Wednesday, May 06, 2009

'Hunters' for Jesus: جند الصليبية في أفغانستان : The 'Crusaders' in Afghanistan

PART OF THE SERIES OF RESEARCH NOTES FROM MY CURRENT PROJECT, "The Art of the Martyr & Mujahid," (all materials copyrighted) :

Today, a variety of news sources carried a report, originally from Al-Jazeera English (AJE), on its satellite television channel (see below) and on its web site, about the operations of Evangelical Christian members of the U.S. military in Afghanistan who see themselves as "hunters of people" for "Jesus." They hold meetings on U.S. bases and have amassed Christian Bibles in Afghanistan's two most widely spoken languages, Pashtun and Dari, an eastern dialect of Persian. According to the AJE report, it is unclear whether their plan to get around U.S. military prohibitions on proselytization by giving "gifts" of Christian Bibles to locals would be halted by U.S. commanders.


The original AJE report, which can be viewed below, was linked to by numerous blogs, including the widely-read and always-entertaining blog run by California State University-Stanislaus professor As'ad AbuKhalil, "The Angry Arab News Service." News about the report also spread quickly on American Muslim web sites and e-mail listservs, including one prominent one from Northern Virginia. The "analysis" from some participants on the latter listserv was often quite a ridiculous sort of way. The issue of Jesus' status in Islam and "Evangelical" (read: Christian) theology(ies) was raised, unsurprisingly. Jesus is considered to be a great prophet and messenger of God in Islamic theology (Sunni and Shi'i), while he (or is it "He"?) is of course considered to be the "(S)son of God" by Christians of all sects. One listserv participant remarked, "It's time that Evangelicals realized that Islam is the religion of Jesus--Jesus taught people to worship the One God and never to worship him." (sic). Similar inter-religious polemics and debates are also a staple of Evangelicals and other Christian missionaries.

Other forums on which commentaries or stories about the self-styled "hunters for Jesus" in Afghanistan were run include the History News Network, the American liberal news blog The Huffington Post, not once but twice, and United Press International.

These mainstream news sources, cyber commentary forums, e-mail listservs, and blogs, however, were not the only venues on which this story was reported. The print story was reproduced and linked to in a thread on the al-Qimmah al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Summit) online discussion forums (see below to view a PDF copy). The forums are largely in Somali (its administrators claim that it is the "first Somali-language" jihadi discussion forum), but also have forums in English and Arabic. The thread was found on the English forums.

Bibles in AFPAK

...Or Click HERE.

While it is not news that the Internet allows for the rapid sharing and spread of information and news, this particular case study is an interesting example of how closely jihadis and their supporters and sympathizers watch U.S. news, and then post about it on their online discussion forums.

UPDATE: A similar thread was published 21 hours ago (May 5) on the English forums of the al-Falujah al-Islamiyyah, one of the major online forums used by Salafi jihadis and their supporters. See below for a PDF copy:

Bibles in AFPAK (Falujah)
...Or, click HERE.

UPDATE (May 6): A thread about the "hunters for Jesus" was also published on May 5 on the English language Islamic Awakening discussion forums. Although it is not a jihadi site, includes members who are clearly supportive of militant groups. It is important to note that the forums bring together both Muslims and non-Muslims in dialogue, per IA's mission statement.

One example of a pro-jihadi member is a user named "Abu Maryam" (Father of Maryam), who writes about the self-identified "hunters for Jesus": "may Allah [the One God] kill them and use their bibles as fuels for the fire when the mujahideen send rockets n them. ameen. " [sic] Such people, who support indiscriminate violence, discredit their fellow Muslims and bring shame upon themselves. See below for a PDF:

Bibles in AFPAK (Islamic Awakening)
...Or click HERE...

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