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Dabiq, also Palestinian TV show satirizes IS

Monday, September 1st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron - ISIS video, early Dabiq reference, satirical response ]

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dabiq fire

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You may recall that almost exactly a year ago, Shiite truck drivers in Anbar province were stopped by ISIS patrols, questioned as to the exact form of Islamic prayer, and executed when they didn’t give an approved Sunni response. The event was captured on video, and visiting it today I was struck by the reference to Dabiq – see screencap above — already a crucial reference for pre-caliphal ISIS.

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I was watching that video again because the Palestinian TV show Watan al Watar recently satirized ISIS / IS in a video of their own, and the correspondences were pretty exact:

SPEC rakats

The gentlemen in the upper image, above, are acting. Those in the lower image died in late August 2013.

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You can view the satirican Watan al Watar video here:

 

The original video can be found here for comparison.

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It is perhaps worth noting that the Eretz-Zen post of that original video, back in late August 2013, describes the significance of Dabiq thus:

The video ends with a statement threatening the “Armies of the Cross in Dabiq” to be burnt by the fire whose spark was ignited in Iraq. Dabiq is a town near Aleppo where the battle of Marj Dabiq took place on August 24, 1516, and it ended up in a decisive victory of the Ottoman Empire over the Mamluk Sultanate.

As readers of Furnish, Filiu or myself will know, the Dabiq battle mentioned in the video references a future, specifically end times battle — a far more significant matter.

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Filiu on ISIS: “excitement at the approach of the end of time”

Monday, September 1st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- J-P Filiu, who wrote the book Apocalypse in Islam, returns reluctantly to the same topic ]
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Filiu

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Jean-Pierre Filiu, blogging on L’Etat islamique ou les chevaliers de l’apocalypse djihadiste — The Islamic State, or Knights of the Jihadist Apocalypse — writes:

La violence extrême du monstre djihadiste tient largement aux convictions apocalyptiques de nombre de ses recrues. Ce monstre a réussi à imposer au monde entier l’appellation qu’il s’est choisie d’Etat islamique (EI), alors qu’il n’est pas un Etat, mais une machine de guerre, et que sa doctrine totalitaire menace avant tout les musulmans.

Roughly and rustily translated – for Filiu is the man who showed me that the French I thought I had was entirely insufficient for scholarly purposes –he’s saying:

The extreme violence of the jihadist monster is due in large part to the apocalyptic beliefs of many of its recruits.

— and he continues, strikingly, that IS:

now has dozens of testimonials from foreign IS “volunteers” in which they reveal their fears, but also their excitement at the approach of the end of time. The “land of Sham”, known to geographers as Greater Syria, is indeed, like Iraq, a land privileged for the fulfillment of such prophecies.

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Filiu is both a distinguished professor at SciencesPo, and a one time career French diplomat whose postings included a stint between 1996–99 as Deputy Chief of Mission in Syria. He is also the author of the major work, Apocalypse in Islam [see also my review on Jihadology], which draws on his extensive readings in both the history and current market for apocalyptic ideas in Islam. He knows the terrain.

Writing of the “Ultimate Battle” — which he characterizes as “a terrible bloodbath in which the Faithful are victorious” — Filiu says that “just this kind of terror apocalypse is portrayed as imminent on social networks” and notes that this argument is “hammered home to encourage immediate recruitment” to Baghdadi’s forces, since “fighting in this battle will be worth more than fighting in a thousand battles with less of an eschatological aura” (“car la participation à cette Bataille vaudra mille combats moins auréolés de gloire eschatologique.”)

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A good portion of Filiu’s post is taken up with the IS magazine Dabiq and the role of the town of that name both in the current conflict and in apocalyptic hadith.

Filiu’s conclusion? He fears he will soon be obliged to return once more to the apocalyptic meanderings of the jihad.

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Sanctified payback, blowback

Friday, August 29th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- so IS is using waterboarding? meditating on copycattism as a jihadist strategy ]
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1902waterboarding

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Here’s the basic news, from Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded, in the Washington Post today:

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.
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James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

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Some have tried to downplay the implied similarity:

“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” said a U.S. official, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”

In this case, sadly, correlation is almost certainly causation, in the sense that the Qur’an permits the otherwise impermissible when one takes an action in war against enemies who have previously taken the same action against one.

And we have taken the action of waterboarding:

Three CIA detainees — Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — were waterboarded while held in secret CIA prisons. Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded 183 times, according to a memo issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

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Others have vaguely waved their hands in the direction of the idea that what we do may rebound on us:

Critics of waterboarding have said for years that the practice endangered Americans, putting them at risk of being subjected to the same brutal treatment at the hands of the enemy.

“Waterboarding dates to the Spanish Inquisition and has been a favorite of dictators through the ages, including Pol Pot and the regime in Burma,” Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) said in an op-ed in 2008. “Condoning torture opens the door for our enemies to do the same to captured American troops in the future.”

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But there’s more specificity to it than that.

I suppose I first caught on to it when Osama bin Laden said:

And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.

and I was instantly reminded of Qur’an 2.194, which contains the phrase in the Pickthal version:

And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.

Yusuf Ali translates the whole verse thus:

The prohibited month for the prohibited month,- and so for all things prohibited,- there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, Transgress ye likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.

But I’ve said all this before, talking about that speech of OBLs in more detail in Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style, for parallels, patterns.

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Finally, waterboarding is not the only procedure that our own actions have opened us up to in this sense:

François said Foley was subjected to mock executions — something suspected al-Qaeda operative Nashiri also endured while being held in a secret CIA prison, according to a report by the inspector general of the CIA. The Justice Department did not sanction mock executions.

There’s plenty of room for innovative brutality on the part of IS, even without this kind of divine sanction — but it still might be useful for us to be aware of Qur’an 2.194 when considering psssible second-order effects of our own tactics, eh?

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Furnish on “ISIS: Apocalypse .. How?”

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- an important post with notes for Hagel & Dempsey, also my own thoughts on overlapping eschatologies ]
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Moire effect from Marvic Textiles bois-de-rose

Moiré effect from Marvic Textiles bois-de-rose

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Tim Furnish has a significant piece out today on his MahdiWatch blog, ISIS: Apocalypse…How?

What most interests me here, since I’m an eschatology watcher and it deals with what I think of as “eschatology squared” — the turmoil that results when opposing eschatologies run up against one another, creating some pretty strange intellectual moiré effects — is Furnish’s much needed comment to some of his fellow Christians:

[T]he last thing the US military or intelligence community needs is to have the genuine war against apocalypse-fired Islamic militants conflated with a narrowly Evangelical Christian view of matters. The US government is a secular, not a religious, one — and although I have repeatedly criticized the refusal of the leader of the world’s largest Christian-populated nation to do anything about global persecution of Christians, I do NOT want our forces engaged in an Evangelical Protestant “Crusade.” Furthermore, and just as (if not more) importantly, opposing and defeating the Islamic “apocalyptic strategic vision” — which is shared by groups besides IS[IS] — can only be done by analyzing said vision on its own Muslim terms, using Muslim (Arabic, Turkish and Persian) sources. Frankly, in this fight, I don’t give a damn in this context what Revelation or Ezekiel or Daniel say — it matters more what’s in the Qur’an, the Hadiths, and Islamic commentators thereupon. I say this to my Evangelical brethren: it’s not always about you and your interpretation of Christian Scripture. The rest of us (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutherans, etc.) in the fold might have something worthwhile to say on the topic, too — but this fight against IS[IS] is neither the time nor the place.

You’ll want to read the whole piece, but other things Tim covers include the actual extent of ” what al-Sham constituted in Middle Eastern history” and more generally some observations about, and comments addressed to, SecDef Hagel and General Dempsey.

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Synchronously, Richard Landes today tweeted:


I hope to hear more from him about the similarities & differences — stay tuned.

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Wikipedia describes moiré effects thus:

In mathematics, physics, and art, a moiré pattern is a secondary and visually evident superimposed pattern created, for example, when two identical (usually transparent) patterns on a flat or curved surface (such as closely spaced straight lines drawn radiating from a point or taking the form of a grid) are overlaid while displaced or rotated a small amount from one another.

Linens and silks can offer us beautiful examples of such superimposed patterns. The image at the top of this post is from Marvic Textiles and their lovely bois-de-rose fabric.

I am suggesting that when Islamic eschatologist discuss Christian eschatology, as was the case with Safar al-Hawali‘s treatment of Hal Lindsey in his Day of Wrath — or Christian eschatologists discuss Islamic eschatology, as in the case of Joel Richardson‘s book, Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist — the effect of one eschatology superimposing itself on another produces further “superimposed” patterns worth contemplating as such.

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Of Learned Unknowing: in the matter of ISIS

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- Newton, Cusa and Rumsfeld as context, McCants & Abu Susu for your consideration ]
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IS tank

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Let me anchor this business of unknowing firmly in the hearts of Science, Theology, and the Defense Department. My own preference is for Theology, and the words of Nicolas of Cusa — but you may choose which authority you prefer.

Sir Isaac Newton is reputed to have said:

I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa, in his treatise >De docta ignorantia / On Learned Ignorance:

Socrates seemed to himself to know nothing except that he did not know. And the very wise Solomon maintained that all things are difficult and unexplainable in words. And a certain other man of divine spirit says that wisdom and the seat of understanding are hidden from the eyes of all the living. Even the very profound Aristotle, in his First Philosophy, asserts that in things most obvious by nature such difficulty occurs for us as for a night owl which is trying to look at the sun. Therefore, if the foregoing points are true, then since the desire in us is not in vain, assuredly we desire to know that we do not know. If we can fully attain unto this [knowledge of our ignorance], we will attain unto learned ignorance. For a man-even one very well versed in learning-will attain unto nothing more perfect than to be found to be most learned in the ignorance which is distinctively his. The more he knows that he is unknowing, the more learned he will be. Unto this end I have undertaken the task of writing a few things about learned ignorance.

and elaborating on this theme, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously opined:

Reports that say there’s — that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

With your choice of those backgrounds in mind, I’d like to turn now to today’s crop of readings on the Islamic State, and bring together for your attention two lists of five — five things we may think we know, and should unlearn, and five things we don’t know and shpouldn’t kid ourselves we do. Both authors of these lists come highly recommended.

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William McCants today in Five Myths about the Islamic State notes:

As the United States widens its battle in Iraq against the Islamic State and contemplates strikes against it in Syria, the policy debate at home surrounding the intervention is heating up. Here are five myths circulating in the media that are clouding the discussion.

Here are his five myths:

1. The Islamic State was never al Qaeda.
2. International relations scholars agree arming the Syrian rebels is a bad idea.
3. Qatar funds the Islamic State.
4. The so-called Caliphate was established in June.
5. There is an easy, obvious and quick solution to the Islamic State problem.

Of these, it is number 4, The so-called Caliphate was established in June, that I find most intriguing and instructive, so I present it here:

The self-declared Caliph Ibrahim may have officially declared the reestablishment of the caliphate in June 2014, but the group has hinted since its 2006 founding of the Islamic State in Iraq that the caliphate was already established. Because the group knew its claim would be controversial in the jihadi community at the time, it chose the ambiguous name of “The Islamic State in Iraq” to communicate its intent while maintaining plausible deniability. The term “dawla,” translated as “state” today, is also the name of Islam’s greatest caliphate, the Dawla `Abbasiyya. The Islamic State was “in” Iraq but not “of” Iraq, indicating the state was not contiguous with Iraq and would not always confine itself to the country of that name.

Number 5, however, There is an easy, obvious and quick solution to the Islamic State problem, is the one we may need to grasp most quickly and firmly:

As Brian Fishman, a fellow at the New America Foundation, wonderfully gripes in his profanity-laced “cri de cœur” last week, the pro- and anti- intervention camps in the United States have used simplistic and uniformed arguments to support their favorite policies in Syria and now Iraq. But even those who offer complex and informed policy analysis like Brian can’t come up with a clear policy recommendation. Disagree with Obama’s Syria policy (I do) but don’t pretend the alternatives are obvious or would necessarily work better.

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Yassin Musharbash, aka Abu Susu, also published a “list of five” today: 5 Things we don’t know about the Caliphate, prefacing it with this para:

Right now, a lot of people (and media) are asking for information on the “Islamic State”, the “Caliphate” of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other things related to Jihadist activities in Syria and Iraq. That’s perfectly understandable. But while I am answering as many of these questions as I can, I think it is equally important that we (and by “we” I mean those of us who have followed events there since, let’s say, the days of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi) don’t forget that there are a whole lot of questions we can’t answer (even if these are not the questions we are usually asked).

Here are his five questions:

1. How important is the role of al-Baghdadi?
2. Is there a plan for expansion of the “Caliphate”?
3. Does al-Baghdadi/IS want to strike in the West?
4. Is there communication between IS and al-Qaida’s branches?
5. How stable/instable are relations to allies and helpers?

Here I find number 2, Is there a plan for expansion of the “Caliphate”? the most interesting. Abu Susu writes:

And by that a mean: A real, tangible one, not the ideological version. In propaganda videos, all sorts of targets are being named: Samarra, Najaf, Baghdad in Iraq; Damascus, Mecca, Jerusalem on a more ideologically motivated level; Rome as a symbol. But that is not helpful in predicting the IS’s next moves. These will be determined by their reading of military conditions on the ground, or so I assume. So will they sit in Mosul and Raqqa and consolidate before their next move at a big city or town? Are they busy forging new alliances elsewhere in order to repeat what happened in Mosul? Are they clever enough not to try and take Baghdad – or stupid enough to play with that idea at this point? I can make assumptions, but they are based on my idea of IS, rather than facts.

I womnder about this. They’re an apocalyptic movement, originating in Sham / Greater Syria, and making much play in their publicity about the apocalyptic battle of Dabiq. Jean_Pierre Filiu said of Abu Musab al-Suri‘s hundred-page account of the end times in the finale of his 1,600 page Global Islamic Resistance Call that there was “nothing in the least rhetorical about this exercise in apocalyptic exegesis. It is meant instead as a guide for action.”

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Enough — both pieces are woth pondering:

  • Will McCants’ 5 Myths
  • Abu Susu’s 5 questions
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