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Every day is Ashura, every place is Kerbala

[ by Charles Cameron — an Ayatollah’s video take-down of the Grand Mufti ]

Today’s latest news from the Long War Journal is titled Egyptian jihadists call for attacks in Shiite countries and opens with the paragraph:

Twenty Egyptian jihadists have issued a statement calling upon Sunnis to launch attacks in Shiite-led countries in response to the Assad regime’s offensive in Qusayr, a city in western Syria near Homs. The chief signatory on the statement is Mohammed al Zawahiri, the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.



I’ve been having some conversations on Twitter recently in which I’d been verifying my own sense that Hezbollah‘s ethos and imagery of martyrdom would presumably extend beyond the poppies and doves depicted here to include also the martyrdom of Husayn at Kerbala, and I’m grateful to Phillip Smyth for his confirmation and elaboration on that theme.

Somehow in my wanderings, I came across this video, in which Ayatollah Sayed Hadi al Modarresi, a senior Shia cleric, bookends his even more senior Sunni counterpart the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, with his own commentary, speaking from the very heart of Shia passion — the shrine of Imam Husayn in Kerbala.

The Ayatollah challenges the Grand Mufti’s assertion that Husayn erred in refusing his oath of obedience to Yazid, thus bringing his own death upon himself at the ensuing battle of Kerbala:


Things that impressed me:

The simple but rhetorically effective use of one video quoted within another.

The incredible passion of the crowd in Kerbala, which the poster called to our attention with a note saying:

Keep watching to see the fury of the audience..

The half-accusatory, half-conciliatory way in which the Grand Mufti expressed himself, with phrases that suggested Husayn — may God be pleased with him — was in error, while asking God to forgive him…


and in response, the Ayatollah’s use of the imagery of the “red line”:


If the Long War Journal piece shows us an aspect of the current situation, this stunning video offers us a window into the passions such events are poised to arouse.

11 Responses to “Every day is Ashura, every place is Kerbala”

  1. joey Says:

    Let us hope we are not witnessing the start of a political and religious reordering of the map in the middle east,  and all that goes with it.
    The west has managed to destroy much of the secular politics of the middle east,  now that void is being filled with religion and  jihadist politics.  


  2. Mr. X Says:

    Oceania backs Sunni, Eurasia backs Shi’a. 

  3. Grurray Says:

    It was the West that established the secular politics of the middle east. Isn’t it appropriate that now we should destroy it?

  4. Mr. X Says:

    Greetings Senator McCain. Would you like the heart steak or the lung New York strip today with your tea?

  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    My first instinct is to flinch at that, Mr X — but then again, I think of Jonathan Swift and his Modest Proposal that the Irish might perhaps solve their problems with both famine and overpopulation by eating their younger children, of an age to be tender and delicious:

    I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the publick, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

    I doubt I’ll ever write in quite that manner myself — but the temptation is there, and every so often I can taste it.

  6. Grurray Says:

    Ad hominem is, more often than not, a signal that one is on the right track, so allow me to expand on that thought (cont.)

  7. joey Says:

    “Oceania backs Sunni, Eurasia backs Shi’a. ”

    I laughed when I read that! 

    Assad could pass for a good goldstein.   

    ” It was the West that established the secular politics of the middle east. Isn’t it appropriate that now we should destroy it?”

    Er no.  At this stage all our moves are losing moves.  Its just figuring out what sucks least.

    The comical thing is everyone in the region hates us, our allies hate us, our enemies hate us,  we are the useful idiots,  scream human rights,  watch them jump.  Not that anyone gives a damn about human rights.  
    Mineral resources are the only things in play for the west,   the rest is window dressing.

    Obama knows we have no real interests in Syria  we don’t need there gas or oil,  he’s struggling to keep us out.  Good God,  could you imagine if McCain had been elected,  we dodged a bullet there. 

  8. larrydunbar Says:

    ““Oceania backs Sunni, Eurasia backs Shi’a. ”

    I laughed when I read that! ”

    So you’re saying that as the US pivots out of Afghanistan it will find itself in an area,(Mr. X’s so-called “Oceania”) that backs Sunni, and if the US had decided to pivot the other direction (towards Mr. X’s so-called Eurasia) the US would have found itself pivoting towards people more like Assad? If that is the case, I can see that would have been a losing move 🙂 

    That is an interesting thought though, if that was what you meant. 

  9. Grurray Says:

    “At this stage all our moves are losing moves.”

    Victory is achieved by those who make the fewest mistakes. It’s been a race to the bottom, but luckily the race doesn’t always go to the swift. I don’t have access to insider knowledge or privileged details. I can only see the cumulative picture. Whatever the intentions, the big picture remains the same.

    “Its just figuring out what sucks least.”

    I don’t mean to minimize the human toll. It’s been a terrible disaster in that respect of course. 
    But the moves that were made were the moves that events dictated. This isn’t rationalizing or pragmatism. We didn’t have much of a plan and still don’t. 
    So of course the greater macro environment shapes our actions.
    And that environment was/is an unwinding.
    “our allies hate us”

    With friends like these…

    Have you seen Europe? Saudis running out of easy oil? Egypt imploding? 
    They all need us more than we need them at this point.
    The only one with any upper hand is Turkey. How do they feel about us?

  10. zen Says:

    Victory is achieved by those who make the fewest mistakes.”.
    Sometimes. Stalin by the mistake rule should have ended his days as a severed head on an SS pike outside a burning Moscow. Instead he lived to urinate on Hitler’s charred bones, as one apocryphal tale goes.
    Some mistakes are forgivable. Others are irrevocable. A good strategist will make many forgivable mistakes because they are taking reasonable risks in order to make large gains but make no irrevocable mistakes that came from taking reckless risks with unaffordable losses.
    I don’t think our rulers recognize the difference. Or their calculus extends no further than how any action affects their career 

  11. Grurray Says:

    Yeah you’re right – that should be major mistakes. Lots of smaller mistakes are an unfortunate necessity. That’s where anti-fragility comes in.

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