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A brief Trump policy statement & book-length question in response

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — also a tweet asking for a DoubleQuote & getting one ]
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As so often, Part I of this post is a somewhat playful teaser for Part II, which is where my real interest is to be found.

Part I, then, is about someone inquiring about two tweets Donald Trump made, asking in effect whether anyone had DoubleQuoted them:.

I like this question because it shows that DoubleQuoting — and indeed it’s subset, DoubleTweeting — is not some lonely idea of mine, but a more general form of inquiry that I’m aiming to fashion into a specigic and teachable tool for thinking.

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As it happens, one Chris Taylor responded to Martyn’s question the next day, putting the two tweets in question together. Sadly for my purposes, he did this by screengrabbing the pair of them, thus making it impossible to click through to Trump’s two originals. I’ve therefore gone to Trump’s timeline, and present them here as they originally appeared there:

I see this juxtaposition as having some mild merit as political argument, but mainly as a sort of nit-picky point-scoring — so I’ll leave it at that.

For anyone who’s interested, here’s a storified compilation of Donald Trump’s tweets on Islam, Muslims and the Middle East — I haven’t verified its contents or up-to-date-ness, but ran across it in my rooting around, and thought it might be of use to some here.

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Part II is where things get interesting.

In the DoubleQuote below, I have posted excerpts from two documents — in the upper panel, Donald Trump’s news release on the prevention of Muslim immigration, and in the lower panel, a couple of paragraphs from the Tablet magazine review of the late Shahab Ahmad‘s extraordinary book, What is Islam, published this year by Princeton UP, and described in a blurb by Harvard Law’s Noah Feldman as “Not merely field changing, but the boldest and best thing I have read in any field in years.”

DQ tablet Trump Ahmed

Boiled down to it’s haiku-like essence, this twofer goes like this:

  • Trump: single page, single strand statement about banning Muslims
  • Ahmad: 550 page, multiple strand question as to how to define Muslims
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    It’s inevitable that much of our popular — meaning “of the people, by the people, for the people” — discussion of Islam, brought on principally by the as yet but poorly understood connection between Al-Qaida and Islam, and exacerbated more recently by the equivalent link with the (so-called) Islamic (so-called) State — is framed in headlines and soundbites.

    Such single-stranded short-form messaging cannot hope to convey much at all of reality, and to get a deeper dive into what the words Islam and Muslim point to, one could hardly do better than The Study Quran for Islam’s central scripture, Jonathan Brown‘s Misquoting Muhammad for the history and interpretation of the corpus of hadith — and Ahmad’s What is Islam for the amazing richness of the Islamic traditions across continents and centuries.

    9780691164182

    Somewhere between the single words Muslim and Islam on the one hand, and the 550 pages of Ahmed’s erudition, aided and abetted by 44 pages of notes in small type and a substantial index on the other, there’s an awareness of rich complexity, perhaps sufficient for a 25-page essay or 125-page Oxford Very Short Introduction, that we could all benefit from applying to our political considerations of Islam in these fraught times.

    Given my propensity for seeing conflicts in sectarian terms

    Sunday, June 12th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — delicious irony in the twitter stream as a teaching tool re middle east ]
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    Given my propensity for seeing conflicts in sectarian terms, it’s a breath of fresh air / splash of wet water for me to read Hayder al-Khoei, scion of the eminent al-Khoei family and Chatham House Fellow, tweeting on the subject of the English football hooliganism in Marseille over the last three days, which has included both bottle-throwing against French riot police and a running battle with a pack of Russian supporters brandishing knives:

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    Al-Khoei‘s observations offer us a brilliant parody of the way western analysts, myself included, all too often write about events in the Middle East, and I admire his skill in delivering his reproof — but it’s also worth remarking that England as I understand it seems less and less interested in attendance at its established Protestant church, while France is notable for it’s official laïcité. Indeed, of the three nations involved in this circus, only the Russians appear to be experiencing quite a resurgence of Orthodoxy, coming after decades of official atheism.

    Enfin:

    The England v Russia match was a 1-1 draw. Game theorists would presumably call the event a zero-sum game, since the two sides do seem to have cancelled each other out — but in the larger context of sectarian rivalry, the entire three days have surely been lose-lose, while al-Khoei‘s wit is a win for us all.

    I do so hate it when people speak foreign

    Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — the Pakistani politician Imran Khan and Alec Station’s Mike Scheuer think (somewhat) alike ]
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    I do so hate it when people speak foreign, and am happy when bilinguals tweet the relevant quotes in regular language:

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    Imran Khan, who is being quoted from this interview as saying “George Washington was a terrorist for the English & freedom fighter for Americans” is a Pakistani cricketer (captain of the team that won the 1992 World Cup, and credited with 3807 runs batting and 362 wickets bowling in Test matches) turned politician (founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party which governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly the North West Frontier Province) — and philanthropist (founder of a cancer hospital, and more).

    Comparisons, they say, are odious — and you may well think it odious to compare Osama bin Laden with George Washington.

    What, though, if the comparison is between Imran Khan and Michael Scheuer, who in the runup to 9/11 was the chief of Alec Station (ie the CIA’s Bin Laden Issue Station). In his first book, Through our Enemies’ Eyes, published anonymously in 2002, Scheuer wrote:

    I think we in the United States can best come to grips with this phenomena by realizing that bin Laden’s philosophy and actions have embodied many of the same sentiments that permeate the underpinnings of concepts on which the United States itself is established. This can be illustrated, I think, with reference to the writings or actions of such seminal figures in our history as John Brown, John Bunyan, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine.

    and:

    Bin Laden’s character, religious certainty, moral absolutism, military ferocity, integrity, and all-or-nothing goals are not much different from those of individuals whom we in the United States have long identified and honored as religious, political, or military heroes, men such as John Brown, John Bunyan, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine. I do not argue that these are exact analogies, but only that they are analogies that seemed pertinent as I researched bin Laden.

    and again, specifically:

    A final analogy I found useful in thinking about Osama bin Laden in a context pertinent … Professor John L. Esposito drew me to this analogy in his fine book The Islamic Threat. Myth or Reality?, as did the editors of the respected Pakistani newspaper Nawa-i-Wakt. In his book, Esposito warned that when Americans automatically identify Islamist individuals and groups as terrorists, they forget the “heroes of the American Revolution were rebels and terrorists for the British Crown,” while the editors of Nawa-i-Waqt lamented that “it is unfortunate that the United States, which obtained its independence through a [revolutionary] movement is calling Muslim freedom fighters [a] terrorist organization.”

    Like him or not as he currently presents himself and his opinions, Scheuer was plausibly the person best situated to explain bin Laden to an American audience back in 2002 — and today’s Imran Khan and yesterday’s Michael Scheuer seem to have a major analogy for assessing & explaining bin Laden in common…

    After IS, what next? — the missing (apocalyptic) strand

    Monday, May 23rd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — four recent tweets, some lines of inquiry, & no certain conclusion, no date certain ]
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    The four recent tweets that set me off..

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    There are a multitude of voices now raising the question After ISIS< What Next? They can be heard from as far back as October 2014, onwards:

  • Al Arabiya English, What comes after ISIS’ defeat?
  • Foreign Policy, What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?
  • Lexington Institute, What Do We Do The Day After ISIS Is Defeated?
  • The National Interest, We Defeat ISIS. Then What?
  • The Telegraph, What happens once Isil is defeated?
  • Wilson Center, Iraq: Now and After ISIS
  • The [Huffington] World Post, The Middle East after ISIS
  • and most recently:

  • The Atlantic, The Hell After ISIS
  • If IS continues losing territory, as suggested in the tweets above, this question can only gain in force.

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    I have been following Islamic eschatology since 1998 or thereabouts, when I met David Cook, and I thought that what was at that time an eerily unappreciated question had at last made its way into informed consciousness after..

  • 2002, David Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic
  • 2005, David Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature
  • 2011, J-P Filiu, Apocalypse in Islam
  • 2014, Martin Dempsey, speech: IS has “an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision”
  • 2015, Jessica Stern & JM Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror
  • 2015, Graeme Wood, What ISIS Really Wants
  • 2015, Will McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse
  • But no, the question I’m interested in has not been raised:

    Is there a more potent form of apocalyptic movement than the two we have most recently seen?

  • a Mahdist movement, one focused on the army with black flags from Khorasan — AQ
  • a Caliphal movement, one focused on the establishment of the rightly-guided kingdom — IS
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    Four hints:

    It seems to me that you can have a Caliphal (kingdom based), or a Mahdist (leader based) movement, and that the Caliphal approach, should IS be a clear failure as a global quasi-state, will be exhausted for quite some time — and that since AQ, to the extent that it is or was an apocalyptic movement, was one that looked to a future Mahdi, the only route “up” from either one would be the declaration of an actual Mahdi-claimant with armed insurrection to follow.

  • The worst messianic movement, in terms of fatalities, would still be China’s 19th Century Taiping Rebellion, 20-30 million dead. Strangely enough, Gordon of Khartoum was involved.

  • The most recent and widely notable Mahdist rebellion was the Sudanese one that killed Gordon, led initially by Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi.

  • The next highly plausible date for the appearance of a Mahdi would be at the start of the next Islamic century, 1500 AH / 2076 BCE, since ahadith suggest a Mujaddid or Reformer will be sent every 100 years, and there have been assertions that the Ummah will not endure longer than 1,500 years (see here eg)
  • My guess is that we’ll have a cooling-off period in terms of Islamic apocalyptic if IS is seen to fail — but as they say, mortal mind cannot know the time of the end, and Allah knows best.

    Aymen al-Zawahiri, al-Sham and ISIS as Khawarij

    Friday, May 20th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a highest-intensity insult in the jihad among jihadists ]
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    A significant article is announced:

    Both Will McCants and Cole Bunzel have recommended this article, so you may already have seen it.

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    Okay, I understand that there are various viewpoints, and hence various different people will make different choices as to which is the key paragraph here. For many, it will be Zawahiri‘s focus on al-Sham.

    Indeed, Zawahiri’s new geographic focus happens to align itself with what Abu Musab al-Suri proposed in his Global Islamic Resistance Call — published, perhaps a tad presciently, more than a decade ago in 2004/5 — that (in J-P Filiu‘s phrase, Apocalypse in Islam, p. 189):

    It is self-evident to him that the “country of Sham” — Greater Syria, including Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan — looms as the apocalyptic theater par excellence, and that al-Qaida’s strategic conception of global jihad must be reoriented to take into account this final clash.

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    From my own POV, as someone whose interest is in movements in religious thought, this is the key paragraph:

    Zawahri did deliver at least one message aimed at the jihadist base, affirming that the IS’s members are “Khawarij,” a historical Muslim sect of hyper-extremist deviants. Labeling the Islamic State group as such has been controversial within Salafi-jihadism — theorist Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi has resisted it — in part because it requires jihadists to act on the Prophet Muhammad’s prescription for dealing with the Khawarij: “qatl Ad,” or total extermination. Zawahri has now come down firmly on one side of this intra-jihadist debate.

    On which topic, see also my November 2015 post here on Zenpundit: Is the Islamic State Islamic? The Yes and No of the matter, and this, from JM Berger in 2014:


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