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ISIS, bridal and burial veils, Rilke

Monday, July 17th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — some non-Islamic (archetypal) context for a jihadist’s bride receiving a suicide belt as a wedding gift ]
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Asia Ahmed Mohamed, 26 (left), was given a suicide belt as dowry by her jihadi husband Mohammed Hamdouch – Daily Mail

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The unfortunate King Admetus, who had shown great hospitality to Apollo when the latter was banished from Olympus for nine years, was gifted by the spinners of fates with an extended lifespan — provided a substitute was found at the time death came to claim him.

Death came for Admetus, and in the great poem that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, after his father, mother and closest friend have each refused the chance to save Admetus’ life at cost of their own — Admetus’ loving wife Alcestis steps forward to offer herself..

Here Rilke describes her inner state:

No one can be his ransom: only I can.
I am his ransom. For no one else has finished
with life as I have. What is left for me
of everything I once was? Just my dying.
Didn’t she tell you when she sent you down here
that the bed waiting inside belongs to death?
For I have taken leave. No one dying
takes more than that. I left so that all this,
buried beneath the man who is now my husband,
might fade and vanish–. Come, lead me away,
already I have begun to die, for him.

**

The young, free, wild woman, the Artemis in every young bride, loses not just her father’s name but her identity, her life even, at the moment of marriage: the more sober, adult, bound woman, the wife, succeeds toi her flesh and days.

This theme, in which the (presumably white) bridal veil is seen to imply the (presumably black) burial veil, is a central strand in Greek tragedy, not just in Euripides ALcestist, from which Rilke drew his narrative, but in all three great tragedians, as Rush Rehm shows in his book, Marriage to Death: The Conflation of Marriage and Funeral Rituals in Greek Tragedy:

The link between weddings and death — as found in dramas ranging from Romeo and Juliet to Lorca’s Blood Wedding–plays a central role in the action of many Greek tragedies. Female characters such as Kassandra, Antigone, and Helen enact and refer to significant parts of wedding and funeral rites, but often in a twisted fashion. Over time the pressure of dramatic events causes the distinctions between weddings and funerals to disappear. In this book, Rush Rehm considers how and why the conflation of the two ceremonies comes to theatrical life in the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes.

**

Oh yes, and here’s Santa Muerte as Death Bride:

Regarding Santa Muerte, here’s R. Andrew Chesnut‘s abstract for his book, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint:

Although condemned by mainstream churches, this folk saint’s supernatural powers appeal to millions of Latin Americans and immigrants in the U.S. Devotees believe the Bony Lady (as she is affectionately called) to be the fastest and most effective miracle worker, and as such, her statuettes and paraphernalia now outsell those of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Judetwo other giants of Mexican religiosity. In particular, the book shows Santa Muerte has become the patron saint of drug traffickers, playing an important role as protector of peddlers of crystal meth and marijuana; DEA agents and Mexican police often find her altars in the safe houses of drug smugglers. Yet Saint Death plays other important roles: she is a supernatural healer, love doctor, money-maker, lawyer, and angel of death. She has become without doubt one of the most popular and powerful saints on both the Mexican and American religious landscapes.

In Santa Muerte we see the conflation of wedding and funeral alive and well in 21st century Mexico — and rippling out into the wider world.

**

That’s pretty much the cross-cultural context against which I understand a Jihadist’s bride given SUICIDE BELT as wedding gift:

Asia left Spain for Syria in March 2014 where she married Hamdouch, also known as Kokito de Castillejos, ‘the decapitator of Castillejos.’

During the ceremony, the terrorist gave his wife a belt of explosives. They had a son.

Muslim ban? Afghan girl robotics version

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — no great fan of robotics, but with fond memories of Afghanistan ]
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Source:

  • WaPo, U.S. denies visas for Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team
  • From that article:

    To participate, the girls from the city of Herat in western Afghanistan needed permission to travel to the United States. So, after they convinced their parents to let them go, they made the 500-mile journey to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to apply for their visas. They did this twice, even though that location was targeted by a deadly truck bomb.

    **

    U.S. denies visas..

    So sad! — as one Donald J Trump has once or twice tweeted.

    In which one might look to Boko Haram for a suitable husband?

    Sunday, June 25th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — oy, there’s nuance, even among one’s enemies ]
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    Consider:

    The media’s portrayal of jihadi groups’ horrific rule in the Sahel is a double-edge sword in the fight against these armed movements. On the one hand, their typical coverage provides a classic and possibly efficient form of war propaganda, which calls for unity against the common enemy.

    But on the other hand, the depiction of Islamist presence and political influence as unequivocally oppressive misses some critical points: namely, the jihadis’ interest in managing their use of coercion rather than just unleashing it; and their ambition to govern aspects of life through both violent and non-violent ways, sometimes in accordance with local customs.

    That’s what you’ll find under the subhead Easy narratives vs. difficult thinking in an African Arguments post titled Mali: The stoning that didn’t happen, and why it matters. That’s almost a disappointing headline, isn’t it? I mean, what? — was there nobody there who was without sin to cast the first stone?

    **

    The idea that there was a stoning — in Mali, which I for one have never visited and was not even remotely thinking about until that headline popped up in my news feed — had a sort of immediate appeal, a frisson, of the type that characterizes clickbait. So I clicked.

    Stonings, however, are abhorrent in my culturally conditioned view, and it’s fairly convenient for me to abhor them at a distance when indulged in by those I like to think of unkindly, the damn jihadists.

    The thing of it is, there was no stoning.

    That’s a hard thing to report, however. Breaking news — no stoning occurred near Aguelhoc in northern Mali — Christiane Amanpour reports!

    Reporting that there has been a stoning, on the other hand, by jihadists — those damn jihadists — that’s not only easy to report, it’s welcome news. Somehow. Despite, or perhaps because of, our abhorrence of stoning — as a punishment for adultery — by, and this is the final twist in our abhorrence, those jihadists.

    That’s welcome news, even if stoning is unwelcome, as are jihadists, and even if there was no stoning, despite them.

    **

    Even if sharia law is not the monolith we tend to think it is — and, returning to that African Arguments post — specifically to those punishments “which are mandated and fixed by God and are applicable in cases of fornication, apostasy etc”:

    Questions over these penalties (known as had, plural hudud) were debated at length in 2012 when allied Islamist movements occupied Mali’s three main northern regions: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Timbuktu; the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) in Gao; and Ansar Eddine in Kidal.

    At that time, judiciary decisions were delegated to local Islamic judges (cadis). Crucially, there were many differences in the application of hudud across these three regions. For instance, there were multiple cases of amputations for robbery in Timbuktu and Gao. But in Kidal, Ansar Eddine agreed with local Islamic judges that sentences would be maintained in line with local customs that historically prefer detention over physical punishment.

    Oops. As the writers go on to note, there was actually one stoning for adultery in Aguelhoc in 2012, though the one-time leader of the Ansar, Iyad Ag Ghaly, apparently didn’t know about it. And:

    Such complexities and variations between regions supposedly governed by the same Shariah provisions demands additional investigation. Why would hudud, a pillar of political and social legitimation across jihadi movements, be suspended in some places but not others?

    **

    Okay, now I don’t really know who the Ansar are, and if you’d told me they are Malian jihadis and Iyad Ag Ghaly is or was their leader, I wouldn’t off the top of my head imagine he would disfavor huhud pubishments — as mandated by Allah — in favor of detentions.

    But Boko Haram.

    I’ve heard of Boko Haram, they don’t like western education, and they abducted the Chibok and other girls, marrying some and selling others into sexual slavery, if that’s a valid distinction. They too are, in a word, abhorrent.

    And then I read this, in the same article:

    In the Lake Chad area, several organisations – including The International Crisis Group – have documented that a significant number of young Kanuri women have voluntarily joined Boko Haram in order to find a suitable husband or benefit from new economic opportunities. For some women living in particularly impoverished rural areas, joining the jihadi insurgency may be more attractive, at least to start, than their daily routine in the strict patriarchy of rural villages.

    The idea of members of Boko Haram as suitable husbands somehow hadn’t occurred to me. But then I’m not a young woman, nor even a local.

    **

    If what I’ve written thus far interests you, I’d encourage you to read the whole article. There was no stoning in Aguelhoc, despite the reports in Agence France-Press (reporting from Bamako) and Radio France Internationale (reporting from Paris), picked up by Le Monde and The Guardian.

    In sum:

    Most media accounts depict an unequivocal reign of terror under Islamist rule in northern Mali. But field interviews reveal a more ambiguous situation in which egregious violence by radical groups coexists with a non-violent governance agenda and willingness to deliver services.

    In central Mali, jihadi movements forcibly gather local population to preach. They also regularly assassinate those perceived to be collaborating with state officials and foreign armed forces. But at the same time, these groups provide mobile justice courts in places where judges have long been absent. They advocate for the suppression of land rights that benefit a tiny and contested aristocracy. They offer much-needed protection to cattle herders during seasonal migrations. And the simplified marriage procedures they impose allow youths to escape elder’s control over marital engagements.

    How much simpler the world is, if we see it from a distance.

    Irony, much?

    Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — Saudi girl’s council, all male ]
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    I believe this to be an example of the Ouroboros Moebius, or flattened snake twisted and self-biting — the negative or flipped version of the usual self-biter:

    Habitat not limited to Saudi Arabia…

    Source:

  • BBC News, Saudi Arabia launches girls’ council – without any girls
  • Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Foreign Affairs #2, more directly to his point

    Sunday, March 5th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — following up on Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Foreign Affairs, my oblique analysis and more pertinent to the point he’s making ]
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    Daveed is illustrating a pretty significant pattern with his latest article in Foreign Affairs, The Coming Islamic Culture War, subtitled What the Middle East’s Internet Boom Means for Gay Rights, and More:

    These paragraphs:

    Today, a new type of discursive space—one that will foster a very different set of ideas—is opening up in the Muslim world. In April 2011, Bahraini human rights activists created one such space when they launched the website Ahwaa, the first online forum for the LGBT community in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Esra’a al-Shafei, one of the website’s founders, was modest about the site’s ambitions, explaining that Ahwaa was intended “as a support network” for the “LGBTQ community” as well as a resource for those “who want to learn more by interacting with [LGBT] people.”

    Although little-noticed at the time, Ahwaa’s seemingly innocuous project was in fact revolutionary. Homosexuality in the MENA region is not only stigmatized but generally criminalized and banished from the public sphere. The creation of an online platform where LGBT people could candidly discuss the issues affecting their lives, such as romantic relationships or the tensions between Islam and gay rights, was thus a direct challenge to deeply inscribed cultural and religious norms. Indeed, Ahwaa heralds a wave of challenging ideas that, fueled by rapidly rising Internet penetration, will soon inundate Muslim-majority countries.

    Online communications, by their nature, give marginalized social and political groups a space to organize, mobilize, and ultimately challenge the status quo. In the MENA region, online spaces like Awhaa will give sexual minorities the ability to assert their identity, rights, and place in society. So too will the Internet amplify discourses critical of the Islamic faith, or of religion in general, and solidify the identities of secularists, atheists, and even apostates. The rise of these religion-critical discourses will in turn trigger a backlash from conservative forces who fear an uprooting of traditional beliefs and identities. The coming social tsunami should be visible to anyone who knows what signs to look for.

    Into the black swirl of geographical regimes that give no room for questioning — gay, political, religious, or whatever — a white circle of online discussion and possibility blossoms —

    Shielded by the relative anonymity of online communications, marginalized individuals of all stripes can discuss intimate and controversial issues. The Internet, furthermore, allows like-minded people from disparate corners of the world to find one another and create virtual communities. An atheist living in rural Egypt, for example, may not know anyone else who shares his views. But when he goes online, he will find millions of people who do.

    — and as it blossoms, the black swirl of repressive backlash again threatens it.

    **

    Likewise, though this does not happen to be Daveed’s point, into the white swirl of western democratic societies a black circle of illiberalism opens — the internet providing a networking space for anti-Semites and other far right groups they would previously lacked —

    Today, the Internet is a powerful and virulent platform for anti-Semitism — hate towards Jews that has a direct link to violence, terrorism and the deterioration of civil society. Hitler and the Nazis could never have dreamed of such an engine of hate. [ .. ]

    The Internet allows anti-Semites to communicate, collaborate and plot in ways simply not possible in the off-line world.

    — and this blossoming extends into the Trump camp, as JM Berger suggested

    New developments and new propaganda items are a constant part of the ISIS landscape, whereas content in white nationalist networks tends to be repetitive, with few meaningful changes to the movement’s message, landscape, or political prospects. A notable exception to this is Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, which has energized white nationalists and provided new talking points and opportunities for engagement. Trump’s candidacy is likely driving some portion of movement’s recent gains on Twitter.

    And again likewise, this blossoming begins to be threatened by its own backlash — the blossoming of internet speech within contrary geographical cultural norms cuts both ways. It’s almost apocalyptic — that internet space blossoming can open up cracks in what David Brooks called “the post-World War II international order — the American-led alliances, norms and organizations that bind democracies and preserve global peace” — to which Steve Bannon is vehemently opposed.

    Apocalyptic? Whether we’re speaking of Daveed’s “coming Islamic culture wars” or Brooks’ “international order” there are signs of the times to be seen. As Daveed says —

    The coming social tsunami should be visible to anyone who knows what signs to look for.

    — and in closing —

    Regardless of their ultimate outcome, however, signs of the coming Islamic culture wars can already be discerned. Western observers have long overlooked or misinterpreted social trends that have swept through Muslim-majority countries. This is one trend that they cannot afford to miss.


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