Sunday, November 27, 2011

'Ashura 2011 Series Post #3: Latmiya & Portraits of 'Ali Akbar, Son of Imam Husayn

Shi'i artwork depicting Imam Husayn holding his mortally wounded son, 'Ali Akbar, at Karbala

This latmiya (mourning recitation) is, if I'm not mistaken, written as if from the third Shi'i Imam, Husayn bin 'Ali, to his son 'Ali Akbar, who was killed by the Umayyad army before his father on the plain of Karbala in 680 C.E. Traditional Twelver Shi'i accounts report that 'Ali Akbar requested permission from his father before going into battle against a much larger Umayyad military force sent by Yazid bin Mu'awiya's governor 'Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad under the command of 'Umar ibn Sa'd. His mother and sisters pleaded with him not to go but 'Ali Akbar insisted that he had to go defend them and the religion of Islam as represented by the Ahlul Bayt, in Shi'i conception the family of the prophet Muhammad through Imam 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and his wife Fatima. Surrounded by Yazid's soldiers, 'Ali Akbar was mortally wounded with blows from swords and spears.

The video accompanying this latmiya includes many traditional Shi'i portraits of Imam Husayn and 'Ali Akbar.

The famous English historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) wrote of the tragedy of Karbala in his classic book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

"In a distant age and climate the tragic scene of the death of Hussein will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader." Indeed, it is not necessary to be a Shi'i Muslim or Muslim at all to relate to the tragedy of a father witnessing the brutal killings of not one but two of his sons, 'Ali Akbar and 'Ali Asghar, as well as other close relatives and friends.


First post in this series HERE

Second post in this series HERE

'Ashura 2011 Post #2: Latmiya (Mourning Recitation) for Imam Husayn with Images from Ta'ziya Plays

This latmiya (a type of mourning recitation traditionally recited at 'Ashura majalis) video includes photographs from the massive mourning rituals performed by Twelver Shi'is worldwide every year during the first ten days of the Islamic lunar month of Muharram to commemorate the tribulations and sacrifices of Husayn bin 'Ali, the third Shi'i Imam, his family and followers on the plain of Karbala. These rituals include elaborate "passion plays," the ta'ziya, in which the events of 680 C.E. are reenacted, with the soldiers and allies of the Umayyad caliph Yazid bin Mu'awiya, whose governor 'Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, and general 'Umar ibn Sa'd, were responsible for stopping Husayn and his band at Karbala and ultimately also for their deaths, wearing red during these plays.


First post in this series

Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Ashura 2011 Post #1: Video from the Ziyarat to Karbala, 2010, & Communal Identity through Collective Commemoration & 'Redemptive Suffering'

Millions of Shi'i Muslim pilgrims travel to the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala every year for the annual commemoration of the martyrdom of their third Imam, Husayn bin 'Ali, the son of the first Imam 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and many of his family members and followers in the Islamic lunar month of Muharram in 680 C.E. They were killed by an army sent by the Umayyad caliph Yazid bin Mu'awiya who directed his governor in the region, 'Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, to stop Husayn's caravan, which was traveling from Medina to the Iraqi city of al-Kufah.

The video below shows scenes from the mass pilgrimage, one of the largest religious pilgrimages (ziyarah/ziyarat in Arabic and Persian) today, to Karbala in 2010. The video's background is a traditional-style mourning recitation (latmiya) for Husayn and the other martyrs of Karbala. The Umayyad tyrant Yazid is also rejected in the lyrics. The pilgrims in the video are performing traditional mourning rituals for the Imam and his followers who were killed. The rituals also serve as examples of penitence or what Mahmoud Ayoub has described as a form of "redemptive suffering" through which the Shi'i community is tied together and expresses its unique identity as a relatively small but influential minority within the larger Islamic communal context.

At the 3:53-minute mark, a large painting of Grand Ayatullahs Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr are visible. Both were murdered by the Iraqi Ba'th Party of Saddam Husayn, in 1980 and 1999 respectively, and are major symbols for Iraqi Shi'is and Shi'is outside of the country.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My New Article at Foreign Policy's AFPAK Channel: "Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan's Hybrid Insurgency"

I have a new article, "The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan's Hybrid Insurgency: Analyzing Hakimullah Mehsud's Eid al-Adha Message," that was published this afternoon at the AFPAK Channel, a joint project of Foreign Policy magazine and The New America Foundation. I argue that the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan represents a type of glocal insurgency that utilizes transnational rhetoric and themes in the service of essentially local (in this case country and region-specific goals).

The introduction reads:

On November 8, a written message from Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP's amir, was released on jihadi Internet forums on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic holiday that ends the annual Hajj pilgrimage season. The message was released simultaneously in Urdu, Pashtu, Arabic, and English on Internet forums used by transnational Sunni jihadis and their supporters. It was distributed by the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), a shadowy network of translators and media operatives who produce numerous translations of key jihadi texts, videos, and songs, as well as original material. Earlier this year new videos and written statements from the TTP were being distributed by a branch of the GIMF, Al-Qadisiyyah Media Foundation, which is devoted to translating jihadi texts, primarily from Arabic, into languages of the Indian Subcontinent including Urdu, Bangla, Pashtu, Hindi, and Persian. The shift to GIMF distribution earlier this year suggests that the TTP continues to draw upon the transnational Sunni jihadi rhetoric deployed by groups like al-Qaeda Central (AQC) and its regional affiliates while continuing to maintain a strong focus on waging a domestic insurgency in Pakistan. The result is a type of "glocal" militancy that combines both elements of transnational jihadism with the TTP's more country- and region-specific goals."

Read the rest of the article at the AFPAK Channel.

IN PICTURES, PART 3: Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

The late Anwar al-'Awlaqi (Anwar al-Awlaki, Anwar al-Aulaqi), who was killed on September 30 in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen.

This is the latest post in the series of "In Pictures" posts dedicated to Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

American Samir Khan, creator and editor of several jihadi-takfiri web sites and Internet magazines including Jihad Recollections and AQAP's English-language Inspire

AQAP's military commander, Qasim al-Raymi, also known as Abu Hurayrah al-San'ani

Ibrahim al-Rubaysh (Ibrahim al-Rubaish), a major Saudi AQAP ideologue and leader who was once imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay before he was released.

See past posts:

Anwar al-'Awlaqi

Illustrating an Attempted Assassination (of Prince Muhammad bin Nayyif in August 2009)

In Pictures: Part 1

In Pictures: Inspire magazine #6

AQAP members hold up the black-and-white flag used by many jihadi-takfiri groups around the world in Abyan, Yemen

AQAP members plan an attack on Yemeni Army forces in Abyan, Yemen

AQAP members ambush Yemeni Army forces in Abyan, Yemen

'Abdullah Hasan al-'Asiri leads other AQAP members, including Qasim al-Raymi, in prayer before traveling to Saudi Arabia where he would later attempt to assassinate the kingdom's deputy interior minister, Prince Muhammad bin Nayyif, in August 2009

'Abdullah al-'Asiri and Qasim al-Raymi

'Abdullah al-'Asiri

AQAP's media arm, the Al-Malahem (Epics, Epic Battles) Media Foundation

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My New Article @ openDemocracy: "The Rapid Evolution of Al-Shabab's Media & Insurgent 'Journalism' "

A new article of mine was published today at openDemocracy,"The Rapid Evolution of Al-Shabab's Media and Insurgent 'Journalism' ". It examines the evolution of the media output by the Somali insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of the Mujahideen/Warrior-Youth) from 2007 to today. Their media has progressed rapidly and the movement's media arm currently produces extremely high quality propaganda materials.

The article abstract reads:
"The evolution of Al-Shabab’s media arm provides a window into the group’s overall maturation as an insurgent movement that has endorsed key elements of Al-Qaeda Central’s ideology while still focusing primarily on waging a domestic insurgency inside Somalia."

Read the rest of the article at openDemocracy.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

My New Post at Al-Wasat Blog: "Harakat al-Shabab Claims Support from 'Ayr Clan Leaders"

Senior Harakat al-Shabab leader and Haber Gidir/'Ayr clan member Hasan Dahir Aweys at the meeting with 'Ayr clan leaders on Lower Shabelle

I have a new post at the collaborative Al-Wasat blog on recent claims by the Somali Islamist insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of the Warrior-Youth; Al-Shabaab) that it has received the support of leaders from the 'Ayr sub-clan of the Hawiye clan confederation. Read the post at AL-WASAT.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

My New Journal Article in CTC Sentinel: "Al-Shabab's Setbacks in Somalia"

I have a new article that was just published this morning in the journal CTC Sentinel, which is published by the Combating Terrorism Center, an academic unit at West Point. The article, "Al-Shabab's Setbacks in Somalia," examines the recent efforts by the insurgent movement to address battlefield setbacks and the pressures of dealing with the severe famine. It examines the insurgents' strategic decisions through the lens of their own media output, which was really not been done to this extent before as far as I am aware. The role of insurgent messaging is the guiding theme I used throughout.

The second introductory paragraph sums up the article:

"This article will assess the current state of al-Shabab as a viable insurgent movement in the midst of battlefield setbacks and the increasing pressures of the famine. The recent strategic decisions of the movement will be analyzed through the lens of how al-Shabab seeks to portray itself and its actions to audiences both inside and outside the country. The article will examine the evolution of al-Shabab’s media campaign in the midst of these setbacks, insurgent attempts to mask its setbacks by projecting a carefully-constructed self-image as a movement that is still capable of governing territory, a renewed outreach by insurgent leaders to the country’s powerful clans, and the media portrayal of the movement’s famine relief efforts."

Read the rest of the article at the CTC SENTINEL.