimated 460 children born to French mothers in Isis territory ‘have been radicalised and need to be watched. The challenge for us is to turn them into citizens again’.
The son of Sally Jones is reported to have been killed alongside his mother in the drone strike, a death that some newspapers have described as ‘collateral damage’. Not to the Islamists, who would view the death of a young ‘warrior’ as far more damaging to their cause than that of his misfit mother.