[ by Charles Cameron — there were just too many dots for me to connect, I guess — plus Harry Potter, extra!! ]
Okay, I’ve already explored the Mahdist end times video that Tamerlan Tsarnaev aka “muazseyfullah” liked on Youtube [1, 2, 2a, and 3] — and when I visited that site on April 19 it also included a link to the Vinnie Paz video, End of Days, which I discussed separately  — but what I didn’t know was that there was a third end times scenario, of interest to Tamerlan’s younger brother Dzhokhar — the “Zombie Apocalypse” believe it or not — about which he dreamed, well, often, and tweeted at least twice:
The Vinnie Paz video has now been removed from Tamerlan’s YouTube page, although you can find it elsewhere — and so has the Harry Potter video that was there the first time I looked: someone has been tidying up.
Happily the Harry Potter video too is still available, although no longer linked at Tamerlan’s “muazseyfullah” YouTube site. It’s by Sheikh Feiz Mohammed — who clearly dislikes Magic and is proud to be a Muggle.
[ by Charles Cameron — closing out my account of the Mahdist video — with much from Tim Furnish, and pointers to Wajahat Ali and JM Berger ]
Blog-friend Dr Timothy Furnish covers most of what I’d wanted to say about the final section of the Mahdist video I’ve been on about lately [1, 2, 3] — its last section is largely devoted to footage of jihadists-in-training — so I’ll save myself time and effort and simply drop in five (of Tim’s thirteen) paragraphs that deal with the video below… But first..
Here’s the woman taken in adultery clip from Mel Gibson‘s Passion, which the Mahdist video adapts to its own dramatic purposes:
As I indicated above, Tim Furnish has a long and detailed post up at History News Network — here are those five paragraphs:
The video that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had linked on his social media sites has been described (by “Mother Jones,” among others) as an “Al Qaeda prophecy” — but that observation, while perhaps necessary, is woefully insufficient. The idea of forces bearing “black banners” coming from the eastern part of the Islamic world into the Middle East proper (and further West) to conquer fi sabil Allah, “in the path of Allah,” is almost as old as Islam itself — enshrined in a number of hadiths, “sayings” attributed to Islam’s founder Muhammad. There are literally thousands of hadiths, in both Sunni and Shi`i collections, second in Islamic doctrinal authority only to the Qur’an itself, dealing with topics ranging from the mundane (how to bathe like Muhammad) to the bizarre (drinking camel urine is recommended). Much of Islamic eschatology — theorizing about the end of the world — derives from these alleged sayings of Muhammad; in particular those dealing with al-Mahdi, “the rightly-guided one” sent by Allah to make the entire world Muslim (with help from the returned prophet `Isa, or Jesus) before the end of time by militarily establishing a global caliphate. (I examine these subjects in my book Holiest Wars, pp. 11ff, as well as, with even more detail, in my doctoral dissertation “Eschatology as Politics, Eschatology as Theory: Modern Sunni Arabi Mahdism in Historical Perspective,” Ohio State University, 2001, pp. 68ff.)
The video which Tamerlan Tsarnaev favored specifically draws upon this tradition — which, again, is not particular to al-Qaeda [AQ] but, rather, is part of the entire Sunni world’s patrimony. (The Twelver Shi`is, while believing even more fervently in the Mahdi, have different hadiths and beliefs about him — most notably, that he has already been here as the 12th Imam descended from Muhammad, disappeared but never died in the 9th c. AD, and will return, perhaps soon).
This video — almost the entirety of which is backgrounded with a soundtrack of Arabic Muslim chanting — is entitled “The Emergence of Prophecy: Black Flags from Khorasan” and opens, unsurprisingly, with the flag (or banner) in question: a jet-black one emblazoned in white with the shahada, the Islamic “profession of faith” which says “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.” This is followed by slow-motion clips of marching jihadists with AK-47s as the voice over by Imran Hosein Nasr — a prominent cleric who opines often on Islamic eschatology and Mahdism — warns that “they demonize as a terrorist anyone who supports Allah.” A disclaimer then appears, cautioning that “the Muslims pictured herein may not be the people of prophecy” but rather images (or, presumably, types) thereof as well as that some of the sourced hadiths are authentic, but some are weak. (Hadiths are classified, by Muslim scholars, as: sahih, “verified;” hasan, “sound” but not certain; and da`if, “weak,” and quite possibly fabricated.) A hadith from Abu Huraira that “great wars will occur” is illustrated with shots of what appear to be U.S. airstrikes on Iraq. Ibn Majah’s hadith that “Allah will raise a non-Arab army with better weapons who are better riders” is then adduced, followed by a gloss that these will conquer “Constantinople.” Since a great non-Arab Muslim army already conquered that city in 1453 — the Ottoman Turks — one is hard pressed to see how this “prophecy” is still to be fulfilled. Then a hadith from Muslim b. al-Hajjaj is cited: “some will come from the east who will make the caliphate … easy for Imam Mahdi,” as well as one from Ibn Hanbal advising that “if you see black banners from Khurasan, go to them because the Mahdi will be among them.” This is followed by several minutes explicating, with maps, Khurasan as an area encompassing eastern Iran, western and northern Afghanistan, as well as portions of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and, most notably for the Tsarnaevs, Kyrgyzstan (but not, at least, Secretary of State Kerry’s “Kyrzakhstan”).
There is also a fascinating exegesis of another hadith from al-Hajjaj that “the last hour will not come until 70,000 from Bani Ishaq will attack and conquer Constantinople,” after which al-Dajjal — the Islamic “Deceiver,” or leader of evil, who will be killed by Jesus — will emerge: these “sons of Isaac” are said to be Jews who had relocated to Khurasan at some point, and proof for this is provided via the “Jewish scholar” Simcha Jacobovici, former host of the TV show “The Naked Archaeologist.” (Why an Islamic eschatological film would attempt to include Jews — usually depicted in such venues as, at best, nefarious — in the Mahdi’s army is curious. Perhaps the intent is more to stress Islam’s link to the Hebrew Scriptures, and thus attract Christians? Or could it be a way of ameliorating Islamic anti-Jewish tendencies?)
In perhaps the same vein, al-Hajjaj is cited to the effect that Jesus will join the Mahdi’s ranks. This is illustrated with a (pirated?) clip from the movie “The Passion of the Christ” — namely, the scene where Jesus saves the woman caught in adultery, a rather counterintuitive choice. Following Jesus (or at least his sandal, which is all we see), clips resume of marching jihadists brandishing weapons and carrying the black flag. Then a hadith from al-Tirmidhi is proffered, to the effect that these black banners will, eventually, reach Jerusalem; curiously, however, the Dome of the Rock rather than al-Aqsa mosque is shown. This is immediately followed by the hoary video, from shortly after 9/11, of AQ jihadists running an obstacle course in their Converse, embellished with more Imran Hosein Nasr voice-over, asserting that “no one can stop that jihad. When you see that army coming from Khurasan, [like] the Prophet said, go and join that army — even if you have to crawl over ice.” Then a smorgasboard of jihadist eschatological imagery follows: Taliban or Uzbek tribesmen on horses; black banners; jihadists praying with weapons shouldered. As the video winds down, an unidentified, black-clad, bearded Muslim — likely intended as a Mahdist figure — intones “the flags from Khurasan are on their way. Allah will honor his religion and demean the disbelievers. History is repeating itself, as with Muhammad conquering [pagan] Mecca. The polytheists hate it.” (Polytheists, in this Islamic worldview, include Christians — for the Trinity is mischaracterized as three deities.) The very final screen shot informs the viewer that the “real undercover enemies” are the Illuminati, the Freemasons and the New World Order.
Furnish titles his HNN post — which I recommend you read in full — The Ideology Behind the Boston Marathon Bombing. It’s not entirely clear to my eye whether that ideology (for Dr. Furnish) is Islam as a historical phenomenon, contemporary political Islamism of the jihadist kind, or its specifically Mahdist expression — I believe he sees all three as intricately inter-related.
That’s an extremely nuanced issue, and not one that can be fully addressed by either one of us in a single blog-post, as I think Dr Furnish would agree. By way of showing that Islam by no means begins and ends with the Tsarnaev brothers, I’d suggest you also read playwright Wajahat Ali‘s I am not the Tsarnaevs. The reality is that Islam is as varied as the people, places and times in which it is practiced.
Christians too, in times past, had their Crusaders — and their St Francis.
Tim Furnish also has a brief post on his MahdiWatch blog, pointing to his HNN piece — and I could only wish HNN permitted him to post illustrations, since the image of Abbasid “black banners” he posts at MahdiWatch is definitely of interest…
A stunning find!!
One other article appeared recently that I’d like to draw your attention to.
JM Berger, another friend of this blog, has an important extended piece on Chechnya-related radicalism in Boston over several decades, now up at Foreign Policy: Boston’s Jihadist Past.
Thank you, Charles, for your close examination of nuances that may underlie the actions of people who envision themselves as warriors for the sake of ancient prophecy. Those among us who feel that they dwell in meaningless sorrow make likely customers for purveyors of self-hypnosis–whether of this brand or some other flag-waving, self-justifying cruelty.
I’ve been pondering how to express my reasons for paying particular attention to religious and a fortiori eschatological motives for terror for some time now. The varieties of end times thinking have been an interest of mine for decades, to be sure, and both religion and its specifically end times variants tend IMO to be easily ignored in our so rational post-Enlightenment and high-tech times — so I have both personal and analytic reasons to be keenly interested. But there’s more, and I believe StevE’s comment may be just the thing to pry loose a better explanation than I have given up till now.
I’ll use the well-worn phrase, “work expands to fill the time available” as my starting point.
Turning to StevE’s point about potential recruits to terrorism or other crimes…
It’s easy, it seems to me, to think that just any old ideology would do, that the disgruntled simply pick one and use it as a cover or rationalization — but I suspect that emotions can “intensify to fill the ideology available” to paraphrase the other phrase, and that certain ideologies have structural features equivalent to high ceilings in an architectural space, so that “intensifying to fill the ideology available” can have a certain fierce purity when the ideology is a religious one and pious self-dedication a possibility — even more so when “martyrdom” can be aspired to — and yet more so again where one perceives oneself under divine sanction in the culminating battle of all time, immediately prior to judgment.
I’ve been to two “fire walkings” in my life — the first at Mt Takao, where crowds gather for a yearly ceremony in which one writes one’s sins on a sliver of wood and cast it into the fire, the coals of which which the Yamabushi mountain monks then walk across (see image above), followed by intrepid amateur ascetics…
The second — ah, the second was pitched as an occasion where you could “prove the power of mind over matter” for yourself, and come away from the experience “knowing you had achieved the impossible”. And when the instructor went around the room afterwards and asked people, “Now you know you can do the impossible, what’s next for you?” he got answers like, “I’ll have the courage to ask my boss for a $25 a month raise…”
Times are hard for many of us, and I don’t want to knock either the courage it takes to ask or the value of a $25 monthly raise — but if you’ve just “done the impossible”, is this the most you can ask?
Apocalyptic arousal hopes for more than $25 a month — in most cases it longs for the sudden and immediate reversal of all the good fortune that appears to befall “bad” people right now, and the no less sudden reapportionment of all those blessings on the heads of the “good” people — oneself prominent among them. It shakes the world to its foundations, and it cleanses it.
I’ll let Richard Landes give you a sense of how believing oneself a participant in apocalypse can make the everyday moment deeply significant, and give the “end times we live in” importance beyond measure — with an excerpt from his great book, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience:
For people who have entered apocalyptic time, everything quickens, enlivens, coheres. They become semiotically aroused — everything has meaning, patterns. The smallest incident can have immense importance and open the way to an entirely new vision of the world, one in which forces unseen by other mortals operate. If the warrior lives with death at his shoulder, then apocalyptic warriors live with cosmic salvation before them, just beyond their grasp.
[ by Charles Cameron — others will know more about the context here than I do, but this video deserves to be seen alongside the “Black banners” Mahdist example ]
Here’s the other “end times” video that Tamerlan Tsarnaev liked on FaceBook, and I think if you put the two of them together, you get the sense that he found quasi-prophetic doomish videos appealing… without necessarily subscribing in detail to either the Madhism of the first or the Icke-ness of this one… there’s even an Aleister Crowley ref!
Hey, I’m mostly Bach, Handel, Purcell, Byrd, Gregorian, I’m also Dylan, Joni, I’m almost seventy old, and I claim no knowledge of rap, so…
… knowing that the Wikipedia is not the most academically credible source, and being an utter layperson in these matters, here are a couple of paragraphs from their coverage of Vinnie Paz. with all appropriate caveats:
Vinnie was raised a Roman Catholic just like the majority of the people in southern Philadelphia. Although his family practiced Catholicism, Vinnie always felt disconnected from the religion. In high school, a good friend of his was Muslim, and he frequented this friend’s household. This particular friend’s father began teaching Paz about the Qu’ran. As an adult he gradually converted to Islam and currently still is a Muslim. In an interview with Jason Goss, Paz stated; “Growing up yeah, I’m Italian and from Philly, so obviously my family is Roman Catholic. Religion and spirituality are a strange thing, ya know? Most people just grow up and accept the propaganda that their parents pushed on them. Christian families produce Christian kids, Jewish families produce Jewish kids, and so on. Not many people break that mold. I just never felt any connection with Catholicism, or Christianity in general. I spent a lot of time in high school at my homeboy Arif’s crib, and he came from a Muslim family. I learned a lot there from his family and I got interested in Islam through them.”
Jedi Mind Tricks and specifically Vinnie Paz are known for rapping about many different conspiracy theories. Most are chronicled in Paz’s song “End of Days” from his first solo album. The song features speech clips from famous conspiracy theorist David Icke. In this particular song, Paz raps about mostly conspiracy theories within the United States government. For instance he mentions that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers was an inside job. He also introduces listeners to a place in California called Bohemian Grove, where world leaders and other influential men meet to discuss things that for the most part remain a mystery. Most of these conspiracy theories stem from the beliefs of a New World Order and the Illuminati.
I suppose it bears saying that end times and conspiracist theories alike can become established explanations of current reality in some minds, but that there are very likely a whole lot of others who find them titillating, tasty, amusing, or just crazy enough to irritate the neighbors.
They merit study, because they can show us some of the undercurrents of the times we live in that we might otherwise miss. They are instances of a style of thinking that clearly has its own motivations with little regard for the particulars invoked, and are often self-contradictory amalgams in terms of those details. And yet specific instances can also be significant indicators of passionately held individual beliefs.
Cavete a canibus.
Lyrics: End of Days:
The greatest form of control is when you think you’re free when you’re being fundamentally manipulated and dictated to. One form of dictatorship is being in a prison cell and you can see the bars and touch them. The other one is sitting in a prison cell but you can’t see the bars but you think you’re free.
What the human race is suffering from is mass hypnosis. We are being hypnotized by people like this: newsreaders, politicians, teachers, lecturers. We are in a country and in a world that is being run by unbelievably sick people. The chasm between what we’re told is going on and what is really going on is absolutely enormous.
[Chorus: Block McCloud]
It’s like we all know what’s going down
But no one’s saying shit, what happened to the home of the brave?
These motherfuckers they’re controlling us now
But no one’s talking about it, made us proud to be slaves
And everybody’s just walking around
Head in the clouds, we won’t awake until we’re dead in the grave
By then it’s too late, we need to be ready to raise up
Welcome to the end of days
[Verse 1: Vinnie Paz]
Everybody is slave, only some are aware
That the government releasing poison in the air
That’s the reason I collect so many guns in my lair
I ain’t never caught slipping, never underprepared
Yeah, The Shaytan army, they just break it proudly
George Bush the grandson of Aleister Crowley
They want you to believe the lie that the enemy Saudi
The enemy ain’t Saudi, the enemy around me
There’s fluoride in the water but nobody know that
It’s also a prominent ingredient in Prozac (for real?)
How could any government bestow that?
A proud people who believe in political throwback
That’s not all that I’m here to present you
I know about the black pope in Solomon’s Temple
Yeah, about the Vatican assassins and how they will get you
And how they cloned Barack Hussein Obama in a test tube
[Verse 2: Vinnie Paz]
Whoever built the pyramids had knowledge of electrical power
And you know that that’s the information that they suppress and devour
Who you think the motherfuckers that crashed in the tower?
Who you think that made it turn into ash in an hour?
The same ones that invaded Jerome
The ones that never told you about the skeletons on the moon
Yeah, the ones that poison all the food you consume
The ones that never told you about Mount Vesuvius Tomb
The Bird Flu is a lie, the Swine Flu is a lie
Why would that even come as a surprise?
Yeah, the Polio vaccine made you die
It caused cancer and it cost a lot of people their lives
Do y’all know about Bohemian Grove?
How the world leader sacrificing children in robes?
Lucifer is God in the public school system
I suggest you open up your ears and you listen
The greatest hypnotist on the planet Earth is an oblong box in the corner in the room. It is constantly telling us what to believe is real. If you can persuade people that what they see with their eyes is what there is to see you’ve got them. Because they’ll laugh in your face of an explanation then which portrays the big picture of what’s happening… and they have
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.