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Comparative martyr photos for Ibn Siqilli

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Muslim and Sikh memorial photos have similar aesthetic & emotional appeal ]

I’ve long been interested in the death photos used in AQ and IS propaganda, several of which Chris Anzalone [aka Ibn Siqilli] has documented, eg:

Al-Zubayr al-Sudani, as featured in the AQC-produced video series “Wind of Paradise


The late Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan leader, Baytullah Mehsud.


Today, I ran across similar images from a site devoted to the Khalistan (Sikh homeland) liberation movement

Sikh martyrs

As far as I can tell, being linguistically and historically challenged, the gentleman on the right would be Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala — perhaps someone can help me identify the gentleman on the left.

Sceenius: Y2K and a universal graphical mapping language

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a mental long-jump, following Sceenius: the macro in micro, Nepal ]

It’s a stretch, I know, and whether it will prove a useful leap or not I have no idea — but for the record, this detail from slide 8 of the Sceenius promo caught my eye, offering a graphical continuity between my own HipBone / Semble gameboards and Richard Feynman‘s celebrated particle diagrams:



I have this almost Borgesian interest in what kind of map of the world we’d get if we had a universal language of graphs.

When I was working on the potential social implications of the Y2K computer bug — which included the al-Qaida “Millennium Plot” and Albert Ressam‘s attempt to blow up the international terminal at LAX during the millennial roll-over — my friend and colleague Don Beck of the National Values Center / The Spiral Dynamics Group suggested in a private communication:

Y2K is like a lightening bolt: when it strikes and lights up the sky, we will see the contours of our social systems.

As it turned out, the lightning struck and failed to strike, a team from the Mitre Corporation produced a voluminous report on what the material and social connectivity of the world boded in case of significant Y2K computer failures, we did indeed get our first major glimpse of the world weave, and thankfully, very little of that weave was broken as the new millennium dawned.

But as Thomas Barnett put it in his first book, The Pentagon’s New Map:

Whether Y2K turned out to be nothing or a complete disaster was less important, research-wise, than the thinking we pursued as we tried to imagine -– in advance -– what a terrible shock to the system would do to the United States and the world in this day and age.

Viewing the world as an integral, interconnected whole, illuminated by our various preparations for whatever eventualities might arise, stuck with me. And my take-away was the idea of a world-map that represented as widely and richly as possible the tugs and tensions, the causalities and probabilities, the chains of command and channels of distribution that are present in our world — a pragmatist’s equivalent, if you like, to the Buddhist Net of Indra.


Our mandate [at The Arlington Institute] was to understand potential social fall-out of the Y2K computer event and related millennial events. Essentially, this was a dry run for failures in the intricately cross-connected world we now inhabit, and even thought Y2K was a “non-event” in terms of computer disruptions, it was an education for those of us who tracked it.

In that spirit, a few years ago, I wrote:

The world is woven of many different processes: causality and synchrony perhaps each play a role in determining the moment, qualitative and quantitaive, head and heart concerns all have their role, fear and hope impact stock prices, movement (e-motion) in the inner world triggering movement (motion) in the the outer, rumors of wars becoming blacks ops in the wars they mimic, with the Cartesian mind / matter barrier no less than the barriers between our disciplines falling… and in all this shuttling to and fro of the looms of the Moirae, humans find themselves making models and diagrams to understand and explain…

My point is that that our systems diagrams, flow charts, maps, conceptual networks, semantic graphs, HipBone Games and so forth are not isolated entities but family members, and that at some point we may wish or need to be able to link one of the diagram types above with others into a master-diagram, for which we currently lack a graphical language. [ … ]

I think we should at the very least be thinking about how these various diagrams intersect, overlap and breed offspring after their own kind..


This project — an actual world-map of this kind — is hopelessly utopian, impossible, needed, encyclopedic like Wikipedia, a secular bead game in its own right, and in general probably best left as a Hilbert-like challenge for future generations to gnaw at..

Next post: a few examples of examples of graph-types that should be included.

Aman, or reciprocal safety under Islamic law

Monday, December 21st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — what eye do you use when there’s more going on than meets the eye? ]

Twice in one day, a week or so ago, I had reason to look up the meaning of “aman” in Islamic law. My source here was M. Reichberg and Henrik Syse, eds., Religion, War, and Ethics: A Sourcebook of Textual Traditions, p. 307, under the heading Aman (Pledge of Safety):

Aman is a temporary pact of security whereby visitors from an enemy territory were conferred a certain level of protection from hostile acts (on life, liberty, and property) during their stay in the opposing community. Classical jurists agreed such a pact could be granted by Muslims to non-Muslims, and vice versa. Concerning protection given to non-Muslims, the overwhelming majority of jurists agreed that an adult free man may grant aman to a non-Muslim and that such an aman was to be respected by the entire Muslim community. Once granted aman, these non-Muslims were guaranteed protection for the duration of their visit on Muslim territory, and if an imam wished to retract the aman, he was obliged to guarantee protection until the non-Muslim had been escorted away.

Jurists also examined the obligations of Muslims who had been granted aman in a non-Muslim territory. Most agreed that if a Muslim entered enemy territory on the basis of an aman contract granted by non-Muslims, guaranteeing his life and property, this agreement should be mutually respected, such that for the duration of his stay the Muslim would not be permitted to harm the non-Muslim enemies. For example, as later detailed, al-Shafi’i argued that Muslim men whose women and children had been taken captive were not allowed to free them by attacking their non-Muslim captors, if this would entail a violation of an aman agreement. It would be preferable, al-Shafi’i maintained, to ask for a retraction of the aman than to save the captives by its violation.


One of the items that sent me scurrying towards this text was a long and fascinating discussion of the Japanese (also German and Italian) internments during World War II, which Michael Lotus opened up on FaceBook. I’m not sure whether this FB convo will be accessible to everyone, but if it is, you will find it here.

The other occasion was a paragraph that caught my eye in Jenny Taylor‘s blog post You cannot fight religion with atheism. I’ll give you the full paragraph for a bit of context, but it’s the remark about the secret covenant that I’m interested in here. Jenny ts discussing the British response to IS and how it will be perceived from different angles:

And I’m not sure I see it the Church’s way either. That’s because none of it has a proper mandate from the people; the people who will inevitably suffer on the streets of London and other cities once the secret ‘covenant’ Britain’s MI6 have had with international Islamists is revoked by what will be seen as a declaration of war. [And if you don’t believe me about that, read Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate just out.]

Abdel Bari Atwan‘s book to which Jenny links is highly regarded by folks such as Peter Bergen, so I went looking for a mention of MI6 in its pages, and found:

Musab Al-Suri confirmed to me that a tacit covenant was in place between MI6 and the extremists…

— after which, he talks about Saudi entities and indivisuals funding al-Qaeda. I was intrigued, and checked in Atwan’s earlier book, The Secret History of al-Qaeda, and read this equivalent but slightly longer passage:

I believe there was an unwritten truce between bin Laden and the Al Saud based on the understanding that so long as al Qaeda did not target the royal family or Saudi nationals, the regime would shut its eyes to the organization’s activities. The truce would have collapsed after 11 September 2001, when the US put enormous pressure on the ruling family to purge itself of terrorists and cut off sources of funding for their activities.

Atwan also quotes Abu Musab al-Suri in his Secret History:

London was the centre for communications between Islamist groups and groups opposed to the governments of their own countries. We maintained communications with jihadi leaders outside Britain, in particular Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri who used to call me regularly and I would take his calls in a telephone box in the London suburbs … John Major’s government was very clever and served the security of Britain and the interests of its people by accepting our truce by which we meant that we would never target Britain … as long as the security forces left us alone … When Tony Blair came to power in 1997 he tore up the unwritten understanding and stabbed the mujahedin in the back by changing the laws and harassing us.

Note that there is no specific mention of MI6 here, and the reference is to an “unwritten understanding”.

This is all hearsay, in fact — Atwan describing al-Suri’s thoughts rather than direct quotes from al-Suri — so I’m left wondering whether anyone actually offered the British a truce, or whether what’s really going on here is that al-Suri mentioned to Atwan that the British were taking advantage of aman protection against jihadists attacking a country (in this case, the UK) which had given them shelter.

Is this secret, tacit and unwritten truce really a truce at all, or just a mutual recognition of the existing limits of warfare under Islamic jurisprudence?


Consider in this context how Bin Laden himself chastizes Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, 9n this excerpt from Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined? p.41:

You have perhaps followed the media trial of brother Faisal Shahzad, may God release him, during which the brother was asked to explain his attack [against the United States] in view of having taken an oath [not to harm it] when he was awarded his American citizenship. He responded that he lied [when he took the oath]. It does not escape you [Shaykh `Atiyya] that [Shahzad’s lie] amounts to betrayal (ghadr) and does not fall under permissible lying to [evade] the enemy [during times of war]…please request from our Pakistani Taliban brothers to redress this matter…also draw their attention to the fact that brother Faisal Shahzad appeared in a photograph alongside Commander Mahsud. I would like to verify whether Mahsud knew that when a person acquires an American citizenship, this involves taking an oath, swearing not to harm America. If he is unaware of this matter, he should be informed of it. Unless this matter is addressed, its negative consequences are known to you. [We must therefore act swiftly] to remove the suspicion that jihadis violate their oath and engage in ghadr.

It’s interesting that Dr Fadl, aka Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, the prominent Jihadist ideologue whom Lawrence Wright terms an “Al Qaeda mastermind” makes a very similar claim in his Refutations, in whichb he retracts his previous suppoort for AQ on grounds of religious law:

Fadl acknowledges that “terrorizing the enemy is a legitimate duty”; however, he points out, “legitimate terror” has many constraints. Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks in America, London, and Madrid were wrong, because they were based on nationality, a form of indiscriminate slaughter forbidden by Islam. In his Al Hayat interview, Fadl labels 9/11 “a catastrophe for Muslims,” because Al Qaeda’s actions “caused the death of tens of thousands of Muslims—Arabs, Afghans, Pakistanis and others.”

The most original argument in the book and the interview is Fadl’s assertion that the hijackers of 9/11 “betrayed the enemy,” because they had been given U.S. visas, which are a contract of protection. “The followers of bin Laden entered the United States with his knowledge, and on his orders double-crossed its population, killing and destroying,” Fadl continues. “The Prophet—God’s prayer and peace be upon him—said, ‘On the Day of Judgment, every double-crosser will have a banner up his anus proportionate to his treachery.’”

As Hannah Stuart comments in Critiquing Radical Islamist Claims to Theological Authenticity on the respective views of Bin Laden, Dr Fadl and others:

While their interpretations differ, it is testament to the strength of the Islamic obligation to honour an oath that senior al-Qaeda figures view perceived transgressions with such severity.

Ali Soufan on strategy & tactics

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — short and sweet ]

Everyone here knows that we are in a conflict with Islamic extremism. Everyone here knows that strategic outweighs tactical success. And most everyone here knows that Ali Soufan is one of the key voices on that topic — lead FBI agent investigating the Cole bombing, author of The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, and outspoken interrogator-spokesman against the use of torture.

Hear him on strategy & tactics:

Is Islam in need of a Reformation?

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — perhaps it’s not Wittenberg but Westphalia we should be praying for ]

Reformation Qn


Ayaan Hirsi Ali clearly believes we need an Islamic Reformation, and she’s not alone. That much Mehdi Hasan concedes in a Guardian piece titled Why Islam doesn’t need a reformation:

In recent months, cliched calls for reform of Islam, a 1,400-year-old faith, have intensified. “We need a Muslim reformation,” announced Newsweek. “Islam needs reformation from within,” said the Huffington Post. Following January’s massacre in Paris, the Financial Times nodded to those in the west who believe the secular Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, “could emerge as the Martin Luther of the Muslim world”.

Hasan’s piece was evidently written in answer to the Guardian’s take on Hirsi Ali’s latest book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali – review, and is subtitled, Those who are calling for a ‘Muslim Martin Luther’ should be careful what they wish for. His reason?

Martin Luther..

Luther did not merely nail 95 theses to the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg in 1517, denouncing clerical abuses within the Catholic church. He also demanded that German peasants revolting against their feudal overlords be “struck dead”, comparing them to “mad dogs”, and authored On the Jews and Their Lies in 1543, in which he referred to Jews as “the devil’s people” and called for the destruction of Jewish homes and synagogues.


On the other hand..

William Polk proposes what seems a powerful analogy in his December 2013 piece, Sayyid Qutub’s Fundamentalism and Abu Bakr Naji’s Jihadism:

I have described elsewhere the movements of “purification” inspired by such men as the Arabian Ahmad ibn Abdul Wahhab, the Algerian/Libyan Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi, the Sudanese Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi, the Iranian activist Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani and the Egyptian theologian Muhammad Abduh. In a fundamental aspect, their teachings and movements resembled those set off in northern Europe by Luther and Calvin. These Christians and Muslims shared a belief in the absolute authority of the unalterable word of God as set out in the original texts. Their task was to go back to discover the “pure” message and lead their followers to implement it. However much they differed, both the Muslims and the Protestants were in this sense salafis.

To my mind, that’s a far more persuasive analysis.

Perhaps what we’re seeing today is an Islamic version of the European Wars of Religion, following a Salafist “Reformation”?

In which case it might be time to work and pray for an Islamic Peace of Westphalia.

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