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A Tale of Two Places – Dabiq and Rumiyah

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Rumiyah is a city for sure, Dabiq not so much ]

The Islamic State has a new magazine out, and it’s titled Rumiyah, not Dabiq. Here’s the first inside page of the first issue of Dabiq, together with the cover of the first issue of Rumiyah:


And here’s the back cover of each magazine:


What’s significant here is that the names of both magazines, like bookends, refer to a significant location in IS eschatology — but not the same place, two different places. And thereby hangs my Tale.


The front cover of Rumiyah, the new magazine, opens with a quote from Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir, who was Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi‘s immediate successor as emir of Al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), the precursor to the Islamic State:

O muwahhidin, rejoice, for by Allah, we will not rest from our jihad expect beneath the olive trees of Rumiyah (Rome)

Moreover, the back page of Rumiyah, the new magazine, features a hadith about Rome:

Allah’s Messenger (saw) was asked, “Which of the two cities will be conquered first? Constantinople or Rumiyah? He (saw) replied, “The city of Heraclius will be conquered first,” meaning Constantinople (Reported by Ahmad and d-Darimi from ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr).


By way of contrast, the first issue of Dabiq opens with a quote from Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, the founder of AQI and thus “grandfather” to the Islamic State:

The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify – by Allah’s permission – until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.

The back page then offers this hadith concerning Dabiq:

Abu Hurayrah reported that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,

“The Hour will not be established until the Romans land at al-A’maq or Dabiq (two places near each other in the northern countryside of Halab).

Then an army from al-Madinah of the best people on the earth at that time will leave for them. When they line up in ranks, the Romans will say, ‘Leave us and those who were taken as prisoners from amongst us so we can fight them.’

The Muslims will say, ‘Nay, by Allah, we will not abandon our brothers to you.’ So they will fight them.

Then one third of them will flee; Allah will never forgive them. One third will be killed; they will be the best martyrs with Allah. And one third will conquer them; they will never be afflicted with fitnah.

Then they will conquer Constantinople. While they are dividing the war booty, having hung their swords on olive trees, Shaytan will shout, ‘The [false] Messiah has followed after your families [who were left behind.]’ So they will leave [for their families], but Shaytan’s claim is false. When they arrive to Sham he comes out.

Then while they are preparing for battle and filing their ranks, the prayer is called. So ‘Isa Ibn Maryam (‘alayhis-Salam) will descend and lead them.

When the enemy of Allah sees him, he will melt as salt melts in water. If he were to leave him, he would melt until he perished, but he kills him with his own hand, and then shows them his blood upon his spear.”

[Sahih Muslim]


It looks to me that Rodger Shanahan has the difference nailed in his Lowy Interpreter piece, Australia stars in first edition of new ISIS magazine:

First is the name change; no longer is ‘Dabiq’ the title (unless this masthead continues to put out editions separately); ‘Rumiya’ [sic] (formal Arabic for Rome) has replaced ‘Dabiq’. As most marketers will tell you, when a company’s brand is on the skids then it’s time for a refresh.; the same applies to jihadists. Jabhat al-Nusra has (to date) unsuccessfully tried to re-brand itself as a non-Al Qaeda jihadist group by changing its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, as its old name long ago became a dead weight on its leadership aspirations.

With its hold on territory becoming more precarious by the day, ISIS has possibly decided that naming your social media magazine after a town that will likely soon fall out of your control would not be a good look ‘going forward’. Re-naming your publication after the centre of Christendom is a way to show what you aspire to, rather than what you have lost. It’s also in line with the late Muhammad al-Adnani’s recent claims that IS did not fight for territory as a way of extolling the virtues of continuous jihadi resistance.


Recent posts featuring the idea that we may be near the end of ISIS, at least as a proto-state:

  • Kyle Orton, The End of the Islamic State by Christmas?
  • Kyle Orton, Is This the Beginning of the End for the Islamic State?
  • Anthony Cordesman, Syria and Iraq: What Comes After Mosul and Raqqa?
  • Washington Post, Flow of foreign fighters plummets as Islamic State loses its edge
  • Rome, Rome, or Rome?

    Thursday, February 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — on Graeme Wood’s latest, the goals of IS, and geographic slippage ]

    Graeme Wood, who wrote the Atlantic piece that broke the apocalyptic side of the Islamic State’s ideology wide open in March of last year, has a related piece out this month: Donald Trump and the Apocalypse, with the subtitle, Is Rome really ISIS’s “ultimate trophy”? It’s a fun read, discussing the confusion that is possible over the use of the word Rome in Muslim prophetic literature — a topic I’ve discussed before.

    Just for the record, then, here’s a screengrab from the Islami State’s magazine Dabiq, issue 4 page 37:

    Dabiq 4.37 We will conquer your Rome


    As a Newsweek item from September 2012 notes, there have in fact been three claimants to the title of Rome:

    When Ivan the Terrible was crowned the first Tsar of All Russia in 1547, the church announced Moscow to be the “Third and Final Rome,” the inheritor of St. Peter’s Rome and Byzantium, and the last bastion of Orthodox Christianity standing up to a Europe mired in heresy.

    Russian commentator Yuliya Latynina quoted..

    Filofey of Pskov’s 1510 claim that “Two Romes have fallen; the third stands; and there will not be a fourth”

    This was in Novaya gazeta, February 2015, and she suggested that Russia..

    many of whose residents view it as the third Rome, may suffer the fate not of the first Rome but of the second, a fate that cannot be reassuring to many of them because in the end the residents of the second Rome in Constantinople “considered that Islam was better than the West.”

    Wood mentions in his piece that the Australian jihadist ideologue Cerantonio argues:

    The Rum of the end-times hadith is not the Rome of Pope Francis but the Rome of the Republic of Turkey.

    Putin might take offense if he knew..


    And then there’s the matter of Quranic translation and the Quranic verse 30.2, as Wood also notes:

    Rome Rum translations

    Arberry, always interesting to read, translates that verse:

    The Greeks have been vanquished.

    The historical commentary in The Study Quran, p 984-85, clarifies that this verse refers to Sassanid (Magian) successes against the (Christian) Byzantine empire — which the following verse says will be reversed — and terming it “the only reference in the Quran to political events conetemporary with Muhammad and his followers beyond the Arabian Peninsula”.


    All things considered, oy veh: it seems that history does strange things to geography, time to space.

    Intelligence vs the Artificial

    Friday, January 16th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — who believes that detours are the spice of life ]

    Craig Kaplan:

    Craig Kaplan

    Maurits Escher:

    M Escher


    There’s a fasacinating article about Craig Kaplan and his work with tiling that I came across today, Crazy paving: the twisted world of parquet deformations — I highly recommend it to anyone interested in pattern — and I highly recommend anyone uninterested in pattern to get interested!

    Kaplan himself is no stranger to Escher’s work, obviously enough — he’s even written a paper, Metamorphosis in Escher’s Art — the abstract reads:

    M.C. Escher returned often to the themes of metamorphosis and deformation in his art, using a small set of pictorial devices to express this theme. I classify Escher’s various approaches to metamorphosis, and relate them to the works in which they appear. I also discuss the mathematical challenges that arise in attempting to formalize one of these devices so that it can be applied reliably.

    I mean Kaplan no dishonor, then, when I say that his algorithmic tilings, as seen in the upper panel above, still necessarily lack something that his mentor’s images have, as seen in the lower panel — a quirky willingness to go beyond pattern into a deeper pattern, as when the turreted outcropping of a small Italian town on the Amalfi coast becomes a rook in the game of chess


    Comparing one with the other, I am reminded of the differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding, of SIGINT and HUMINT in terms of the types of intelligence collected — and at the philosophical limit, of the very notions of quantity and quality.

    Review: Mussolini’s Italy: Life under the Fascist Dictatorship 1915-1945 by R.J.B. Bosworth

    Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a “zen“]

    Mussolini’s Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945 by R.J.B. Bosworth 

    This book was Fascist Italy not of the newsreels of frenzied Roman crowds cheering bombastic speeches by Mussolini but how fascism’s imperial grandiosity were an ill-fitting facade for an Italy that underneath remained substantially an impoverished, traditionalist, parochial society of peasant squabbles and regional jealousies. Bosworth, one of the world’s top experts on the period takes a granular look at Italy under Fascism and the reader comes away amazed at how Mussolini fooled the great powers into taking his regime seriously for as long as they did.

    At 692 pages, including 88 pages of endnotes, Mussolini’s Italy lays out in exhaustive detail how ordinary Italians carried on as best they could under the dictatorship, with the traditional reliance on corruption and the influence of kin and “men of respect” to undermine and ameliorate “totalitarian” rule. Repeatedly the regime sanctions dissidents (usually politically naive -or simply drunken – tradesmen or villagers) to “confino”, internal exile to faraway unpleasant regions only to have the intervention of some Fascist bigwig result in a swift amnesty.The brutality of the regime’s informal sanctions – the beatings, castor oil, kidnappings and murders – carried out by roving Fascist squadrists or at the orders of a local Fascist Ras (boss) like Cremona’s thuggish Roberto Farinacci, were by contrast, real enough.

    Outside of the violent hooliganism of blackshirt squadrism there at times seems little to have held Fascism together as a political movement without Mussolini’s tin cult of personality, there was seldom agreement among fascists about such fundamental political issues as the role of the state vs. the party, capitalism vs. autarky, the sanctity of private property, the need for unions, whether Fascism should be antisemitic or the role of the Catholic Church in Italian life? An incoherence that left Mussolini, who was never much of a stickler for consistency, as supreme arbiter. A role he kept secure by arbitrarily moving his preening, intriguing, womanizing and feuding cabal of uniformed henchmen and party apparatchiks from job to job all the way into his bitter gotterdammerung of the Salo Republic, where Mussolini was reduced to being the puppet gauleiter of Lombardy and eventually patheitic victim of popular revenge.

    Bosworth does a scholarly take-down of the original Fascist regime, demonstrating the deep propensity for cultural continuity in any society in the long term, even in one under the heavy hand of self-proclaimed revolutionaries and Roman tyrants.

    Sent to Coventry and much else besides

    Monday, September 2nd, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — shall we say, not a great enthusiast for war? ]


    This image of Winston Churchill in the bombed out ruins of Coventry Cathedral is almost a self-referential paradox in itself, if you still believe the canard that he knew the Germans were going to bomb Coventry that night, and did nothing about it to avoid divulging allied knowledge of the German ENIGMA code.

    It it walks like a canard and quacks like a canard…

    For a rebuttal of the suggestion that Churchill knew Coventry would be the target that night, see Sir Martin Gilbert, Coventry: What Really Happened [pdf, pp. 32-3] — the post-literate can listen to this Angry History podcast instead.


    As an aside, I wonder what Churchill had in mind when he coined his celebrated mot about Russia:

    It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.

    According to Wikipedia, the Poles had delivered their early Enigma-breaking theories, tools and sample cryptologic bombs to British military intelligence in Warsaw on 25 July 1939. Churchill’s broadcast, The Russian Enigma, was given on 1st October 1939.


    And another aside, while we’re here — just to note that conspiracy theories are often among the gaseous components of a fog of war…

    On the other hand, conspiracy theories can often be revealing of popular and or archetypal hopes and fears. In the present case, the anxiety revolves around situations such as that invoked by Caiaphas’ claim “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people“.


    Coming at the destruction of Coventry Cathedral from another angle…

    I have mourned before the losses at Bamiyan and Monte Cassino:

    Here’s what’s happened to the Green Mosque or Mazjid Sabz, famous for its dome (upper panel only, lower panel h/t Bilal Sarwary), in the course of fighting in Afghanistan — the country whose oldest mosque it is:


    And yet prayer continues:

    FWIW, the lower panel image (above) is from a Christian Science Monitor article titled Israeli settlers respond to mosque burning allegations — the caption reads in part:

    Palestinian men pray Monday near a burnt part of the carpet in a mosque that was damaged in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem. Palestinians accused Jewish settlers of setting fire to the West Bank mosque on Monday

    The upper panel image, as far as I can determine, shows the continuing celebration of Mass in a German church after Allied bombardment in World War II.


    It is at least worth pondering the words of these Trappist sisters in Azeir, Syria…

    They came to Azeir to continue in spirit the work of the monks of Tibhirine, about whom I wrote, giving extensive background and the entire text of Fr. de Chergé‘s great, final testament here. The sisters write:

    Today we have no words, except those of the Psalms that the liturgical prayer puts onto our lips in these days:

    Rebuke the Beast of the Reeds, that herd of bulls, that people of calves…oh God, scatter the people who delight in war…Yahweh has leaned down from the heights of his sanctuary, has looked down from heaven to earth to listen to the sighing of the captive, and set free those condemned to death…Listen, God, to my voice as I plead, protect my life from fear of the enemy; hide me from the league of the wicked, from the gang of evil-doers. They sharpen their tongues like a sword, aim their arrow of poisonous abuse…They support each other in their evil designs, they discuss how to lay their snares. “Who will see us?” they say. He will do that, he who penetrates human nature to its depths, the depths of the heart…Break into song for my God, to the tambourine, sing in honor of the Lord, to the cymbal, let psalm and canticle mingle for him, extol his name, invoke it…For the Lord is a God who breaks battle-lines! … Lord, you are great, you are glorious, wonderfully strong, unconquerable.

    We look at the people around us, our day workers who are all here as if suspended, stunned: “They’ve decided to attack us.” Today we went to Tartous…we felt the anger, the helplessness, the inability to formulate a sense to all this: the people trying their best to work and to live normally. You see the farmers watering their land, parents buying notebooks for the schools that are about to begin, unknowing children asking for a toy or an ice cream…you see the poor, so many of them, trying to scrape together a few coins. The streets are full of the “inner” refugees of Syria, who have come from all over to the only area left that is still relatively liveable…. You see the beauty of these hills, the smile on people’s faces, the good-natured gaze of a boy who is about to join the army and gives us the two or three peanuts he has in his pocket as a token of “togetherness”…. And then you remember that they have decided to bomb us tomorrow. … Just like that. Because “it’s time to do something,” as it is worded in the statements of the important men, who will be sipping their tea tomorrow as they watch TV to see how effective their humanitarian intervention will be….

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