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Human Sacrifice and State-Building

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

[by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

A while back I had a longish post that argued that the mass executions practiced by ISIS drew from the long pagan tradition of ritualistic human sacrifice. Today in the news, some social scientists see evidence of human sacrifice as the catalyst for establishing and maintaining stratified, hierarchical and (usually) oppressive societies:

Human sacrifice may seem brutal and bloody by modern social standards, but it was a common in ancient societies.

Now, researchers believe the ritualised killing of individuals to placate a god played a role in building and sustaining stable communities with social hierarchies.In particular, a study of 93 cultures across Asia, Oceana and Africa, has found the practices helped establish authority and set up class-based systems.

Human sacrifice was once widespread throughout these Austronesian cultures, which used it as the ultimate punishment, for funerals and to consecrate new boats.Sacrificial victims were typically of low social status, such as slaves, while instigators were of high social status, such as priests and chiefs, installing a sense of fear in the lower classes.

….Analysis revealed evidence of human sacrifice in 43 per cent of cultures sampled.

Ritualistic killing of humans was practiced in 25 per cent of egalitarian societies studied, 37 per cent of moderately stratified societies and 67 per cent of highly stratified societies.The researchers constructed models to test the co-evolution of human sacrifice and social hierarchy and found that human sacrifice stabilises social hierarchy once the system has arisen. They said it also promotes a shift to strictly inherited class systems, so that people of a high social class will continue to stay important over time, because of ritualistic killing.

‘In Austronesian cultures human sacrifice was used to punish taboo violations, demoralise underclasses, mark class boundaries, and instill fear of social elites  – proving a wide range of potential mechanisms for maintaining and building social control,’ they wrote. ‘While there are many factors that help build and sustain social stratification, human sacrifice may be a particularly effective means of maintaining and building social control because it minimises the potential of retaliation by eliminating the victim, and shifts the agent believed to be ultimately responsible to the realm of the supernatural.’

Supernatural forces….like for example, because Allah wills it.

This Austronesian study conclusions sounds remarkably similar to the role of (allegedly) Sharia sanctioned horrific punishments meted out by ISIS and fetishistically recorded and widely disseminated in video propaganda. A religiously ritualistic rein of terror as a mechanism to reengineer Sunni Arab society in areas under the group’s control and cement the state-building efforts of ISIS.

For details of ISIS use of extremely ghoulish violence for propaganda and state-building, I heartily recommend ISIS: the State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Sunday surprise: sinkholes

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — and including a 1936 German illustration of the hollow earth ]
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Bryan Alexander on his Infocult blog notes a fascinating symmetry as More sinkholes open up under countries on opposite ends of the Earth — one in England and the other in Australia. The implication that our devouring planet may at last be preparing a Journey to the Centre of the Earth he leaves to his reader’s imagination..

SPEC DQ sinkhole

BTW, “opposite ends of the Earth” is a delightful phrase, reminiscent of John Donne‘s “the round earth’s imagin’d corners” — kudos, Bryan!

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And while we’re on the topic of the centre or center of the earth, one of my favorite “finds” as a book-crawler was this gem from Frankfurt, 1936:

Johannes Lang Die Hohlwelttheorie

Highly compatible with Nazi occultism, nicht wahr?

And this more recent piece, showing the location of the hidden Buddhist city of “Shambala”, completes the picture:

Agharta

Maybe our Journey to the Center of the Earth will provide us with some occult Infocult material, eh, Bryan?

A very brief brief on black banners

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — wherein black flag patches run riot ]
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Just a quick something I gleaned via Leah Farrall‘s recent blog post:

Abu Bakr on IS and JaN flags

That’s the gist of an excerpt I transcribed from an Aussie Insight video last year, which featured host Jenny Brockie and the gentleman depicted, one Abu Bakr. Bakr was arrested just before Christmas and charged with “possession of documents designed to facilitate a terrorist attack”. The exchange went like this:

Jenny Brockie: I see you’re wearing the ISIS flag on your shirt

Abu Bakr: It doesn’t really come down to what sort of flag because this flag, here, people might say you’re a supporter of Jabhat al-Nusra, and this flag here, people might say you’re a supporter of ISIS, but these flags are all one, they’re all the same flag, one Muslim nation and that’s it.

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It’s great to see you back and blogging, Leah —

Arabs at War

— and we’re keenly awaiting the arrival of your book!

Turning analytic bifocals on the Islamic State’s Irregulars

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — IS / Daesh focus is not on the question of derangement but of repentance – Dabiq #6, Aquinas, adaequatio ]
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Lindt police
Lindt cafe worker escapes Man Haron Monis hostage situation, Sydney – credit Jason Reed, Reuters

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It’s interesting to compare how we think about those like Man Haron Monis on the cusp between derangement, criminality, terrorism and jihad, and how IS views them.

JM Berger remarks of those he classifies as The Islamic State’s Irregulars:

in a number of these cases, it’s unclear whether the attacks were inspired by the Islamic State and its extremist ideology, or whether IS provided a convenient excuse for violence that was already brewing in the hearts of the perpetrators.

while his subtitle asks:

What should we do with lone-wolf attackers who are mentally unstable or deranged? Are they terrorists, too?

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Berger, among our most discerning analysts and co-author with Jessica Stern of the keenly awaited book, ISIS: The State of Terror, describes Monis as:

a Shiite Muslim born in Iran who had emigrated to Australia. He had been charged in 2013 as an accessory to murder and faced dozens of sexual assault charges related to his “spiritual healing” practice. His own lawyer described him as “unhinged.”

Clearly, the waves of influence running amok in Monis’ head are nowhere near as simply as our routine categorizations – that he was IS, or simply a terrorist, a mental case, a criminal, a murderer perhaps – would like to suggest. Our best inquiry is into his mental state, his psychological “drivers” – how we can understand him, with easy categorization the sound-bite version providing closure.

**

The Islamic State views him differently. As described in the sixth issue of their magazine, Dabiq, he is clearly a religious hero, specifically a martyr:

It didn’t take much; he got hold of a gun and stormed a café taking everyone inside hostage. Yet in doing so, he prompted mass panic, brought terror to the entire nation, and triggered an evacuation of parts of Sydney’s central business district. The blessings in his efforts were apparent from the very outset.

Dabiq then paints western media diagnoses made against him as slurs:

Then, as the situation developed and his identity was revealed, we saw a predictable response from the international media. They immediately began searching for anything negative that they could use against him, and subsequently began reporting numerous allegations made against him in an attempt to smear his character and, by extension, the noble cause that he was fighting for – the cause of Allah (ta’?l?).

And then something interesting occurs. Dabiq, half-admitting the accuracy of some of those slurs, defends him not by denying their accuracy but by framing them in the context of repentance and divine mercy:

The fact is, however, that any allegations leveled against a person concerning their past are irrelevant as long as they hope for Allah’s mercy and sincerely repent from any previous misguidance.

This is so with one who embraces Islam and thereby has his past history of shirk and transgression completely erased – as was even the case with many Sahabah. So how much more so in the case of one who followed up his repentance by fighting and being killed in the path of Allah, knowing the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) declared that such a person would be forgiven the moment his blood is first spilled.

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“He was deranged, violent, driven, and IS became the hook on which he hanged himself” – or “His sacrificial death absolved him from all flaws and sins”. The contrast is instructive.

It seems best for us to to wear secular / sacred bifocals in our analyses. But how does the analyst gain that faculty which EF schumacher, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine call adaequatio rei et intellectus

according to which to each plane of reality there corresponds an instrument of knowledge adequate to the task of knowing that particular level of reality

??

Black Banners in Sydney 2: on flags and their meanings

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — the history and dwindling significance of a sign ]
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two flags

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In my previous post in this series, Black Banners in Sydney 1: a DoubleQuote in the Wild from Ardeet, I wrote:

The flag in the image from the Lindt cafe is not in fact the Daesh / Islamic State flag, and indeed the hostage-taker appears to have asked for a genuine Daesh / IS flag as one of his demands. The flag shown is a black flag containing the Shahada or Islamic profession of faith in white, and black flags in Islam have a history as war flags dating back to the time of the Prophet himself.

The banners are black, and there are implications.

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First, the black banner was the Prophet’s flag, the raya.

The Islamic Imagery Project at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center lists “Black Flag” under the heading “Warfare Motifs“, saying:

The Black Flag (al-raya) traces its roots to the very beginning of Islam. It was the battle (jihad) flag of the Prophet Muhammad, carried into battle by many of his companions, including his nephew ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. The flag regained prominence in the 8th century with its use by the leader of the Abbasid revolution, Abu Muslim, who led a revolt against the Umayyad clan and its Caliphate. The Umayyads, the ruling establishment of the Islamic world at the time, were seen as greedy, gluttonous, and religiously wayward leaders. The Abbasid revolution, then, was aimed at installing a new, more properly Islamic ruling house that would keep orthodox Islam at the center of its regime. Since then, the image of the black flag has been used as a symbol of religious revolt and battle (i.e. jihad). In Shiite belief, the black flag also evokes expectations about the afterlife. In the contemporary Islamist movement, the black flag is used to symbolize both offensive jihad and the proponents of reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate.

The Abbasids flew black banners, and were therefore known as the musawwids, or “wearers of the black”.

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There are ahadith, considered by the scholar David Cook and others to be Abbasid forgeries, which claim that black banners from the east are a sign of the Mahdi’s coming. One such hadith reads:

If you see the black flags coming from Khurasan, join that army, even if you have to crawl over ice, for this is the army of the Caliph, the Mahdi and no one can stop that army until it reaches Jerusalem.

In Understanding Jihad, Cook writes:

Since Afghanistan, as Khurasan, has powerful resonance with many Muslims because of the messianic expectations focused on that region, this gave the globalist radical Muslims associated with al-Qa’ida under the leadership of Bin Ladin additional moral authority to proclaim jihad and call for the purification of the present Muslim governments and elites.

And as I have said before, Cook notes in his Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature that bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam, made fresh use of this line of messianic tradition and “popularized the position of Afghanistan as the messianic precursor to the future liberation of Palestine” in his book, From Kabul to Jerusalem, while bin Laden refers to finding “a safe base in Khurasan, high in the peaks of the Hindu Kush” in his 1996 Declaration of Jihad.

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There are many variants on the black flag, some of them carrying the Shahada or proclamation of faith, some decorated with the Prophet’s seal, some identifying particular jihadist factions. And while AQ in particular has capitalized on the hadith for recruitment as Ali Soufan detailed in his book The Black Banners, the breakaway “caliphate” use of black banners has been so prominently reported in the media that what used to be termed “the Al-Qaida flag” is now often called “the ISIS” (or “Islamic State”) flag.

It is against that somewhat confused background that we must understand Man Haron Monis’ demand, once he realized that the black flag with Shahada he was forcing hostages to hold in the window of the Lindt café was not the “right” black flag, that he be brought an “Islamic State” black flag – presumably the one with the Prophet’s seal, which had in fact been known as the “Al-Qaeda flag” before Daesh / IS took it up.

I once asked the American jihadist Omar Hammami, late of Al-Shabaab – who used that same black flag with Shahada and Prophetic seal in Somalia – whether their choice of flag referred only to Muhammad’s banner, or to the “black banners of Khorasan” ahadith also? – to which he replied:

the raayah is something general in religion regardless of color, but obviously those hadiths influenced black choice

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I have been harping on the “end times” and specifically Mahdist significance of black banners in the contemporary context for seven years now, and lamenting that so little mention is made of the black banners’ apocalyptic connotations.

For the Islamic State / Daesh, there is no need to question its apocalyptic significance – all five issues to date of their magazine Dabiq have focused on the great “end times” battle to be fought at Dabiq in Syria – a name to compare with Har Megiddo, where the battle of Armageddon will be fought in the equivalent Christian “end times” narrative.

But for some demented guy taking hostages in a café in Sydney?

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It now appears to me that the “meme” of black flags simply meaning “jihadist” is now so wide-spread, that the apocalyptic resonances may no longer be intended when someone picks up such a flag – or photographs it in some new context —

— no more so than the sign of a Che Guevara poster in a college dorm betokens a serious adherent to Marxist revolution.


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