zenpundit.com » Islam

Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Anyone at State any good at nasheeds?

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- how AQ messages potential ISers -- as usual, when there's an overlap between divergent ideas, I start thinking ]
.

Brubeck Berlin

**

I was reading, once again, today about the US social media campaign in a WAPo piece, Digital War Takes Shape on Websites Over ISIS:

Along with its surprising military success, the Islamic State group has demonstrated a skill and sophistication with social media previously unseen in extremist groups.

And just as the United States has begun an aggressive air campaign against the militants, Richard A. Stengel, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy, believes the United States has no choice but to counter their propaganda with a forceful online response.

“Sending a jazz trio to Budapest is not really what we want to do in 2014,” said Mr. Stengel, referring to the soft-edged cultural diplomacy that sent musicians like Dave Brubeck on tours of Eastern-bloc capitals to counter communism during the Cold War. “We have to be tougher, we have to be harder, particularly in the information space, and we have to hit back.”

Then I came across this quote from Thomas Joscelyn at LWJ, inder the header Analysis: Al Qaeda attempts to undermine new Islamic State with old video of Osama bin Laden:

Al Qaeda’s senior leaders have not directly addressed the Islamic State’s claim to rule over a caliphate stretching across large portions of Iraq and Syria. Instead, they have sought to undermine the Islamic State’s ideological legitimacy in a variety of more subtle ways.

Subtle, I like subtle. My question, as I juxtapose AQ’s approach with that of Richard Stengel at State, is whether there’s anything we can learn from our AQ adversaries about social messaging as CVE?

Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t — but “know your enemy” is a significant aphorism, and the juxtaposition of approaches is surely worth considering.

**

Just for the record:

I’ve said it before — I don’t really put much stock in solo “leading indicators” — I take much sharper notice when there are two indicators with a significant associative link or overlap between them.

And I’m not seriously suggesting the State Dept should be recording anasheed.

Share

Comparisons: ISIS and WBC, KKK

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- humor, comparison, elucidation, analytic necessity, apocalyptic, and the matter of the Mardin fatwa ]
.

SPEC ISIS WBC KKK

For many Muslims, these two comparisons explain simply and effectively just how divergent from their understanding of Islam the jihadists are.

This in no way takes away from the idea that if we are to understand IS and AQ, we need to consider their nature as specifically “end times” driven religious movements.

For the point of divergence, I recommend Sh. Hamza Yusuf‘s comments on the “Mardin Fatwa” of Ibn Taymiyya, in this clip from his address in Oxford’s Sheldonian:

I’d be interested in further details / discussion on the Mardin fatwa topic.

**

Sources:

  • Yasira Jaan, tweet
  • Clay Jones, Claytoon
  • Share

    Some very welcome news: JM Berger & Jessica Stern

    Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- forthcoming book announced ]
    .

    JM Berger at Intelwire frames it like this:

    ISIS: THE STATE OF TERROR

    Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger co-author the forthcoming book, “ISIS: The State of Terror,” from Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book, which will debut in early 2015, will examine the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, how it is transforming the nature of extremist movements, and how we should evaluate the threat it presents.

    Jessica Stern is a Harvard lecturer on terrorism and the author of the seminal text Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. J.M. Berger is author of the definitive book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, and editor of Intelwire.com.

    **

    JM also tweeted:

    **

    For another angle on Berger & Stern’s thinking, see their recent joint contribution to a round table at Politico:

    A counterterrorism mission—and then some.
    By J.M. Berger and Jessica Stern

    When the Obama administration sends mixed messages about whether its campaign against the Islamic State insurgent group is war or counterterrorism, there is a reason, if not a good one. As explained by President Obama last week, the United States plans to employ counterterrorism tactics against a standing army currently preoccupied with waging war.

    In many ways, our confrontation with the Islamic State is the culmination of 13 years of degraded definitions. Our enemies have evolved considerably since Sept. 11, 2001, and none more than ISIL, which has shed both the name and the sympathies of al Qaeda. The Islamic State excels at communication, and it has succeeded in establishing itself as a uniquely visible avatar of evil that demands a response. But on 9/11, we began a “war on terrorism” that has proven every bit as expansive and ambiguous as the phrase itself implies. It is a symptom of our broken political system that we require the frame of terrorism and the tone of apocalyptic crisis to take even limited action as a government.

    Ultimately, it’s hard to escape the feeling that our policies still come from the gut, rather than the head. And ISIL knows exactly how to deliver a punch to the gut, as evidenced by its gruesome hostage beheadings and countless other atrocities. Its brutality and open taunts represent an invitation to war, and many sober strategists now speak of “destroying” the organization.

    Bin Laden once said, “All that we have to do is to send two mujahideen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of ISIL, may be counting on just that response, and for the same reason—to draw the United States into a war of supreme costs, political, economic and human.

    A limited counterterrorism campaign may insulate us from those costs, but it is not likely to be sufficient to accomplish the goals laid out by the president. ISIL is a different enemy from al Qaeda. It has not earned statehood, but it is an army and a culture, and more than a traditional terrorist organization. Limited measures are unlikely to destroy it and might not be enough to end its genocidal ambitions. Our stated goals do not match our intended methods. Something has to give — and it’s probably the goals.

    **

    I reviewed JM’s previous book for Zenpundit, and mentioned Jessica Stern‘s work, which I greatly admire, in my post here, Book Review: JM Berger’s Jihad Joe. Their upcoming collaboration promises us an insightful, foundational, and must-readable analysis — richly nuanced, clearly presented, and avoiding the pitfalls of panicky sensationalism to which so much current reportage is prone.

    Share

    Some wrenchingly sad news, 2: nuanced theological implications

    Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- some surprising twists here, if you think of IS as entirely lacking compassion or religious and moral consideration ]
    .

    I am going to take the religious issues out of their original order to create a smoother reading experience with regard to the theological surprises in Barber’s article.

    Barber’s perplex:

    I have also been perplexed by the question of IS’ methods and behavior and have felt a need to understand the fact that they work according to specific ideals and a strict religious code for behavior, yet often seem to act outside of what such a code would permit. They are not alien creatures but human agents with aspirations of state building who even demonstrate acts of compassion.

    Once again, religion turns out to be crucial to a full understanding.

    We tend to treat IS — not surprisingly considering their barrage of beheadings videos and other publicized horrors on social media — as utterly unconstrained thugs and brutes. There’s no denying the brutalities, but a more sophisticated reading finds some relevant background in Abu Bakr Naji‘s book, The Management of Savagery, as Will McCants, lately of CTC West Point and now at Brookings, explains.

    Booty, both literal and metaphorical:

    First, it is worth noting that the taking of captured women as slaves / booty does have religious precedent:

    The philosophy underpinning the taking of Yazidi slaves is based in IS’ interpretation of the practices of Muslim figures during the early Islamic conquests, when women were taken as slave concubines—war booty—from societies being conquered.

    It’s hideous, it’s “medieval” if you like that term, but it does have arguable religious precedent.

    People of the Book vs Polytheists:

    Taking the brutality as a given, then, what are we to make of the preferential treatment afforded Christians vis-à-vis Yazidis?

    Though they have robbed them of their wealth, IS has not targeted the Christian community in the same way that they have the Yazidis. As “People of the Book,” Christians are seen as having certain rights; Yazidis, however, are viewed by IS as polytheists and are therefore seen as legitimate targets for subjugation and enslavement, if they do not convert to Islam.

    Acts of Compassion:

    This is perhaps the aspect of Barber’s piece which is most unexpected, and as such deserves our consideration. It is a part of the puzzle, after all is said and done, and our reflexive disgust at the many other brutalities of IS should not blind us to it:

    Christians who fled one Iraqi town described to me how IS fighters provided food for their elderly and disabled Christian relatives who were not able to flee, and then later transported them to an area near Kirkuk where they would be able to rejoin their relatives.

    The question:

    Barber poses the question — to himself, to the analytic community, and to all of us:

    How are we to reconcile these humane instances of goodwill with the apparent criminality and destruction that is so pervasive with IS?

    The answer:

    The answer is not yet in:

    Many discussions will continue regarding the similarities and differences between IS’ methods and the actual practice of the early Islamic community. Historical context will be discussed by scholars, and God’s intentions will be parsed out by those with a theological bent.

    The situation, therefore:

    But regardless of how our contemporaries interpret the past, IS’ attempts to recreate and relive a period in which slaves were taken in war have shattered families that now reel in pain after their children have been snatched away from them.

    The imperative:

    The imperative to relieve such gross suffering, if it is possible to do so without causing suffering that is even greater in so doing, is the topic of the third and last post in this series, in which I’ll post extracts of Barber’s assessment of the possibility of rescue.

    There is hope here, amid all the suffering and hate.

    Share

    Apocalyptic arrives, but not yet the Coming One

    Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on the intersecting logics of IS, current and classical Islamic eschatology, and violent millennial movements in general ]
    .

     Al Malhamah al Kubra, the great end times battle, image from Dabiq


    Al Malhamah al Kubra, the great end times battle

    **

    Ella Lipin, research associate for Middle East studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, blogged on the apocalyptic side of the “caliphate” a few days back under the title Understanding ISIS’s Apocalyptic Appeal:

    To the outside world, this period of atrocities perpetrated by ISIS, such as the beheading of two American journalists, may be another defining moment in shaping the Middle East. But for many people in the region, ISIS’s message resounds and its arrival marks the end of days and the fulfillment of divine prophecy. To understand ISIS’s appeal and ultimately how to defeat it, the United States must recognize how the organization situates itself within Islamic apocalyptic tradition.

    That’s good, that’s fine.

    **

    To back up a bit, Martin Dempsey said of IS almost a month ago:

    This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated.

    I noted this with approval, and lamented the lack of earlier awareness of this point in my post The curious case of the unheard word “apocalyptic”.

    **

    And today, Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post quoted Ms Lipin in a piece about Dabiq magazine titled The apocalyptic magazine the Islamic State uses to recruit and radicalize foreigners:

    This is not the beginning, the magazine says. It is the end. It is the culmination of a centuries-long war that has burned and simmered but never been extinguished — that will soon grow to consume everything. It is the apocalypse. And it is coming.

    This is the chilling vision set out in the Islamic State magazine called “Dabiq,” published in several European languages including English.

    Again, that’s good to see.

    **

    But what exactly are the implications?

    I’ve posted my own detailed analysis of a mere 10 pages of Dabiq, focusing explicitly on implications regarding the Saved Sect and the Victorious Group, and the entire logical edifice IS has constructed to take us from the Dabiq hadith via the notion of hirah to the recruitment of a global force of jihadists, in Dabiq issue 3 part 1- Hijrah. Tim Furnish has blogged about this, as has J-P Filiu. Their work is of crucial importance, along with that of David Cook. And the posts I’ve linked here are far from all these scholars have written — each has been covering specifically Islamic apocalyptic for years.

    **

    But that’s the IS logic, and there are other logics that need to be understood.

    One is the Islamic logic that views IS as Kharijites, “breakaways” and heretics who in an excess of religious fervor have broken away from the very religion they profess to follow. That’s a topic that should be addressed from within Islam, IMO. For now, here’s a link to a short video from a Manchester (UK) Salafist sheikh, who views both IS and JN as Kharijite. I’ll report here if I see this line of argument particularly well presented.

    In strictly poetic terms, there’s Shadab Zeest Hashmi‘s Shade, posted in 3QuarksDaily — if you still have a heart for beauty in these grim times:

    Allahu Akbar or God is Great, the anthem stolen by the wicked terrorist, whose attack is aimed at life, what holds life together for me— the zikr: Allahu Akbar, God is Greater, greater than prayer, greater than the spectacularly leaping science, the elegance of logic, the morality police, the lust of the spirit or the intellect, greater than the molten heart of a mother, a day laborer’s fatigue, greater than the beauty of discipline, the disciple of beauty, the ecstasy of disarray, greater than terra firma or the firmament, greater than sorrow.

    If you still have a mind for poetry.

    **

    But there’s at least one other logic that needs to be understood — because it shows what the modifier “apocalyptic” can do to an already violent movement. It’s the logic explored by scholars like Jeffrey Kaplan, Michael Barkun, Catherine Wessinger, Michael Barkun, Richard Landes, Jean Rosenfeld, and John R Hall.

    That’ll require a whole new post. But it’s the horse that pulls the cart of millennial and messianic / mahdist movements — and maybe we should understand the horse before the cart?

    Share

    Switch to our mobile site