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Sura 9 invoked: correction regarding the Woolwich transcript

[ by Charles Cameron — update to follow ]

I’m sorry to have to inflict this on you, but I have yet to see an accurate transcript of the Woolwich attacker’s televised explanation published.

So far, we have two transcripts, both found in a piece by Max Fisher in the Washington Post. The first goes like this:

We swear by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reasons we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth. We apologise that women had to see this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you.

Then there’s an update to Fisher’s piece, which say the WP’s Anthony Faiola “listened to the ITV video very carefully and came away with a different quote than the one circulating in British media … Here’s the quote as heard by Faiola”:

There are many, many ayah throughout the Koran [referring to religious verses] that says we must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our land women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.

That’s definitely an improvement, and yet…


I must apologize for the fact that I cannot read or write Arabic, and therefore no doubt mix up different transliteration schemes at times like this — but I think this is one off those cases where a little religious knowledge helps ones ability to make out what’s being said by someone offering religious justification for their acts. The clip begins in mid-sentence with a clear reference to a Sura from the Quran — Sura 9, at-Taubah, The Repentance — and then continues with a reference to ayat , the plural of ayah, the term for a Qur’anic verse.

Here’s what I hear:

… Sura at-Taubah — many, many ayat throughout the Koran that, we must fight them as they fight us, an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth. We, I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our lands, our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.

The other notable divergence between my text and Faiola’s is that I hear “our lands” where he hears “our land”. But listen to the video — without the ITV reporter’s voice over obscuring part of the text — on this Guardian page.


It is worth noting that Sura 9 is the only sura in the Quran which does not begin with the Bismillah, “In the Name of God”.

One commentator, referencing Ali ibn Abi Talib, notes:

It should also be mentioned that this surah does not start with ‘Bismillah’ as do all other surahs in the Qur’an, because ‘Bismillah’ is an assurance of protection and mercy and as per report of Ali (RAA) this surah was revealed with a sword in its hand, and thus could not have the assurance of peace and mercy for the disbelievers.

This presumably ties in with the fact that this is the sura which contains the “verse of the sword” — Sura 9.5, given here in the Arberry version:

Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.


I do not believe it serves justice, let alone mercy, for us to leap to the conclusion — rush to the judgment — that “Islam” is a monolithic entity, all of whose members are by definition disposed to violence.

I do think it is important, once again, for us to understand that the speech here is religious speech.

Putting it very mildly, and with deep sadness in my heart, today’s event in Woolwich was barbaric.

26 Responses to “Sura 9 invoked: correction regarding the Woolwich transcript”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    FTR.  At the time I was writing this post, I could find no mention of Sura 9 in connection with the event in Woolwich.  As I was completing the post, Robert Spencer at JihadWatch heard what I’d heard, and posted this.

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Of relevance if this event was indeed a beheading (or an attempted beheading), as reported here, would be Tim Furnish’s 2005 article Beheading in the name of Islam.
    I must add the usual cautions about the fog of war, the first casualty of war being the truth, and the varied reliabilities and unreliabilities of early reports in cases such as this.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Here’s my friend Damian Thompson blogging at the Telegraph:

    Woolwich atrocity: religious groups unambiguously condemn ‘barbaric terrorism’

    London Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians – representatives of all these religions spoke with one voice tonight. This statement is from the Faiths Forum for London:
    We, as representatives of many of London’s faith communities, deplore the terrible attack that has taken place today in Woolwich.
    All of our religions exalt the sanctity of human life and no grievance could justify such a barbaric assault that has cost a young man his life. Terrorism has no place on our streets.
    We pray for the victim of this attack and his family, and call for Londoners to stand together at this time. We will redouble our efforts to work for peace, love, understanding and hope.

    I join my own voice with their prayers.

  4. Charles Cameron Says:

    Pretty amazing — the English Defence League has more than doubled its Facebook “likes” since the Woolwich attack earlier today. As JM Berger says, this is very discouraging:

  5. Mr. X Says:

    Stories like these, explaining Islamist eschatology and belief are where Charles posts really stand out. Thank you.

    On the other hand, the way MSM reports events, I have no idea if it’s Muslim immigrants, non-Muslim immigrants, or Swedish skinheads rioting in Sweden. The ethnicity of the rioters appears to be a no go. 

  6. Mr. X Says:

    And for those who would say I’m a conspiracy theorist, I just prefer to be out front on events rather than hearing, ‘welll of course it always was thus’ months later. The IRS auditing 500 Tea Party or conservative groups would’ve been an unfounded ‘conspiracy theory’ until a few months ago. Same goes for the DOJ press bugging and possible Capitol Hill cloak room bugging gate. And now after months of silence following the exchange between Sen. Paul and then SecState Clinton, the question of whether Benghazi was about gun and MANPAD smuggling to Syria is back, with PJM claiming witnesses are about to step forward claiming that there was at least weapons gathering going on at Benghazi. Whether that was for transshipment on to the Syria rebels we shall see. Hillary basically all but implied it was the CIA running the ‘consulate’, but since the Agency thus far has successfully silenced eyewitnesses or sanitized their accounts to closed door committees the truth hasn’t come out yet. Even Greg Hicks while an impassioned whistle blower was not at the scene of the crime.


  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks, Mr X.

  8. amspirnational Says:

    I’m sure it would be very retrograde to say, the act was barabaric, equally so with the UK actions in
    combine with the American Empire invading and decimating Iraq on false premises, droning in Afghanistan, Yemen etc etc….and that the proper stance would be to follow, would have been to follow  a Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinich anti-imperial foreign policy (I’m sure they have their equivalents in the UK) and a Pat Buchanan domestic immigration policy (ditto UK Buchananites.)

    Isn’t global Zio-capitalist imperialism fun? So much more progressive than non-interventionist nationalism.

  9. zen Says:

    After 9/11, invading Afghanistan and attempting to kill our enemies was appropriate and more than justified – staying for decade and putting Karzai into power was a huge waste, as was staying in Iraq

  10. joey Says:

    The full unabridged video is on the Suns home page.

    The man seems remarkably self possessed for someone who has just committed a exceptionally violent murder,  able to come out with justifications on the cuff, and covered with blood.  He appears energized by what he has done,  excited, hyped.  He is in the elation stage after a kill.  In a close combat kill, for normal people, the elation stage lasts micro seconds before giving way to revulsion. 

    I would point out that a melee kill is almost impossible to carry out in this manner.  99% of the population would be incapable of doing it even in self defense.  In war bayonet kills are almost unknown.   This would lead me to think that he has had some kind of training/conditioning,  or else he is a sociopath/ or has a serious metal illness.  It is most lightly that he is a sociopath who feels no empathy whatsoever for his victim. To give his life meaning he has filled it with jihadist teaching.   There is also the possibility he is in the midst of a psychotic episode. 

    This guy was an accident waiting to happen,  the motivation is beside the point.  If it wasn’t religion or politics it would have been something else.

    Remember that Norwegian guy who calmly slaughtered 100 kids and teens?  He was another,  a killer who needed to justify his desire to kill,  out of vanity,  to make it seem to something more than it was.  

    I’m sure there are normal guys who genuinely go to jihad out of sincere religious and political reasons.  This guy was not one of them.

  11. larrydunbar Says:

    “After 9/11, invading Afghanistan and attempting to kill our enemies was appropriate and more than justified – staying for decade and putting Karzai into power was a huge waste, as was staying in Iraq”

    But then there was a two-fold strategy, as explained by Colin Powell. The first was to keep our word and bring OBL to justice, and 2). pull the network (much of that network was in Pakistan) that supported OBL up by the roots. 

    As the Neo-Cons following the path of a senile Secretary of Defence were not very interested in either parts of the strategy, or the strategy itself, it took much longer to do the first and address the second. 

  12. joey Says:

    Sorry for the spam,  this is lifted from the Guardian home page.

     “hiv Malik has been speaking to Louise, 26, from Romford, who said that she knew Michael Adebolajo and his brother from Marshalls Park school.
    She said that Michael went by the nickname “Naan” and was two years older than her.
    She described him as clever, tall for his age, and “such a nice person; everyone got along with him…Everyone knew him. He was funny, hilarious. He was a down to earth, nice guy, there was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing you would have thought obviously this would have happened.”
    She said that Adebolajo’s mother was strict and a regular churchgoer who dressed in traditional west African clothes most Sundays. “They were strong on their beliefs,” said Louise.
    She said that as he headed into his final years at Marshalls Park school and then nearby Havering sixth form, Adebolajo became involved with a criminal Nigerian gang from outside the school:

    As he got older he started mixing with other people from outside. We used to go around the house and there used to be 20 black guys and they would walk around the streets … They were stealing people’s phones and that and they had knives.

    She said that Adebolajo himself would carry a knife around, not just for protection but as part of his criminal activities. However, she didn’t know if he had ever been arrested.
    She said that once he started to carry a knife around his parents decided to get the boys out of Romford:

    His mum and dad clocked on to that and they moved him away. No one has spoke to them since they moved because his mum wanted to get them away from everyone.”

  13. joey Says:

    Attraction to criminal activity,  personally charming, popular.  The implication that he was known to use his weapon in an offensive manner,  not just for show.
    They are all sociopathic tendencies.  Also it seems he is a “convert” rather than being born a muslim.   

  14. Mr. X Says:

    It is the pathological weakness/self hatred of the West disguised as altruism towards Muslims (within the West mind you, the same people who say the future does not belong to those who insult Islam is quite good at killing Muslims with drones in Muslim countries) that led to this.


  15. Mr. X Says:

    I, who neither wish to drone/’nation build’ or humanitarian love bomb Muslims nor to allow them into the West willy nilly, am considered the extremist Islamophobe, while those who advocate these contradictions are the sane and politically correct ones. Ironic no?

  16. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Hi joey, 
    You saide: “I would point out that a melee kill is almost impossible to carry out in this manner.  99% of the population would be incapable of doing it even in self defense.”
    Where would the atrocities of Rwanda fall on your assessment? (sociopathy, and all) The carnage and methods were similar, albeit on a much larger scale with more perps and victims.
    If you’ll allow, I’d add, I believe it was the book Aboke Girls that described the conditioning of children/young adults to behave in such a savage, but strangely calm/morally dispassionate way.

  17. Mr. X Says:

    …the same people who say [sic] that the future does not belong to those who insult Islam [sic] are quite good at killing Muslims with drones in Muslim countries. 


  18. joey Says:

    In combat melee kills are normally conducted when one side runs,  if not in combat its when the victim is hooded, blind folded, ect.  This is to allow the killer to deny there humanity.  The last thing you want to see is your victims eyes. 

    Not being fully conversant with Rwanda, if you take the prevalence of sociopathy as being about 2 to 4% of the adult male population,  its not hard to imagine a group of hardcore killers doing most of the work enabled by a larger body of men.  I could be well wide of the mark,  but I imagine thats how it played out.  Large numbers of observers, and helpers,  chasing down people, dragging back victims, but not doing the actual killing.

    (most sociopaths are law abiding citizens,  socialization plays are large role in how they turn out,  exposure to violence when young has a large role to play in how they turn out)

    If you can imagine beheading a struggling victim,  screams, blood poring everywhere, terrified pleading for mercy…  A normal man, even if they can bring themselves to carry out the act,  would be unable to deny the reality of what they have done.  The sheer physical horror of the act would overwhelm most men,  even if they were sure they were in the moral right.

    This guy was able to compose himself and give a coherent speech, while dripping with blood, moments after the act!  The sheer insanity of it beggers belief.


    You will notice the victims are facing away from the executioners.  This is to spare the killer, the emotional horror of having to acknowledge your victims humanity


    In the second picture there is the added precaution of covering the face of the victim. 


    You can see the same dynamic at play here.

    Even without the enabling factors of a extremist political/religious stance,  this man would have been an extremely dangerous individual.

  19. joey Says:

    That looks like an interesting book Scott.  It reminds me of children adopted from Romanian orphanages in the late 80’s.  The adoptive parents found the children to be cold, without love, prone to violence, and utterly without charm.  The children had been brought up without love, respect, and subjected to appalling behavior.  This was an unfortunate side affect of the regime in the orphanages,  rather than deliberate conditioning.  I shudder to think what damage could be affected on children if a deliberate regime was affected.

  20. J.ScottShipman Says:

    My question would perhaps be better framed by the videoed beheading of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl. Reluctantly I watched the video a many years ago. The folks who perpetrated the act seemed quite comfortable with the business.
    The Rape of Nanking, as well—systemic violence, too. I would humbly submit that man—even “modern man” may have a trace of the medieval mind when it comes to barbarity (of course, then, blades were weapons of choice…). Is is possible, that in the long history of mankind, the civilized man who recoils from such barbarity is the exception? I do not know, but the fella in London didn’t seem sick, just pleased—that he’d pleased his god, and was warning of more to come.

  21. Charles Cameron Says:

    Here’s the uncut video from the Sun, in downloadable form (thanks for the pointer, Joey):


  22. joey Says:

    I never did watch that video.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    You have to remember that the people who carry out those acts, such as the Daniel pearl killing are the exception.  

    One only has to look at the lengths that western military’s have to go to to make sure that there soldiers are able to pull the trigger.  They discovered that be brave wasnt enough, they needed to use conditioning techniques to enable there soldiers to kill reliably. 
    The vast run of humanity can’t do it until they have gone through a long period of training and enabling.
    And that’s to shoot a guy.  Killing with a bladed weapon a whole new level.

    Throughout history it was when you ran in battle that was the most dangerous point,  there is something about the chase that gets a mans blood up.  Most combat was a pushing match until one side broke,  it was then the killing started,  and it was blows to the back as men tried to escape.

    A sociopath isn’t mentally sick,  in the traditional sense.  He just lacks any ability too empathize with his victim, they are just meat to him.
    He is pleased,  and you can see that he doesn’t run,  he actively takes ownership of his kill,  he shows no fear, no remorse.  He actually makes a pity play to the camera.  He even manages to charm his audience,  as you can see the people are not running, he has ingadged them.   He repeatedly circles back to the body,  it intrigues him.  His voice doesn’t shake, his hands don’t tremble,  there is little trace of an adrenal reaction to combat.  If you have ever been in a fight you will know what I mean,  your done afterwards.  This guy is composed.  
    Sociopaths often have great charisma and personal magnetism,  this guy is no exception.  

    Without doubt this was a killing inspired by a certain brand of religious extremism,  but this man if he hadn’t killed for his religious cause would have found another reason to commit a violent crime.


  23. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Hi joey,
    Good points all. I was listening to Michael Savage one night and he was going on about the Pearl video—had it on his site, if memory serves. I spoke with my wife about our exchange on the way to dinner, and described how my hands shook after watching and how it took some time to calm down.
    I’ve read most of Grossman’s book On Combat, but it has been a while. My wife and I discussed the prevalence of “god’s wrath” in both Islam and Judaism, and how God ordered his people to “slew them all”—where “all” was the enemy, or everyone else…all that to say, in keeping with my question above, is the reluctance to kill learned, too? Or, are we hardwired to shrink from the proposition? There is a part of me wants to say, “yes,” until reminded of people like the London perp. Of course, my guess is we’ve always had these folks, it is just with modern technology and connectivity, we’re aware.

  24. Charles Cameron Says:

    Sigh. Sadly, JihadWatch [copied by Gawker] now has a full transcription up, but they get a few of the details wrong — they still have ayah for ayat (pl) for instance — and at the very end they have:

    That’s all I have to say. [in Arabic:] Allah’s peace and blessings be upon you.

    Here’s my own current transcription, taking theirs as my basis and tweaking as needed. You’ll note that the final salutation of peace is not “upon you” but “upon Muhammad (saw)”:

    The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers. And this British soldier is one. It is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the Shari’a in Muslim lands? Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather you lot are extreme. You are the ones. When you drop a bomb you think it hits one person? Or rather your bomb wipes out a whole family? This is the reality. By Allah if I saw your mother today with a buggy I would help her up the stairs. This is my nature. But we are forced by the Qur’an, in Sura At-Tawba, through many, many ayat throughout the Qu’ran, that we must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments, they don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? You think your politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we, so you can all live in peace. Leave our lands and you will live in peace. That’s all I have to say. Ameen. Allah’s peace and blessings be upon Muhammad, sall Allahu ‘alay-hi wa-sallam.

    “Sall Allahu ‘alay-hi wa-sallam” — often abbreviated in parentheses after the Prophet’s name as “saw” or “pbuh” — means “peace be upon him”.
    Can’t JihadWatch even recognize and transcribe the regular salutation used by Muslims to honor their prophet?

  25. joey Says:

    I think we’re hard wired to avoid killing,  but as thinking animals we can overcome that instinct.  But we have also been socialized to find peaceful solutions to conflict.   By innate nature and by socialization we instinctively seek the non violent path.  I think deep down we know we are in it together,  and we try to find some kind of common ground.  
    Acts such as this mans, are for me beyond understanding,  I cannot walk a mile in his shoes.  Rationalization fails. I can understand many things while not agreeing with them.  Even the Boston bomber, the younger brother, after all his crimes I could feel a twinge of sympathy for him,  alone, bleeding to death, his older brother dead, afraid.  If he recovers he will have the rest of his life to understand what he has done to innocent people.  But this guy, if he is what I think he is will never feel remorse or pity,  on a human level he will never understand what he has done.  


  26. Michael Robinson Says:

    Some worthwhile observations from ‘Sir Humphrey

    “The big worry is that this attack sends a message to other individuals with malicious intent – namely that you don’t need bomb making skills or complex training to conduct an attack that will monopolise the media’s attention. It seems that from public reports the two alleged individuals simply used a range of weapons which are freely available in certain parts of the inner city.

    One thing that will have been learnt is just how easy it is though to dominate the news cycle in the era of 24/7 media. If you time your attack well, and encourage filming and photography (as seen here) then the message will spread far and wide. It is hard to consider any republican terrorist attack in the 1980s or 1990s having a similar effect on the broadcast media – one only has to look at how the loss of a soldier was often barely reported by the later stages of OP BANNER. Then coverage only occurred with a truly appalling attack, or spectacular loss of life.
    Today though, with the need to feed a voracious cycle of 24/7 coverage, and the ability to upload pictures and media in seconds, it is possible to quite literally dominate the world headlines in minutes. If you have a message that you need to pass, and you are not afraid of dying for your cause, then the lesson of the attack in Woolwich is that it is easy to dominate the agenda if you want to.
    Similarly it is going to be ever harder for senior leaders to take decisions without being rushed into them. There is now an expectation in the media that people take charge and lead, often while the event is still on-going. Humphrey recalls hearing the BBC say in one report that no decision had yet been taken about recalling Parliament – this was barely 2 ½ hours after the attack. The idea that Government is able to process the information, take decisions and implement them in less time than it takes a journalist to eat an alcohol sodden lunch is utterly ridiculous. Yet the problem is clear – the terrorists can dominate the information agenda and set the headlines, while the machinery of Government, which was slick and well-oiled enough to deal with most crises in a short (i.e. hours – days) period of time, is now unable to cope with responding in minutes.”

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