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Two new “must read” books

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Hamid & Farrall, Stern & Berger, full reviews coming up shortly ]
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Farrall & Berger

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I recently received a review copy of Mustafa Hamid & Leah Farrall‘s breakthrough book, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan, courtesy of the publisher, Michael Dwyer of Hurst, and will be writing it up once I’ve finished devouring it:

A former senior mujahidin figure and an ex-counter-terrorism analyst cooperating to write a book on the history and legacy of Arab-Afghan fighters in Afghanistan is a remarkable and improbable undertaking. Yet this is what Mustafa Hamid, aka Abu Walid al-Masri, and Leah Farrall have achieved with the publication of their ground-breaking work.

The result of thousands of hours of discussions over several years, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan offers significant new insights into the history of many of today’s militant Salafi groups and movements.

Huzzah!

An almost unbelievable and very welcome collaboration.

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And:

Huzzah!

Jessica Stern is terrific, while JM Berger is not only one of our ablest analysts, but also a good friend. This book will be an eye-opener.

Paris, AQ and IS

Friday, January 9th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — just noting the apparent blurring of a significant distinction, although it’s still early to draw conclusions ]
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Raffaello Pantucci tweets:

French TV interviewed Cherif Kouachi who states clearly I was directed by AQAP and funded by Awlaki. Same French TV channel spoke to Coulibaly who they say told them he was linked to ISIS. And Coulibaly claims that the brothers and himself were coordinated.

Here’s the video (in French) that Pantucci linked to:

Smiley on defeating ideologues

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — with application to today’s tragic massacre in Paris, to IS, AQ, Breivik, whoever ]
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fanatic secret doubt Tinker Tailor
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That’s George Smiley describing Karla‘s fatal flaw, in the crucial scene from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the film version with Gary Oldman as George Smiley.

We are not so very different, you and I. We’ve both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another’s systems. Don’t you think it’s time to recognize there is as little worth on your side as there is on mine? Never said a word. Not one word.

And that’s how I know he can be beaten. Because he’s a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.

The Le Carré book version has it a little differently, FWIW:

And if you want a sermon, Karla is not fireproof, because he’s a fanatic. And one day, if I have anything to do with it, that lack of moderation will be his downfall.

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Bonus: Smiley on symmetry and asymmetry:

Smiley speaks to Karla<, wishing to turn him:

We are not so very different, you and I. We’ve both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another’s systems. Don’t you think it’s time to recognize there is as little worth on your side as there is on mine? Never said a word. Not one word.

Whose black banner is it, anyway? — and the Khawarij

Monday, December 29th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — a flag flapping in the wind, in the mind ]
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You see this flag?

Who flies it?

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The media often call it “the Islamic State flag” these days, and indeed in the photo above, it’s a convoy of IS / Daesh vehicles that’s flying it.

But in the recent 13th issue of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula‘s magazine, Inspire, that same flag is used as an icon for both Mohammad Jawlani, the emir of AQ’s Iraqi branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Mukhtar Abu Zubair, late emir of al-Shabaab — and indeed, it also features in AQAP’s Malahem Media logo:

whose black banner

It is one of the ironies of the age that the image of a black banner featuring the white circular “seal of the Prophet” is flown by both sides in the contentious rivalry between the Islamic State and Al Qaida for leadership in the global jihad .

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And who are the Khawarij today?

Joas Wagemakers, in ‘Seceders’ and ‘Postponers’? — an analysis of the ‘Khawarij’ and ‘Murji’a’ labels in polemical debates between quietist and jihadi-salafis, identifies the central distinctive opinion of the Khawarij thus:

The first of these is the Khawarij’s belief that revolt against Muslim rulers was allowed if they were deemed insufficiently pious. When ‘Ali accepted arbitration with Mu‘awiya, the people later known as Khawarij reportedly shouted ‘judgement is God’s alone’ (la hukm illa li-llah). In the context of that event, this referred to their belief that only God had the authority to arbitrate, not human beings, and that ‘Ali should not have accepted Mu‘awiya’s offer. The slogan later came to represent their broader view that all judgements and rulings should be left to God, thus applying Qur’anic rulings so strictly that they expelled Muslims guilty of major sins from their community and fought them. Because they believed sinful Muslims to be unbelievers (kuffar, singular: kafir), they directly applied passages from the Qur’an pertaining to jihad against non-Muslims to those of their co-religionists who were less than perfectly pious.

Does any of that sound familiar?

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Well and truly trolled, JM!

No compulsion in religion

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — is Daesh the exception that proves the rule? ]
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Qur’an 2. 256:

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error


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