On the street [in Brussels], Malika El Aroud is anonymous in an Islamic black veil covering all but her eyes. In her living room, El Aroud, a 48-year-old Belgian, wears the ordinary look of middle age: a plain black T-shirt and pants and curly brown hair. The only adornment is a pair of powder-blue slippers monogrammed in gold with the letters SEXY. But it is on the Internet that El Aroud has distinguished herself. Writing in French under the name Oum Obeyda, she has transformed herself into one of the most prominent Internet jihadists in Europe.
She calls herself a female holy warrior for Al Qaeda. She insists that she does not disseminate instructions on bomb-making and has no intention of taking up arms herself. Rather, she browbeats Muslim men to go and fight, and rallies women to join the cause. […] She was detained last December with 13 others in a suspected plot to free a convicted terrorist from prison and to mount an attack in Brussels. But Belgian law required that they be released within 24 hours because no charges were brought and searches failed to turn up weapons, explosives or incriminating documents.
Now, even as El Aroud remains under constant surveillance, she is back home rallying militants on her Web site -- and collecting more than $1,100 a month in government unemployment benefits. "Her jihad is not to lead an operation but to inspire other people to wage jihad," said Glenn Audenaert, the director of Belgium's federal police force. "She enjoys the protection that Belgium offers. At the same time, she is a potential threat."
Born in Morocco, raised from a young age in Belgium, El Aroud [...] operates from her three-room apartment above a clothing shop in a working-class Brussels neighborhood where she spends her time communicating with supporters on her main forum, Minbar-SOS. Although she insists she is not breaking the law, she knows the police are watching. And if the authorities find way to put her in prison, she said: "That would be great. They would make me a living martyr."