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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.

**

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.

Mosul Museum: then the good news, perhaps

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — second of three posts, this one more hopeful ]
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Does ISIS really have SEVEN-FOOT tall executioners? Parts of grisly film showing beheading of 21 Christians were faked, claim experts

Veryan Khan, of the Florida-based Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, told Fox News that there are several technical mistakes in the video that show it was manipulated.

She said that in the shot of the terrorists marching their prisoners along the beach, the jihadis appear to be 7ft tall – towering as much as two feet above their victims.

This observation was supported by Hollywood director Mary Lambert who described it as the shot with the ‘really tall Jihadists and the dwarf Christians.’

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Analysis: Mosul Museum video from Islamic State could be a staged drama

Britain’s Channel 4 television gave the Islamic State propaganda video to archaeologists to examine. Mark Altaweel, an American scholar at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, noted the modern iron rebar protruding from inside some of the smashed statues. It disproves their authenticity.

Nonetheless, the vandalism’s cultural insult strikes deep. The Iraqi people, Altaweel said, “are taking the destruction of their cultural heritage – their identity, essentially – just as seriously as the beheadings.”

**

The above ties in with the notion expressed in the LA Times article — where else? — Islamic State and its increasingly sophisticated cinema of terror:

The cinematography is as crisp and chilling as a horror movie. Men in orange jumpsuits kneel on a beach beneath a sky of broken clouds. Executioners hover over them, dressed in black, knives aglint. A masked militant reads the death sentence. The camera pans across praying faces. Knives are raised, and 21 men are beheaded, blood spilling into the sand and mixing with the waves.

This and other recent execution videos released by Islamic State are slickly produced narratives of multiple camera angles, eerie tension and polished editing that suggest the filmmakers are versed in Hollywood aesthetics. Brutal and perverse, the clips, some infused with music and subtitles, carry a primeval message stylized for a world wired to social media and hypnotized by an endless pulse of competing images.

The beheadings and other killings, including the burning alive of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, represent an increasingly sophisticated cinema of terror.

For more on the media side of things, see the third and last post in this series.

Mosul Museum: first the bad news, perhaps

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — there’s some question as to the authenticity of the footage of destruction in the Mosul Museum, hence the triple post of which this is part 1 ]
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First the grief, the terrible wailings:

The reason for the grief:

I have to say, I too was moved to tears by the video.

The symbolic impact:

An individual’s response ties the destruction of statuary in with the destruction of lives:

A communal response as reported by the same individual:

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Two useful articles:

  • from the Editor of the Middle East Journal, More on the Destruction in the Mosul Museum:

    Following up on those videos of ISIS smashing Assyrian antiquities in the Mosul Museum, here’s a roundup of commentary and detail from several websites around the preservationist community. And let me emphasize that I am not giving more weight to the destruction of antiquities than to the slaughter of human beings, but that barbarity is already well known.

  • and from The Atlantic, Erased: ISIS and the Destruction of Ancient Artifacts

    But another way to think about it is as squarely in a tradition of iconoclasm. Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, himself destroyed idols, according to tradition. There’s a strong tradition of icon-destruction in Christianity. And in pre-Islamic Mecca, the Kaaba was the site of multiple idols, which Muhammad cleared out before rededicating the site to God. This is certainly the tradition to which ISIS wishes to claim a connection. The Taliban, another group that claimed fidelity to the principles of early Islam, also spent a great deal of time destroying images of people—most notably the massive Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. The tomb of Muhammad in Mecca was itself destroyed by Ibn Saud, the first monarch of Saudi Arabia, early in the 20th century.

    The fog of war makes it tough to tell when genuine artifacts are missing or in danger.
    In reality, the relationship with icons in all three Abrahamic religions is rather more elaborate than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would want us to believe—but the tradition is there. Destroying traces of forebears, and even robbing and destroying tombs, has perhaps a longer tradition in civilization than preservation.

    ISIS can’t claim total purity on the matter itself, either. The group has widely been reported to be profiting by selling plundered artifacts on the black market.

  • **

    And let’s not forget the Christian tradition of iconoclasm, both Orthodox and Protestant, either:

    The torture and martyrdom of the iconophile Bishop Euthymius of Sardeis by the iconoclast Byzantine Emperor Michael II in 824, in a 13th-century manuscript

    The torture and martyrdom of the iconophile Bishop Euthymius of Sardeis by the iconoclast Byzantine Emperor Michael II in 824, in a 13th-century manuscript

    On the Prophet’s banner, and the Coming One

    Sunday, January 25th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — from battle-flag to transcendent symbol ]
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    Father of the Imam Mahdi, postcard from Masshad, Iran, author's collection

    Father of the Imam Mahdi, postcard from Masshad, Iran, writer’s collection

    **

    I have written so much on the topic of the black banners from Khorasan [eg], which in turn arguably derive from the black raya or battle-flag of the Prophet, that I thought these ahadith from the Shia text by Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Bihar ul Anwar, would be of interest. They are drawn from the section titled:

    Flag of the Qaim is same as the flag of the Prophet

    Note here that the Qa’im — literally “He Who Arises” — is a Shia term for the Mahdi, as is Imam Zamana — “Imam of the Age”.

    129- Ghaibat Nomani: It is narrated from the same chains from Abdullah bin Hammad from Abdullah bin Sinan from Abi [Abdullah] Ja’far [bin Muhammad] that he said:

    “The Almighty Allah has fixed the time of the reappearance of Imam Zamana (a.s.) against the time fixed by the time-fixers. The flag of the Qaim is the same flag as that of the Prophet, which Jibraeel brought from the heavens in the Battle of Badr and he waved it during the battle.

    Jibraeel said: “O Muhammad, by Allah, this flag is not of cotton, flax or silk.” I said: “Then what is it of?” He said: “It is of the leaves of Paradise. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) spread it on the day of Badr and then he has folded it and gave it to Imam Ali (a.s.). It was still with Imam Ali (a.s.) until he spread it on the day of the battle of Jamal against the people of Basra and gained victory. Then he folded and kept it safe. It is with us and no one is to spread it until the Qaim (a.s.) appears. When he appears, he will spread it and then everyone in the east and the west will curse it. Terror will move a month before it, a month behind it, a month on its right side and a month on its left side.”

    Then he said: “O Abu Muhammad, he (the Qaim) will appear depressed and angry because of the anger of Allah with the human beings. He will appear wearing the Prophet’s shirt, which the Prophet put on in the battle of Badr, turban, armor and holding the Prophet’s sword Zulfiqar. He will unsheathe the sword for eight months. He will kill excessively. [ .. ]

    Here the banner is woven of no earthly cloth but of an angelic provenance…

    130- Ghaibat Nomani: It is narrated from Abdul Wahid bin Abdullah from Muhammad bin Ja’far from Ibne Abil Khattab from Muhammad bin Sinan from Hammad bin Abi Talha from Thumali from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) that he said:

    “Once Abu Ja’far Baqir (a.s.) said to me: “O Thabit, as if I can see the Qaim of my family coming near to your Najaf.” He pointed to Kufa and then added: “When he comes to your Najaf, he will spread the banner of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and then the angels of Badr will descend to him.”

    I asked him: “What is the banner of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.)?” He said: “Its pole is from the pole of the Throne of Allah and from His mercy. The rest of it is from the assistance of Allah. Everything that he swoops on with this banner Allah will make it perish.” I asked: “Is it kept with you until the Qaim (a.s.) appears or it is brought then?” He said: “No. It is brought then.” I asked: “Who will bring it?” He replied: “Jibraeel (a.s.).” [ … ]

    Here the banner is clearly transcendent, cosmic in scope.

    134- Ghaibat Nomani: It is narrated from Ali bin Ahmad from Ubaidullah bin Musa Alawi from Muhammad bin Husain from Muhammad bin Sinan from Qutaibah Aashi from Aban bin Taghlib that he heard Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) say:

    “Abu Abdullah Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: “When the banner of the truth (the Mahdi) appears, the people of the east and the west will curse it. Do you know why?” I said: “No, I do not.” He said: “That is because of what harms the people receive from his (the Mahdi’s) family before his appearance.”

    And here, one reading of the English translation would suggest that “the banner of the truth” is the Mahdi himself, though I’d need the help of a linguist to know if that’s a plausible reading in the original..

    **

    In any case, the first two, at any rate, are clearly referring to spiritual realities rather than exclusively to a flag of cloth, and can thus serve as correctives to a more literal understanding.

    How to fake a Mahdi and / or create a New World Religion

    Saturday, January 24th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — conspiracy is stranger than scripture, partly bcoz supercomputers! ]
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    Hey, we can pick a face out of a crowd:

    face in crowd 602

    track the numberplates of individual cars around a city:

    Oakland pd tracking eff

    follow individuals by tracking their cell phones:

    Screenshot-Malte_Spitz

    and see who’s in a room by their reflection in the cornea of an eye:

    corneal reflection

    We’re asymptotic to omnipresent, eh?

    **

    Now consider this:

    Nir Rosen, in his book In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, p 129, tells us:

    Seyid Hasan Naji al-Musawi, the thirty-eight-year-old leader of Sadr City’s Muhsin mosque and commander of [Moqtada] Sadr’s Army of the Mahdi in Baghdad, said that the final days were approaching in which the Mahdi would return. … Musawi declared that America’s real purpose in coming to Iraq was to kill the Mahdi.

    You got that? America’s real purpose in coming to Iraq was to kill the Mahdi. No wonder some Iranians think of us, and specificallay of US, as The Great Satan.

    I must confess I’ve been under the impression that Mahdism, being not merely a religious concept, not merely a religious concept from an “other” religion, but an “end times” religious concept from an “other” religion, was ideally suited for those of us in the post-Enlightenment west to ignore, even though it may be a concern of immense significance to, say, Moqtada al-Sadr and his followers, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his.

    But what an opportunity for conspiracy theorists the idea that the US wants to disrupt the coming of Islam’s Mahdi must be!

    **

    Now, putting one and one together, we see what a dastardly plot the US must be up to!

    Peace be upon Mohammad and the family of Mohammad.

    If I was the CIA/FBI/MI6/MOSSAD or in fact the Dajjal, here is how I would make a fake Imam.

    1 Get some the world’s most advanced supercomputers. Current supercomputers have speeds of up to 2.507 petaFLOPs per second (In layman’s terms the best way I can describe the speed of a petaflop to you is: 1 petaflop is equal to 10 times the speed of all the networked computers in the USA combined!!!). This supercomputer will be dedicated to the purpose of Imam Mahdi. It will be fed everything that is possible to find on the subject of Imam Mahdi. It will be used for planning our strategies and tactics, and it will be able to answer any questions instantly. It will be our “backbone” for our operations.

    2 Get some of the world’s most clever young children. You know how they choose children who are cleaver and give them scholarships to the best schools and universities? Well, what we would do is to get about 100 or more of the most clever geniuses that we can find around the world. They will be our “candidates”.

    3 Each candidate will be raised up by us – with a very special and specific top secret training program which will be devised with the help of our supercomputer. We will assign a role for each one, and we will brainwash them and have them truly believe that they are who we want them to be. For example, we could have 20 of them who will take the role of the Shia Imam Mahdi, and another 20 who will take the role of the Sunni Imam Mahdi. We will also have them impersonate other end time characters, such as Jesus, Khithr, Yemani, Khorasani, Sufyani etc etc etc. Each candidate will have a slightly different approach, so that we can target all the different people – with all their different beliefs about the Imam. With many years of training, they will become extremely good at impersonating an Imam at least they will NOT be making any recitation mistakes!

    4 Once they are fully trained and thoroughly tested, we will put them into the real world. They will be secretly connected with our dedicated supercomputer. With sophisticated technology, they will be able to send and receive information instantly and automatically without anyone knowing. For example, if someone asks our fake Imam a question, the supercomputer will “hear” it and it will give the answer instantly to the candidate without anyone hearing anything. It will give answers complete with Qur’an references and ahadith references etc… so much so that the candidate will be able to answer every single question with so much knowledge and wisdom and so many references that he could not have possibly known it will appear simply miraculous. You can even ask him to read page 205 from your CLOSED book, and he will read every word of it. It will look like he has knowledge of every single page of every single book ever written on this matter. He can look at your face (have the supercomputer link it with the intelligence
    databases and get a match) and he can tell you everything about your life (which is stored in their database).

    5 We will stage fake events such as the 313 giving allegiance in the Ka’bah to our candidate to make the deception more effective.

    6 We will stage “miracles” to make the deception more effective. For example, we will use neverbeforeseen technology, and we will stage several optical illusions (magic tricks) which are very difficult to tell from a miracle. We can also make use of the spiritual skills which have been demonstrated for years in India. There are those who do not eat or drink anything for 70 years, there are those who can stop a moving train without touching it, there are those who can make you have specific dreams, there are those who can read your thoughts, there are those who can KILL an animal just by looking at it! And these are not miracles. These are spiritual powers which mainly employ Jinn, and anyone can gain these abilities through special spiritual exercises. We will also stage “punishments” on those who do not believe in our candidate. For example, get someone to approach a scholar and say: “There is a fake Imam who is deceiving people! And I want you to talk about him in your next lecture!” And when he does, we kill him and make it look like an accident or a heart attack. This will be seen as a miracle for our fake Imam because those who speak against him are “punished by Allah!”

    What will be the obstacles:

    The scholars. The scholars know all the signs and with the help of Allah (swt), they will be able to tell that our candidates may be fake. So we will target them one by one, and make them look evil.

    The expectations of the people. The people will have very high expectations from the Imam. The biggest is the Shia belief of infallibility. Since it is difficult even with years of training to guarantee “infalliblelike conduct” from our candidates, we will have to reshape the people’s definition of infallibility using ahadith which have a broader and less strict definition of infallibility.

    And more obstacles… each with a clever remedy.

    What is the purpose of all of creating a fake Imam? Well, there are MANY purposes. But
    the most obvious is that if we succeed in getting many of the Muslims to believe in OUR fake Imam, then when the REAL Imam comes, the Muslims will automatically call him a liar and a fraud because they believe OUR candidate is the real Imam, and no one else!!!

    Also, since the Muslims believe in our fake candidate, we can slowly push our agenda in a very clever and subtle way.

    This is just a quick outline of how I would create fake Imams. There’s so much more that can be done, and I’m sure there are even better ideas which I missed. But that was just to give you an idea.

    Do not be surprised if we start seeing some very convincing imposers very soon. I’m pretty sure that the CIA and the Masons and Illuminati will do EVEN MORE than what I’ve outlined above.

    Narrated from Mufathal Ibn Umar:

    I heard Aba Abdillah (pbuhaf) saying: Beware of being weak (loose translation). By Allah, your Mahdi will be hidden for years of your era and it will be very long for you, and you will say: “what”, and “I wish”, and “maybe”, and “how”, and you will be tested, and doubts will rise within you, and it will even be said “he is dead”, or “he perished”, or “in what pit did he go?”, and the eyes of the believers will weep for him, and you will be shaken (loose translation) just as the ships are shaken by the waves of the ocean, until none will survive except those from whom Allah (swt) has taken an oath and has written faith in their hearts and has supported them with a spirit from Him, and there will rise 12 similar banners, and they do not know of their matter what they do.

    Mufathal said: I cried and said: Oh my Master, and what will your awliya (close companions) do?

    The Imam looked at the sun and it had become clearly visible (loose translation), and he said: Do you see this sun oh Mufathal?

    I said: Yes my Master.

    He said: By Allah our matter is clearer and more visible than it.

    Ref: AlHidayah AlKubra by Hussain Ibn Hamdan AlKhosaiby Chapter 4, the Chapter on the Awaited Imam Mahdi (pbuhaf) page 361.

    Welcome to the age of awesome deception.

    Allah (swt) alone can save us from what is to come. May He (swt) assist us and make us firm in faith and keep us on His straight path always.

    **

    That’s one Islamic eschatological vision of false messiahs — no more official than Alex Jones‘ rantings are official US policy — but it’s interesting to set it besides a somwhat similar scenario from our own western conspiracists — The Blue Beam Project:

    The infamous NASA Blue Beam Project has four different steps in order to implement the new age religion with the antichrist at its head. We must remember that the new age religion is the very foundation for the new world government, without which religion the dictatorship of the new world order is completely impossible. I’ll repeat that: Without a universal belief in the new age religion, the success of the new world order will be impossible! That is why the Blue Beam Project is so important to them, but has been so well hidden until now.

    [ .. ]

    The second step involves a gigantic “space show” with three-dimensional optical holograms and sounds, laser projection of multiple holographic images to different parts of the world, each receiving a different image according to predominating regional national religious faith. This new “god’s” voice will be speaking in all languages. In order to understand that, we must study various secret services’ research done in the last 25 years.

    The Soviet’s have perfected an advanced computer, even exported them, and fed them with the minute physio-psycological particulars based on their studies of the anatomy and electro-mechanical composition of the human body, and the studies of the electrical, chemical and biological properties of the human brain.

    These computers were fed, as well, with the languages of all human cultures and their meanings. The dialects of all cultures have been fed into the computers from satellite transmissions. The Soviets began to feed the computers with objective programs like the ones of the new messiah. It also seems that the Soviets – the new world order people – have resorted to suicidal methods with the human society by allocating electronic wavelengths for every person and every society and culture to induce suicidal thoughts if the person doesn’t comply with the dictates of the new world order.

    There are two different aspects of step two. The first is the “space show.” Where does the space show come from? The space show, the holographic images will be used in a simulation of the ending during which all nations will be shown scenes which will be the fulfillment of that which they desire to verify the prophecies and adversary events. These will be projected from satellites onto the sodium layer about 60 miles above the earth. We see tests every once in a while, but they are called UFOs and “flying saucers.” The result of these deliberately staged events will be to show the world the new “christ,” the new messiah, Matreya, for the immediate implementation of the new world religion. Enough truth will be foisted upon an unsuspecting world to hook them into the lie. “Even the most learned will be deceived.” The project has perfected the ability for some device to lift up an enormous number of people, as in a rapture, and whisk the entire group into a never-never land. We see tests of this device in the abduction of humans by those mysterious little alien greys. who snatch people out of their beds and through windows into waiting “mother ships.”

    The calculated resistance to the universal religion and the new messiah and the ensuing holy wars will result in the loss of human life on a scale never imagine before in all of human history. The Blue Beam Project will pretend to be the universal fulfillment of the prophecies of old, as major an event as that which occurred 2,000 years ago. In principle, it will make use of the skies as a movie screen (on the sodium layer at about 60 miles) as space-based laser-generating satellites project simultaneous images to the four corners of the planet in every language and dialect according to the region. It deals with the religious aspect of the new world order and is deception and seduction on a massive scale. Computers will coordinate the satellites and software already in place will run the sky show

    Oy.

    **

    I am posting thes two examples of end times religious conspiracism today because IMO we need a sense of how far out such speculations can go, as we consider the rumors of a connection between the death of King Abdullah and the coming of the Mahdi.

    Take off your tin-foil hats, people. A little common sense is required.

    Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai says, according to the Avot D’Rebbe Natan:

    If you are holding a sapling in your hand, and someone says to you, ‘here comes the Messiah!’ — come and plant the sapling, and afterwards go and welcome the Messiah.

    And Anas b. Mâlik in Musnad Ahmad 12981 relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

    If the Hour arrives and one of you is holding a date palm sapling, then he should go ahead and plant it before getting up from his place if he is able to.

    Keep calm, in other words, and carry on.


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