Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Criticizing Arab Autocrats & Muslim Apathy in Two Nasheed Videos

As I have written previously, anasheed (singular: nasheed, religious and, in the case of jihadis, political-themed songs) are an important part of political communication, both for Muslim and non-Muslim political groups. In the case of jihadi-Salafis, anasheed, although they rely on catchy melodies and rhythm (and effects such as echo), do not generally include the use of instruments. Religious-nationalist anasheed, such as those produced by the Lebanese Hizbullah and Palestinian HAMAS movements, on the contrary often do include the use of instruments such as drums, strings, brass, and even bagpipes (in the case of one Hizbullah nasheed video that I've seen). Anasheed are useful because they include widely-held critiques of Arab and Muslim rulers (they they're autocrats more concerned with remaining in power than serving there people), calling on potential supports and supporters to take critique to the next level, open rebellion.

(From Left): Somali interim president Shaykh Sharif Ahmed, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, Sudanese president 'Umar Hasan al-Bashir, Saudi king 'Abdullah I, and Tunisian president Zayn el Abidine ben 'Ali (Zine El Abidine Ben Ali).

Below is a jihadi-Salafi nasheed entitled "Ummat Ahmed" (pronounced in Arabic as "Ummat Ahmad/Ahmed", "Nation of Ahmed"). The title refers to the "nation of the Prophet Muhammad," and says that the Muslim Ummah ["nation"] of today is not a worthy successor to him. Although the lyrics are applicable to the entire Muslim world, which jihadi-Salafis see as mostly being ruled by apostate Muslims in the service of foreign powers, chief among them the United States, the images and footage used in this video montage clearly focus on the Arab Muslim world.
Saudi King 'Abdullah bin 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn al-Sa'ud shaking hands with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Images of Arab autocrats flash by, including the kings and amirs ["princes"; "rulers"] of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the Arab Emirates, as well as the autocratic presidents of Syria, Algeria, Sudan, the Fatah Palestinian authority, and Egypt. Many of them, particularly the Saudi king, 'Abdullah, the Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faysal, and the Fatah Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud 'Abbas, are shown as clients of the U.S. Also shown is the secretary-general of the Arab League, 'Amr Musa, and the president of Libya, the eccentric Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi.

Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faysal, meeting with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Lyrical references are made to the historical legacy of the Prophet (such as the Battle of Badr) and key Salafi concepts (such as al-Bara', "disavowal" of those who are not Muslim or those Muslims who have become or are close to becoming apostates). The video nasheed montage is well constructed

Watch the nasheed video montage

The second nasheed video criticizes Arab and Muslim rulers and the majority of Muslims who do not, the speaker says, oppose their subjugation by foreign powers, namely the U.S. and other "new Crusaders." The apathy of most Muslims to the suffering of their fellow Muslims is also a central theme (watch the segment from the 3:30-mark to 4:40-mark, which shows wealthy and middle class Arabs wasting time on expensive baubles while their coreligionists in Palestine, Iraq, and East Turkestan are violently persecuted). A bandaged and crying little boy and footage of injured and dead Muslims in the Middle East and East Turkestan is juxtaposed with Arabs and Muslims celebrating mindlessly unimportant events such as sports and worldly possessions.

For a good idea, visually, of this nasheed's theme, also watch from the 4:45-mark until the end, about 1.5 minutes. The "tyrants of (the) White House" are shown in the form of former U.S. president George W. Bush and Federal Reserve chairman Benjamin Bernanke, followed by images of Muslim religious leaders who have "sold out," such as the popular Egyptian preacher 'Amr Khaled and the head jurist at Egypt's famed al-Azhar University and Mosque, Shaykh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi.

Calling for Muslims to take up the struggle [al-jihad], footage of United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon reacting to a powerful bomb blast while visiting Baghdad, Iraq in March 2007 and an Iraqi Shi'i cleric ducking from another bomb blast are shown. A hand covered in blood, possibly from Palestine or Iraq, is shown before footage of "mujahideen" ["warriors of faith"] marching is shown, probably filmed in Chechnya or the Caucasus. Several of them point their index finger up, noting their belief in the absolute unity [Tawhid] of God. The background nasheed's melody is quite beautiful, adding to the power of the video.

Watch the nasheed

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