zenpundit.com » Blog Archive


Out of happenstance I came across three links that give some historical background to different strands of Islamist thought for the general reader:

Kharijite Islam” at GlobalSecurity.org, “What’s Worse than Violent Jihadists?” on Mahdism by Timothy Furnish at HNN and finally from an article originally in the ME Quarterly, ” Fundamentalist Islam: The Drive for Power” by Martin Kramer ( though Kramer leaves out Muhammed Abduh’s contribution, he does cover al-Afghani).

9 Responses to “”

  1. The Lounsbury Says:

    That’s a somewhat oddly framed article on Kharijism. I guess that’s what happens when a Poli Sci mil interested sort writes these things.

    I have to say the Kharijine aren’t really properly speaking Shi’a. Very little of their overall belief system really resembles the Shi’a.

    I note the North African Berber Kharijites were very much tribal democracies (in the old Athenian model obviously, not in its modern sense), and quite interesting for that. The Mzab (a linguistic group actually) are fascinating. They’re terribly hard working, and their community is quite particular.

    Kramer’s claim that one cannot distinguish between the Takfiri Salfine and other more moderate sorts is absolutely preposterous. It’s the same kind of argument that went in the cold war re the Left, between moderate Left through Marxists through hard core Stalinist collabos. Of course individuals migrate or circulate (often incoherently), but that does not mean one can not ident. groupings in an analytical fashion and that they are not meaningful. Dishonest posturing in that opening. Typical Kramer.

    Re the last item, a very perceptive note (some things I might quibble with but no matter, as in the al-Mouhadine and Ibn Tumert [came from the deep Sahara by the way, region of Senegal river valley – his troops are among the reasons the Spanish named the Almohads ‘black’]), a note to join with my comments in your prior item on nuclear deterence.

    It does indeed strike me (the explicit Mahdi connexion did not occur to me until reading that) that the extremest Salafine, the Takfiri variety have indeed travelled down the road to Mahdism. What I called nihilism, end of the world nihilism.

    When I was refering to the undeterable in comments below, it was this framework I was thinking of. Good the author raised this.

  2. mark Says:

    Furnish is a new voice to HNN as far as I am aware. Rick Shenkman the editor does a nice job of recruiting writers and they check the c.v. before they start running articles.

    You ought to contact GlobalSecurity.org – John Pike & co. try very hard to present accuracte/nonpartisan info since they have become a MSM research source. Used to debate one of their staffers, Pat Garrett, on H-Diplo. Leftish politics but an intellectually honest guy.

    I figured Kramer might set you off ;o)

    Apocalyptic millenarianism seems to have a great deal of utility for extreme fundamentalists of all stripes from Mahdists to Mormons to modern new age cults.

    It unmoors sect leadership even from their doctrinal constraints; leadership becomes highly personalized and psychologically transcendant. Group solidarity is then tightly reinforced by a siege mentality and reiterations of impending doom and salvation.

    Dangerous stuff.

  3. The Lounsbury Says:

    Indeed Kramer sets me off, his pretension there is stupid and dangerous – it gets in the way of savvy strategy of peeling off the merely fundamentalist from the cultish loons. An agenda that he has actually. In re the Mahdist angle, which the more I think about it (except the name maybe) is an excellent analytical category, Kramer’s pretension is bloody dangerous. You end up driving people the wrong way.

    That aside, I wouldn’t call the Kharejite article wrong, it’s just… oddly framed.

    Re the Millenarian/cult Mahdist angle – nice to have a name although Madhist somehow sits funny – I absolutely agree. Your statement is right spot on re the deep al-Qaeda types: It unmoors sect leadership even from their doctrinal constraints; leadership becomes highly personalized and psychologically transcendant. Group solidarity is then tightly reinforced by a siege mentality and reiterations of impending doom and salvation.

    That is why I reacted so strongly to the Mecca “deterent” – I fear such statements will or would feed people on the edge of Mahdism/millenarianism when what we want to do – and I strong believe can do is peel them off, isolate and kill.

  4. mark Says:

    Yes, I hadn’t really considered the 1979 attack on the grand Mosque which had a directly Mahdist angle ramping up the confrontation with the Saudi state to the maximum possible level.

    BTW – regarding your work/blog/security issue. Do you write internal company memorandum in the same informal style like you do on your livejournal ?

    You might consider using some intentional stylistic shifts at Aquol Col. Your writing is extremely idiolectic and kind of leaps out at a reader. Just a thought

  5. collounsbury Says:

    Good question. I believe informally I write fairly differently than formal memo writing. But emails…. an interesting angle I had not considered.

  6. mark Says:

    Well some people have very bland styles ( or are simply poor writers with little to say) and you don’t. It isn’t simply that your knowledge base is rare but that factor is coupled with your eclectic sources of language expression is what might get you nailed.

  7. Tim Furnish Says:

    Gentlemen (and ladies, perhaps):
    Thanks for discussing my article. I am NOT new to HNN, however: go to their website and check my last name on the archives!
    By the way: I have a new book out on Mahdism: “Holiest Wars.”

  8. mark Says:

    Hi Tim,

    Welcome ! Great article ! Hadn’t caught you before so I will have to do an archive search at HNN.

    As long as you are here, a question, I believe Sufism once had a strong tradition in upper Egypt and the Sudan – is that correct ? Are Sufi brotherhoods still active there and how do they relate to the Islamists ?

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I have to confess I do not know for sure. But I will try and find out!

Switch to our mobile site