Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen in Somalia: April 27 Kamikaze Attack on African Union "Revenge" for "Martyrdom" of Islamic State of Iraq Leaders

The Somalia jihadi-insurgent group Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior-Youth; Al-Shabaab) claimed responsibility for the April 27 "martyrdom" (kamikaze) operation against an African Union (AU) military base in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital city, in the state of Banadir. The group described the AU contingent as "Crusader forces and said that the attack was carried out by the "martyrs' battalion". It also claimed that fifteen "Crusaders" had been killed, though Al-Jazeera English reports that the fourteen dead were civilians, according to witnesses.

In a press conference in Mogadishu, a spokesman for Harakat al-Shabab, Shaykh 'Ali Mahmoud Raji (Ragi, Rage), said that the "martyrdom" attack was launched to avenge "the blood of our two martyrs, our two heroes...the Shaykh-leader Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi and his minister...Abu Hamza al-Muhajir." Al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir (Abu Ayyub al-Masri) were the two senior leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an umbrella organization for several of the most violent jihadi groups operating in that country. Background on both, as well as the ISI, can be found in my guest editorial, "The Death of a Caliph: Will the Reported Killings of the Islamic State of Iraq's Two Senior Leaders Spell Out the End of the Self-styled Jihadi State?", on Prof. Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog.

The leadership of Harakat al-Shabab also issued a statement on al-Baghdadi's and al-Muhajir's deaths, which is viewable HERE via another post.

"Presidential Palace"

Harakat al-Shabab's media outlet, the Al-Kata'ib (Brigades) Media Center, released photographs of the "martyrs", some them holding a typed sign stating, in Arabic, that their attack was, "Revenge for the Amir (leader) of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi, and the minister of war, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir."

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Attack on African Union Base in Mogadishu April 27 (April 28)
Mogadishu Attack on African Union

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ENGLISH: Statement from the Islamic State of Iraq Confirming the "Martyrdom" of Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi & Abu Hamza al-Muhajir

"Islamic State of Iraq"

An English-language translation of the Islamic State of Iraq's (ISI) statement "to the Muslim nation" confirming the deaths ("martyrdom") of the "two commander, the two shaykhs," Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abu Ayyub al-Masri) was released yesterday by the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), a shadowy transnational jihadi-takfiri media outlet.

Background on the ISI, an umbrella for several of the most violent jihadi-insurgent groups operating in Iraq including Al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers/Iraq (AQI), can be found in my guest editorial, "The Death of a Caliph: Will the Reported Killings of the Islamic State of Iraq's Two Senior Leaders Spell Out the End of the Self-styled Jihadi State?", on Prof. Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog.



Al-Baghdadi was addressed as the "commander of the faithful" (amir al-mu'mineen), a title reserved historically by Sunni Muslims for the caliph, the legitimate head of an ideally unified Islamic state. He was, in effect, the proto-caliph for the Al-Qa'ida-brand transnational jihadi-takfiri state project in Iraq. Top Al-Qa'ida Central leaders, including its deputy commander and chief ideologue Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, addressed al-Baghdadi in this way. Al-Muhajir, an Egyptian, was the head of AQI as well as the "prime minister" and "minister of war" of the ISI. He succeeded AQI's founder, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, after the latter was killed in a United States airstrike in June 2006.

The original Arabic statement can be read, via a previous post, HERE.
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ISI...Martyrdom of Baghdadi & Muhajir..ENGLISH (April 26)
ISI...English statement

Monday, April 26, 2010

Abu Yahya al-Libi: The Modern Day Banu Qurayza and America...A Hotbed of Treachery & Source of Evil


Embedded below is a new essay written by Abu Yahya al-Libi, Al-Qa'ida Central's (AQC) "mufti," its chief religious jurist and preacher. It is entitled, "(Banu) Qurayza and America: A Hotbed of Treachery and Source of Evil" and references the Arab Jewish tribe that betrayed the Muslims of Medina during the Battle of Khandaq (the Trench) in 627 C.E. when it looked like the pagan Meccans would win, despite having signed a treaty to support the Muslims in case of attack by the Meccans. Abu Yahya's refers to "defeatists" among the Muslims today as modern day "Qurayza," and he says that their attitude is counterproductive to the goals of the "true Muslims", which in his mind are those who support AQC.



After Khandaq, the Medinan Muslims under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad defeated the Banu Qurayza in battle. He allowed a man severely wounded in the battle, Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, to decide the punishment of the Banu Qurayza for breaking the treaty and siding with the Meccans. Ibn Mu'adh decided that the Qurayza males would be executed and several hundred of them (estimates by historians put the number at between 400-1,000) were. The women and children were sold into slavery, a common practice during this historical period in many parts of the world. Some modern writers, including many anti-Muslim polemicists, have argued this "proves" the Prophet was anti-Semitic, though the Banu Qurayza, according to most historians of early Islam and the extant sources were not killed for being Jews. Rather, they were killed, these historians argue and these sources say, because they committed an act of treason by breaking their treaty with the Prophet and siding with the attacking Meccans.



One group of Muslims that Abu Yahya singles out are the mystics (Sufis), of whom he writes: "One type of worship should not be sacrificed for another, let alone be confined to one aspect, something which is closer to the worship’s total cancellation than its fulfillment. An example of this is the Sufis who turned the religion into living in darkness, mentioning of Allah, continuous clicks of rosary beads night and day, and long and arduous daily spiritual routines which can hardly be completed. This is coupled with de-pending on others for their sustenance, begging from people, disgracing themselves, thinking themselves to be depending upon Allah and devoting all their time to worship, something they feel consists of nothing other than solely what they are involved in. They see carrying out other duties to be hardness of the heart, unimportant frivolities, and impediments in attaining the highest ranks of closeness to Allah. See how at cer-tain times, when the enemies were swallowing one Islamic land after another, spreading sin and corruption on earth, killing, plundering and desecrating honor, many of these “devout worshippers” remained devoting themselves to the “greater Jihad” of fighting their desires and evil whisperings, chasing after the most minute of its desirous hints, and purifying atom-worths of its impurities. These things prevented them from perform-ing the “smaller Jihad”, which was fighting off the traunsgressors, and thus they entered the caves of monk-hood which they introduced, something not prescribed for them in religion, but rather leading them to leave its fold."



He also argues that the Banu Qurayza incident "proves" that modern day "true Muslims" (those few who support AQC) can execute all prisoners of war and not only those believed to pose a threat. Abu Yahya seems to be writing in reference to recent statements by mainstream Sunni Muslim scholars against AQC and its formulation of militaristic jihad (struggle), such as the fatwa of Tahir ul-Quadri and a conference in Turkey that reinterpreted a famous fatwa (juridical opinion) of the medieval Hanbali Sunni jurist Ahmad Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyya that is often cited, out of historical context, by jihadi-takfiris.

Abu Yahya's essay was released simultaneously in English and Arabic. Both versions are embedded below. The essay was distributed by the Al-Fajr Center, a shadowy transnational jihadi-takfiri media outlet that distributes multimedia material from AQC, Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
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Abu Yahya..قريظة وأمريكا..مرتع غدر ومنبع شر ENGLISH
English
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The Arabic version can be viewed, via my Scribd account, HERE.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Palestinian Jihadi-takfiri Groups First to Issue Condolences to Islamic State of Iraq for Killings of al-Baghdadi & al-Muhajir

Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'l Jihad, Bayt al-Maqdis (logo, top) between two of Islam's holiest shrines, Al-Aqsa Mosque (left) and Dome of the Rock (right) in Jerusalem. The black flags emblazoned with the Muslim testament of faith (shahada) is used by the Islamic State of Iraq and other jihadi-takfiri groups.

UPDATE (April 25 @ 7:41 p.m.): A third Palestinian jihadi-takfiri group, Jaysh al-Ummah (Nation's Army), has issued condolences to the ISI. Read it via my Scribd account HERE.

I find it very interesting that the first two condolence statements released (that I've seen) to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) for the killings of its two senior leaders, Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abu Ayyub al-Masri), have come from small jihadi-takfiri groups based in the Palestinian Territories, specifically the Gaza Strip. Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'l Jihad (Organization of Absolute Monotheism and Struggle) in Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem/Palestine) and Jama'at Ansar al-Sunna (Organization of the Sunna's Partisans; Sunna referring to the Prophet Muhammad's reported sayings & deeds) in Bayt al-Maqdis have both issued condolences to the ISI and the transnational jihadi-takfiri movement (see embeds below).

Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'l Jihad, Bayt al-Maqdis

Despite the fact that no Palestine-based jihadi-takfiri group has received the public endorsement of Al-Qa'ida Central (AQC), these two groups were the first, it seems, to address a watershed moment in the history of the ISI and the transnational movement. Both statements include words of praise and prayers for the "two mujahid (warrior) Amirs (leaders, commanders)," and speak of a coming victory through "martyrdom."
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Jama'at Ansar Al-Sunna Palestine on Baghdadi & Muhajir (April 25)
Jama'at Ansar al-Sunna in the Land of Bayt al-Maqdis
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Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'l Jihad in Bayt al-Maqdis on al-Baghdadi & al-Muhajir
Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'l Jihad in Bayt al-Maqdis

Islamic State of Iraq Confirms the Killing of its Two Senior Leaders, Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi & Abu Hamza al-Muhajir

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) just issued a statement confirming the killings of its amir and proto-caliph, Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi, and the minister of war and head of Al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers/Iraq (AQI), Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abu Ayyub al-Masri). The ISI is an umbrella organization for several of the most militant insurgent groups operating in Iraq, the largest of them being AQI.

The statement is signed with the name of the "Shari'a (Islamic law) minister" of the ISI, Abu al-Walid bin 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Mashhadani. He says the two's deaths are joyous and promises that the ISI will remain intact. He also warns against the U.S. and Iraqi governments' use of al-Baghdadi's and al-Muhajir's deaths as propaganda tools.


Deaths of Abu 'Umar Al-Baghdadi & Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir (April 24)
ISI Statement

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My 2nd Guest Piece on Prof. Juan Cole's Informed Comment Blog: "The Death of a Caliph" about the Reported Killings of Islamic State of Iraq Leaders

"May God protect our Leader, the Commander of the Faithful (Caliph), Abu 'Umar (Omar) al-Baghdadi"

I'm excited to write that today I have a second guest editorial on Informed Comment, the widely-read blog of Prof. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan's Department of History, who is a noted expert on the modern Middle East and South Asia, with a specialty in Shi'i Islam. The short essay is entitled, "The Death of a Caliph: Will the Reported Killings of the Islamic State of Iraq’s two senior Leaders spell the end of the Self-styled Jihadi State?"

The editorial is about the potential long-term impact of the reported killings of Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the two senior leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group for several of the most violent insurgent groups operating in Iraq, the largest being Al-Qa'ida in Iraq. Here are a few snippets:

The Death of a Caliph

"Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi (Abu Omar), the head of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the head of al-Qa ‘ida in the Land of the Two Rivers/Iraq (AQI), were both reportedly killed early in the morning Sunday (April 18) in battle with U.S. and Iraqi security forces 10 kilometers southwest of Tikrit. The killings were confirmed on Monday by General Ray Odierno, the commander of U.S. military forces in Iraq....The long-term importance of al-Baghdadi’s and al-Muhajir’s deaths depends a great deal on the level to which the ISI still remains a viable social movement in Iraq. While it has never enjoyed widespread active support per se in the country, the ISI nonetheless remains a potent force in the insurgency, and indeed it is the country’s most lethal..."

"...the ISI lacks the deep social roots enjoyed by many religious-nationalist groups in the Middle East, such as the Lebanese Twelver Shi‘i movement Hezbollah and HAMAS in Palestine.....Although AQI was able to survive the death of its founder, in large part due to the prevailing social conditions of the time, namely a raging civil war between Iraqi Sunni and Shi‘i Arab militias, the killing of both al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir may speed up the jihadi state’s ongoing decline....." Read the rest at Informed Comment...

Islamic State of Iraq
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My first guest editorial, "The Islamic State of Iraq’s Positions on Iraqi National Elections: The Continuing Decline of a Self-styled Jihadi State," can be read HERE.

I also recommend reading counter-terrorism expert and doctoral candidate Leah Farrall's analysis at her excellent All Things Counter Terrorism blog. It was posted long after I had submitted my editorial to Prof. Cole for review, otherwise I would have hyper-linked to it in my piece.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cyber Shrines & Cyber Martyrs: HAMAS Commemorates Sixth Anniversary of the Assassination of Leader Dr. 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Rantissi by Israel in Gaza

The Palestinian Islamist socio-political movement HAMAS (Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah; Islamic Resistance Movement) is today marking the sixth anniversary of the April 14, 2004 assassination of its senior political leader, the Gaza-based Dr. 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Rantissi. He was killed with his 27-year-old son Muhammad and bodyguard, Akram Nasir, while driving in an Israeli missile strike launched from an American-made Apache helicopter gunship. Eerily, al-Rantissi had earlier said in an interview that death was the same in the end, no matter how it came, and that he hoped his death would come "by Apache" instead of "cancer" or some other illness.


"I prefer Apache..."

He left behind another son, four daughters, and ten grandchildren. The Israeli air strike also killed several civilians, including a mother and her young daughter.

In an article by HAMAS' media wing dedicated to him, the group praises the "Mujahid (warrior) Doctor," who "embodied...wonderful characteristics" in his lifelong struggle against the Israeli occupation. Among these qualities, the writer(s) says, were his "striving" (jihadi) personality, steadfastness, patience, resistance against torture and imprisonment, and his selfless willingness to make personal sacrifices for "the cause."

"And that the (result of the) struggle (jihad) is Victory or Martyrdom."

Al-Rantissi is further praised in poetry, an important medium in Arab societies generally which has been harnessed by nationalist groups to inspire others to participate in political struggles. One such poem that is highlighted in HAMAS' dedication to him reads partially:

"O' Abu Muhammad (father of), O' Lion of Palestine...O' [the] Rumbling Voice of HAMAS...O' Voice of Resistance...O' Voice of Truth in the Face of the Oppressors...You shook the thrones of the oppressors...[You instilled] in the hearts of the youth a love of struggle (jihad) and martyrdom in God's path...You, who raised the morale of those warriors who strike (mujahideen) to the sky...O' you who destroyed the one who imprisoned you...O' Abu Muhammad, even the enemies of Islam had respect for your pride and character...O' you who raised the banner of Islam so it flew and taught us the meaning of pride and dignity, who taught us that our existence on Earth does not need to be only to shed blood and die [I've taken some liberties with the Arabic in order to convey a more accurate rendering in English], who taught us that through negotiations lies only the path of defeatism and the path to submission...who taught us to walk on the path of thorns and difficulty in order to uphold our dignity, who taught us not to abandon our principles nor our holy city of Jerusalem, who taught us to stick to out land and our rights at all costs and all that we must sacrifice..."

The "sun lit up the sky of Palestine," the poem says, with the heroic image of "Abu Muhammad, Dr. 'Abd al'Aziz al-Rantissi." He was "a second moon, which shone out onto the world in order to remove the darkness of night and illuminate the mujahideen and the resistance."

Al-Rantissi (left) and Shaykh Ahmad Yassin, with Dome of the Rock

As with the commemorations of all their martyrs, HAMAS' media wing provides a biography of al-Rantissi, from which I have drawn to produce a biographical sketch. The retelling of the person's life is a part of the process of "cyber commemoration" that I have written about previously (with regard to another assassinated HAMAS leader, Salah Shehadah).

He was born, "a lion of Palestine," in the village of Yebna, between the cities of Ashkelon and Jaffa, two historically Arab cities that were incorporated after 1948-1949 into the new state of Israel. Following the 1948 war, al-Rantissi, who was six months old, and his family were forced to flee as refugees to Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. He and his nine brothers and three sisters, grew up in the large refugee camp that was established there. They were educated in a school for Palestinian refugees run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and he had to begin working at the age of 6 in order to help earn money for his family. It was this experience, the HAMAS commemoration says, that enabled him to grow up "strong, able to withstand difficult conditions." In other words, it was this early childhood experience that prepared him for his life of struggle. This description is frequently used in martyrdom commemorations by both secular and religious groups, both inside and outside of the Middle East. The martyr's character is said to have been clearly visible from an early age, adding to the hagiography.

Al-Rantissi (left) and Shaykh Ahmad Yassin

Al-Rantissi graduated from high school in 1965, after which he traveled to Alexandria, Egypt in order to pursue his university studies in medicine. He graduated with honors in 1971 and returned to the Gaza Strip, where he worked at Nasir Hospital in Khan Younis. He and other hospital employees later went on strike after they were prevented from returning to Egypt in order to complete their higher medical education. Al-Rantissi was ultimately able to return to Alexandria, where he earned a graduate degree in pediatrics, and he returned to work at the hospital in 1976. He served in the hospital's administration, held a seat of the governing body of the Arab Medical Society in the Gaza Strip, and was a member of the Palestinian Red Crescent (akin to the Red Cross). Al-Rantissi was fired due to Israeli government pressure in 1984 because of his political activism and he went to work at the Islamic University of Gaza.


A member of the Gaza-based branch of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan), which grew out of the Egyptian Ikhwan, al-Rantissi became one of the key leaders of a new religious-nationalist movement in the occupied Palestinian Territories, HAMAS, which emerged in 1987 with the outbreak of the First Intifada ("uprising") by Palestinians against the ongoing Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The doctor was arrested in March 1988 by Israeli security forces and was imprisoned for two-and-a-half years. He was released in September 1990, but was rearrested 100 days later in December 1990 and was held in "administrative detention" (without charge; a process allowed by Israeli law) for a year.



On December 17, 1992, al-Rantissi and 416 other Palestinian political leaders and activists, mostly from the two largest Palestinian religious-nationalist groups, HAMAS and Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami (Movement of Islamic Jihad) in Palestine, were deported summarily to Lebanon. In exile, he became a spokesman for the deportees. They were allowed to return to the occupied Palestinian Territories in 1993, but al-Rantissi was arrested immediately upon returning and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison by an Israeli military court. He was released on April 21, 1997.

Upon his release, al-Rantissi resumed his role as one of the senior leaders, and a founder, of HAMAS. He was arrested on April 10, 1998 by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian National Authority (PNA) under Yasir 'Arafat, who was acting under pressure from the Israeli government. He was held for fifteen months and was released following the death of his mother. He was rearrested several times by the PNA and spent a total of 27 months in PNA detention. Two further attempts at detaining him were prevented due to popular opposition by Palestinians, who defended his house.

"To you, peace, from us, al-Qassam...No peace [for] the courageous," 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Rantissi

While in an Israeli prison in 1990, al-Rantissi memorized the Qur'an. More importantly for his political life, he also met Shaykh Ahmad Yassin, the Palestinian religious scholar who became HAMAS' spiritual leader. In prison, al-Rantissi also wrote many poems, which were inspired by the resistance of the Palestinians to Israeli military occupation. According to the HAMAS commemorative hagiography, love of his "homeland (Palestine) and the Palestinian people" became rooted "in the depths of his heart" while in prison, a fact seen in his poetry. Al-Rantissi was also involved in the production of newsletters and other print media from prison for HAMAS.

Shaykh Ahmad Yassin

In June 2003, al-Rantissi survived an attempted Israeli assassination, which killed two civilians and wounded over a dozen others. Following the Israeli assassination of Shaykh Yassin on March 22, 2004, he became HAMAS' senior leader in the occupied Palestinian Territories. On the evening of April 17, al-Rantissi, his bodyguard, his son Muhammad, and a number of civilians were killed in an Israeli missile strike in central Gaza City. The commemorative article describes his death thusly: "He went to his Lord, to the side of Shaykh Ahmad Yassin and the Prophet Muhammad and his righteous Companions" at the "confluence of Paradise (Heaven), God willing."


A special section of the web site of HAMAS' military wing, the Brigades of the Martyr 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam, linked to from the front page, is dedicated to the memory of al-Rantissi. A biography, articles, commemorations, photographs, and video of or dedicated to him are available in this special section.

The commemoration of al-Rantissi on the Qassam Brigades' web site is an excellent example of the creation of "cyber shrines," shrines dedicated to the party's martyrs, both its leaders and rank-and-file. Online commemoration such as this helps to create an interactive identity for these individuals, creating, in a way, "cyber martyrs" or martyrs that exist not only in the physical world but also in cyberspace. I briefly touch on this concept, which I am still developing, HERE .
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

My First Piece in e-Magazine Religion Dispatches: " New Egyptian Appointee Vows to Prevent Sunnis from Falling into ‘Shi‘i Trap’"

I'm excited to write today that my first piece for the e-magazine Religion Dispatches was published yesterday: "New Egyptian Appointee Vows to Prevent Sunnis from Falling into ‘Shi‘i Trap’." I would like to thank Associate Editor Hussein Rashid for inviting me to contribute to the magazine.

My piece is on comments made by Ahmad al-Tayyib, the newly-appointed head of Al-Azhar Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, once the preeminent institution of Sunni religious and juridical education, about Shi'i Muslims. In an interview with the Saudi-owned Arabic satellite TV station Al-Arabiya, al-Tayyib said that he would not allow Sunni Muslim students to "fall into the Shi'i trap." The Shaykh al-Azhar and other Sunni leaders have an irrational fear, I argue, of mass conversions of Sunni Muslims to Shi'i Islam. The evidence does not validate their fears. What they really fear is not so much Twelver Shi'ism in the theological sense per se, but an aggressive political Shi'ism represented by Iran. Al-Tayyib is a stalwart of the autocratic Egyptian regime of the ailing president, Hosni Mubarak.
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New Egyptian Appointee Vows to Prevent Sunnis from Falling into ‘Shi‘i Trap’

The ailing Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s longtime autocratic president, has named Ahmad al-Tayyib (al-Tayeb), 64, the new head (shaykh al-Azhar) of Al-Azhar Seminary and Mosque, the prestigious institution of Sunni religious education in Cairo.

Despite noting that many “Sunni and Shi‘i” jurists have reached a “consensus” that there should be no attempts at conversion by either side in countries where one sect dominates, al-Tayeb has come out of the gate vowing to prevent the “spread of the Shi‘i school of thought in any Islamic country” and to work to prevent “Sunni students” from falling into the “Shi‘i trap.”

Ironically, the Sunni al-Tayeb’s chair was built by the Isma‘ili Shi‘i Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century when they built their capital city, what is now Cairo, on the banks of the Nile River....

Read the rest at Religion Dispatches...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Religious Cyber Activism: Video Calls Iranian Youth to an Internet Battlefield

Introductory Note: The guest post below is the third in an occasional series of guest editorials by friends and colleagues whose opinions I value, and which are based on a solid foundation of knowledge, both "academic"/scholastic and experiential. As is the norm with all editorial pages, here is the requisite disclaimer that, "the opinions expressed in the editorials are solely those of the author, and they do not necessarily represent the views of the blog administrator or other guest contributors to Views from the Occident." I encourage readers to engage with the guest editorialists, and with me, in the "Comments," as opposed to responding via the e-mail listserv. The purpose of these editorials is to expand the points of view published on Occident, and to encourage the exchange of views.

The editorial below translates and discusses a video that a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) made me aware of. The video, which begins with images of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), is a call to battle. However, this battle is not on a physical battlefield, it is an electronic one. "Narrated" by clips from speeches given by Iran's supreme leader, al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei, the video meshes images of fighters (and "martyrs") of the war with discussion of the upheaval that the country has undergone since the contested presidential elections in June 2009.

As guest editorialist Emaun Kashfipour writes, the video urges Iranian youth to participate in defense of Iran on all fronts, including the cyber front. Web sites shown include not only Khumayni, Khamenei, and other Iranian Islamist revolutionary leaders, but also the famous poet Hafiz and 'Imad Mughniyyah, the commander of the paramilitary wing of the Lebanese Twelver Shi'i political movement Hizbullah (Hezbollah) who was assassinated by unknown parties in February 2008. The party is a regional ally of the Iranian government, from which it receives financial and political backing.

The use of the Internet and other communication networks has become an integral part of the political and ideological strategies of social actors in almost every country. Cyber activism, combined with on-the-ground campaigning, was an integral part of the last United States presidential election. In the Middle East, governments and opposition political parties (where they are allowed) maintain web sites, TV stations, and traditional print media through which they spread their messages, propaganda, and ideology. At the most radical extreme, jihadi-takfiri activists, both inside groups such as Al-Qa'ida Central and outside of them, have also called for their supporters to join a "cyber war," which they describe as an integral part of their global jihad against "Crusaders" and "apostates." Non-violent Islamist (Muslim political) groups such as the Egyptian and Jordanian Muslim Brotherhoods and Muslim social networks, such as Sufi orders and Salafi da'wa networks, also see the Internet as one of the most promising fields for the expansion of their message.

Mr. Kashfipour's guest editorial is below (the caption at the bottom was written by me, not Kashfipour):
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Emaun Kashfipour is an undergraduate student studying journalism and government and politics at the University of Maryland. He is a college journalist at The Diamondback, the university's award-winning, independent student newspaper. Kashfipour is fluent in Farsi.



Video Translation:

"We are confronted with a soft war, with a soft rebellion, from the enemy. You young students are the officers of this battlefield; the young officers are in the arena. The young officer acts on orders and accurately perceives the arena; with his body and his spirit, he analyzes the arena. This is the part of the student. Truthfully, the young officers have benefits, they have work, they are in the arena, they see the state of things, and they do a fundamental job.----- War is a complicated matter; the management of a war is a very heavy and very complicated matter.Our youth have taken on this job in many different fields; this actions, this wisdom... it is something very extraordinary. It is the arena of the budding of these talents and abilities. There were many young youths who went to the battlefield and were able to do great things."

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This video compiles speeches of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatullah al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei, in which he encourages Iranian youth to take up figurative arms in what he calls a "soft war" that the country's enemies brought upon the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a modern adaptation of a saying of the founder of the republic, Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhullah Khumayni: "You're important responsibility is to use those pens which are in your hands."

The video was added well after the post-election conflict in Iran and most likely refers to the attention "Western" media outlets have given to the conflict and the online presence of reformist groups in Iran. As many of the images reflected in the video point out, the video is encouraging Iranian youth to support the government online.

An online presence that calls itself the "Iranian Cyber Army" shows the willingness of many supporters of the Iranian government to respond to this call. The Iranian Cyber Army has hacked high-profile websites such as mowjcamp.com (a prominent reformist website) and the micro-blogging website Twitter (it was quite an accomplishment even though they only had control of it for a few hours).

"Logos" of the Iranian Cyber Army, whose use of English suggests that they are not native speakers/writers (that, or their grammar is poor). The flag is emblazoned with the name "Husayn," a reference to the third Shi'i Imam (historical religious/temporal leader) who was killed in 680 C.E. during a failed rebellion against the Umayyad caliph Yazid bin Mu'awiya (Yazid I), connecting the Cyber Army's religio-political ideology with Twelver Shi'ism, which the Iranian government claims it embodies.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Tens of Thousands of Sadrists Rally Across Iraq, Speech by Muqtada al-Sadr Read by Leading Sadr Movement Cleric in Shi'i Shrine City of al-Najaf

Shaykh Hazem al-'Araji

Scores of thousands of supporters of al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's socio-political movement Tayyar al-Sadr (Sadr Movement, also known as Tayyar al-Sadri, "Sadrist Movement" and the Sadriyoun, "Sadrists") rallied across Iraq today against the continued United States military occupation of their country. Sadrist news sources have claimed that "millions" of its supporters and other Iraqis have attended rallies against the occupation today, though these numbers are unverifiable and probably exaggerated. Nonetheless, photographs of the rallies in places such as the southern Iraqi Twelver Shi'i shrine city of al-Najaf al-Ashraf suggest that estimates of tens to scores of thousands of attendees is highly plausible.

Muqtada himself was not present, as he is currently pursuing education in the Twelver Shi'i religious seminaries of the Iranian shrine city of Qum (Qom) in the hopes of rising in the ranks of religious scholarship. A speech he penned, however, was read to cheering crowds in al-Najaf by a leading Sadrist cleric, Shaykh Hazem al-'Araji. Muqtada, through al-'Araji, called for the unity of all Iraqis, particularly Sunni and Shi'i Muslims, against the foreign occupation of the country: "We are embarking on a new phase with no place for the occupiers and the oppressors, (for) the Ba'thists and the terrorists, nor the dissidents or terrorists, nor those who are sectarian, (nor) for those who filled the prisons with resistance fighters." The last comment is a thinly veiled reference to the current Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who in 2008 ordered a crackdown on Sadr Movement activists and its paramilitary wing, the Mahdi Army, in the southern Iraqi port city of al-Basra and other areas in the south of the country in order to shore up his then-alliance with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC, also referred to as the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq).

Muqtada also called the "rejection of all forms of sectarianism and discrimination" in order to achieve Sunni-Shi'i unity. Those who seek to "cling" to power should be thrown out, he said. The thousands of Sadr Movement supporters shouted "(Absolutely) No, no to the occupation! (Kelaa, Kelaa, Ihtilaal) and "Yes, yes, to the leader (Muqtada)!"

The Sadr Movement represents many of Iraq's poor Shi'is, who form the majority of the country's Shi'i community, whereas there one-time rival, the SIIC, represent more affluent Iraqi Shi'is. The al-Sadr family, which has deep roots in Iraq, did not leave the country during the brutal reign of the Iraqi Ba'th Party under the executed dictator Saddam Husayn. Two of the family's most prominent religious scholars, Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, were murdered by Saddam's regime, the former in April 1980 with his sister Amina bint Haydar al-Sadr (known as "Bint al-Huda") and the latter in February 1999 with two of his sons.

Many members of the al-Hakim family, who lead the SIIC, left Iraq during the 1980s and 1990s, and did not return until May 2003. These included the founders of the SIIC, Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim and his brother, al-Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim, who died last August of cancer. The al-Hakims were close to the Iranian government, first under Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhullah Musavi Khumayni, who personally backed the founding of the SIIC in November 1982, and then under his successor, al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei. The al-Sadrs remained Iraqi (religious) nationalists and firmly Arab in their identity, whereas the al-Hakims initially adopted a form of Khumayni's theory of the "authority of the jurisconsult," wilayat al-faqih.

Sadrist artwork, "Together against the Occupation," calling for the annual demonstration against the "occupation of Iraq."
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Muqtada Al-Sadr Speech (April 9)