Posts Tagged ‘Sayyid Qutb’

ISIS Executes Its Executioner For Smoking

April 7, 2015

This is yet another video from The Young Turks internet news show. In it, the anchors John Iadarola and Cenk Uyghur discuss the bizarre killing by the terrorists of one of their chief executioners. The man was found beheaded, with a cigarette stuffed into its mouth, and the words ‘This is evil, you sheikh’, scrawled on the body.

They link the death to an edict promulgated by the organisation denouncing smoking as a ‘slow way of committing suicide’, and warning that smoking and getting into a trance state is ‘disobedience against God’. The Turks make the point that if ISIS are serious about enforcing the death penalty, then they’re going to have to kill 70 per cent of the Middle Eastern population as ‘everyone smokes out there’. They also make the point that ISIS’ standards are so high, they’re completely unrealisable. If the regime continues on its path of executing everyone for even the most trivial of crimes, then eventually it’ll just implode as they murder and butcher their way through their own members.

Now the Turks are right in that it is highly ironic that ISIS should have executed their executioner. It probably couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. But he committed far worse crimes than merely enjoying a ciggie. This actually looks to me like part of a sectarian campaign against Sufism.

The word ‘sheikh’ has a number of meanings. Apart from that of tribal chief, it’s also used in Pakistan to describe the bonded labourers working in the brickyards. They’re the lowest caste of Pakistani society. It clearly doesn’t mean that here, though there might be a similar meaning in Arab society, of which I’m unaware. However, it also means the leader of a Sufi order.

Sufism is Islamic mysticism. Its organised in a series of orders roughly similar to the monastic orders in Roman Catholicism and their confraternities for the laity. They are under the spiritual directions of sheikhs, or saints, who may be believed to have supernatural or mystical powers themselves. These orders aim at achieving ecstatic union of the individual with God, using methods like chanting, music, dancing and sometimes other, more extreme methods. The whirling dervishes of Istanbul are probably the best known example of a Sufi order in the West. Other orders may juggle hot coals, or slash themselves with swords in the belief that the sheikh presiding over the ceremony has the power to heal.

When I studied Islam at College, I was taught that most Muslims today belong to a Sufi order. When it emerged in the 7th century or so, Sufism was intensely controversial within Islam, and its followers often viciously persecuted as heretic. The ecstasies experienced by the Sufis in the dhikr, or ‘circle’, the term given to their mystical worship, was seen as violating the commandment in the Qu’ran against becoming intoxicated. It’s the passage that bans Muslims from drinking alcohol. In past centuries the passage was also cited in debates over whether it was permissible to use coffee, because of its effect as a stimulant.

I’ve blogged before about the possible influence of Wahhabi Islam in the destruction of tombs by ISIS. Sufi rituals are frequently conducted at the graves of the orders’ founders, a practice which is condemned by the Wahhabis. The Islamic reformers Rashid Rida and Sayyid Qutb also hated Sufism, because they believed it was the source of the fatalism that prevented Islam from once again becoming a great power.

The judicial murder of ISIS’ judicial murderer thus strikes me not so much as a punishment for smoking, but as part of a crackdown on Sufi mystics. In several of the videos I put up yesterday, the point was made in that ISIS does not only persecute and kill non-Muslims, but also other Muslims, simply because their beliefs don’t match those of ISIS. One of the videos was a news report from RT reporting on the murder of opposition ulema – Muslim clergy – in Syria. So far 20 of them have been murdered, and 800 mosques closed by the terrorists.

This is further proof that ISIS are intent on killing everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, in their quest for power. The westerners, who join them, won’t just be complicit in murdering and butchering Christians and Yezidis, but also for the mass killing of their co-religionists.

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The Young Turks on American Girls Joining ISIS and the Reality there for Women

April 6, 2015

This is another couple of videos from The Young Turks internet news show. Although this is an American news programme, it addresses an issue that is also very much in the news over here: that of western girls running away from home to join ISIS as jihadi brides.

Western Girls Joining ISIS

This was in the news about a month or so ago, when three Muslim girls from London ran away from their families and school to go to Syria to join the Islamic State there. As the video below shows, this isn’t just confined to Britain. It’s also happened in America. In the video, the Turks’ anchors Cenk Uyghur and Ana Kasparian discuss the case of three girls from Colorado, who ran away from their homes to try and join the jihadis. The were of Somali and Sudanese heritage, and aged between 15-17 years old. They were caught by the German police trying to go from there to Syria after the authorities were contacted by the girls’ families.

Muslim Feelings of Disenfranchisement and Isolation

Uyghur and Kasparian discuss the girls’ motives for going, and the fundamental stupidity of their actions. They make the point that however marginalised and disenfranchised the girls may feel in America, nevertheless they are leaving America and its immense freedoms for ISIS. Uyghur makes it very clear that the girls could only expect a loss of freedom over there. He states that Islamic fundamentalists view women in a lot of ways as chattels, and would regard them as more property arriving.

Low Status of Women in Islamists like ISIS

It’s a very good point. You can certainly find passages in the Qu’ran and Hadith where Muhammad urges Muslims to treat their wives well – he himself helped his wives with the housework, and the Qu’ran, while allowing polygyny, states that a man must treat all his wives equally. Nevertheless, a movement that twists the words of Muslim scripture to justify the terrorisation and mass butchery of civilians and non-combatants probably isn’t going to be too punctilious about observing those verses that encourage respect for women. Especially as one factor in these movements appears to be a reaction against western feminism.

Uyghur himself is from a Turkish Muslim background, although he’s an agnostic/ atheist like most of the Turks. His comments thus come from his experience from within Muslim culture, and therefore should carry far more weight than the bonkers utterances of various members of the Repugs, who frankly haven’t a clue about the Middle East or its peoples.

Jihadi Brides and Western Idolisation of Serial Killers

He also connects the motives of the girls and young women joining ISIS with those of the westerners, who idolise masked killers. They feel disconnected and powerless. Watching murderers like ISIS and domestic serial killers makes them feel powerful. It’s the same motive that inspired Adam Lanza, the maniac responsible for shooting the audience in an American cinema. He was absolutely obsessed with masked spree killers.

Western Recruits to ISIS Will also Kill Other Muslims

Uyghur also makes the point that once there, those westerners joining ISIS would spend most of their time butchering other Muslims, whose religious views don’t match those of the Islamic State, like the Shi’a. Rather than fighting against non-Muslims, they probably wouldn’t see them, and would spend all their time killing their co-religionists. Again, it’s an excellent point, though following Sayyid Qutb, radical Islamic ideology views liberal or secular Muslims as part of the jaihiliyya, the non-Muslim forces of darkness and ignorance. They are seen as irredeemably corrupt through their acceptance of non-Muslim, western ideas and culture.

As for the Shi’a, extremist Sunnis, like the Wahhabis, consider them to be heretics, who are an enemy of true Islam. The grand mufti in Saudi Arabia even declared them to be ‘worthy of death’, in a chilling exhortation to religious genocide. In addition to murdering and enslaving non-Muslims, ISIS also present a murderous threat to other Muslims, who don’t share their brutal views.

Girls Joining ISIS Should also be Prosecuted for Terrorist Offences

They also make another good point in that the girls joining ISIS should, if caught, face some kind of judicial process and punishment for aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation. This shouldn’t mean an adult court, as they are minors, but nevertheless they should face some kind of judicial punishment.

Women’s Lives in ISIS-Controlled Syria

In this second video, John Iadorola and the others discuss a film made by the French showing the reality of life for women in the part of Syria controlled by ISIS. It was made by a courageous lady, who made it with a hidden camera. For western audiences, it’s chilling. There are armed men everywhere, including one woman calmly pushing a baby buggy with a Kalashnikov slung over her shoulder. The dress code for women is very strictly enforced. All the women are swathed with the niqab. At one point a soldier or cop flags the female journalist down, and tells her to cover up properly. Too much of her face is showing, as her veil is transparent. Her face is fully covered, apart from a slit for the eyes.

Women in Internet Café Refuse Parents’ Pleas to Return

In the second segment of the film the Turks show, the journalist goes to an internet café to talk to the women there about why they joined ISIS. They’re talking to their families, who are clearly distraught and desperately trying to persuade them to come back to France. The girls refuse, saying that they want to stay there, and are very definite about this.

Women Motivated not from Lust for Bad Boys, but also Rage at Western Treatment Middle East

Talking about the video, Ana Kasparian makes the point that she isn’t convinced that it’s just about women falling in love with ‘bad boys’, like criminals in jail. She argues instead that much of the girls’ motives for joining ISIS probably comes from rage at the way the Western powers have treated and abused these countries.

No Choice about Wearing Niqab under ISIS and Extreme Muslim States

She also makes a good point about the headscarf. She states that she was against the French mandatory ban on the scarf, as it was a part of their religion. It should, however, be a woman’s own decision whether or not she wears it. Under ISIS, women don’t have a choice. They have to wear the niqab.

On this last point, it needs to be said that the penalties for women, who don’t dress ‘modestly’ under extremely hard-line Islamic states can be fatal. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, women were legally required to wear the veil. If they did not, the police shot them as prostitutes. I’ve heard that things have loosened up a bit since then. For example, at one time if the Iranian police caught a group of youths with a bottle of vodka, they’d shoot them. Now they just pour the bottle away.

That, however, is contemporary Iran. This is the Islamic State, who seem to have taken over as the most violent and repressive state in the Middle East.

Ban on Music by ISIS; Pop Music in Revolutionary Iran

On a more trivial point, amongst the things the Islamic State has banned is music. The Turks are astonished at this, and can’t work out why. Now there has always been a debate within Islam on whether music is lawful. It is, however, very much a part of modern life and contemporary youth culture around the world. So much so, that many people, like the Turks, cannot imagine a world without music, and would find such a situation almost unbearable.

Again, Iran provides an example. In Iran it was illegal to play contemporary pop music so loud that another person could hear it. It’s not a complete ban on music by any means, and there was no problem with listening to western classical music. Traditional Iranian music was actively discouraged because it had been promoted by the Shah as part of his programme of creating a secular, national identity against that of Islam.

The Beeb’s reporter, John Simpson, in his book on Iran describes the case of an Iranian trucker, who was playing a piece of western pop in his truck. He had the window down, but the sound of the hip ‘n’ happening sounds were drowned out by the noise of the traffic. Except when he had to stop at the traffic lights. He was overheard, arrest, and given something like 60 lashes.

As I’ve said, Iran appears to have become somewhat looser since then. There are pop groups in Iran, including one that made the news by having both male and female musicians on stage together at the same time. This contravenes the regime’s policy of strictly segregating the sexes. Nevertheless, the Iranian experience after the Revolution gives some idea of the nature of the strictures imposed by the regime in ISIS. Any westerner going there should know that when they do, they’re going to have to give up their ipods and CDs.

Jihadi Girls Want to Marry ‘Warriors’

I’ve posted these videos as they add an interesting, foreign perspective on something that has happened here, and is being discussed in the British press and the BBC. After the three London girls from Bethnal Green fled to Syria, the Beeb’s One Show had one of the Corporation’s female Muslim newsreaders on as a guest to discuss the issue. She put some of it down to the attraction to some girls of marrying a warrior, and the excitement of joining a military organisation, especially one that claimed it was defending their faith.

Girls who Go Won’t Return

She also made the point that those who went, probably wouldn’t come back. It was extremely difficult for those, who wanted to leave, to return to Europe. She cited the case of a foreign women, who joined ISIS, married one of the commanders and had his child. She then decided she’d had enough, and wanted to leave. She couldn’t, and her situation became very difficult.

But she also made the bleak point that most of the girls wouldn’t be returning to Europe and America, simply because they wanted to be there, a fact that must surely break their parents’ hearts.

Difficulty and Dangers in Pregnancy and Child Birth in War Zone

She also made the point that if the girls wanted to get pregnant and have children, then they would have to give birth in a warzone with very limited medical provision. Pregnancy and childbirth is a difficult time for expectant mothers and their partners anyway, even with advanced western medical care. In those areas fought over by ISIS, the risks become much higher.

ISIS Propaganda Tailored to Appeal to Girls and Women

Following this brief item on the One Show, the Beeb are screening this week a documentary on women joining the Islamic State. This makes the point that the internet propaganda perpetrated by the jihadis is extremely pernicious and insidious. Along with the propaganda about fighting for Islam, or rather, ISIS’ version of it, their propaganda also includes items designed to appeal to young women and girls, like fluffy kittens and food.

Girls’ Applause of Brutal Murder American Aid Worker Shows Them to be Sadistic Psychopaths

Now it strikes me as bizarre that the women and girls, who have got drawn into ISIS, have any kind of finer feelings at all, including sentimentality over cute animals. One of the British girls, who ran off to join ISIS, was a fan of beheading videos. She had commented on the video of the brutal execution of an American aid worker ISIS had captured, saying ‘that was gut-wrenchingly awesome’ and pleading ‘more beheadings please!’ I see absolutely nothing in that comment except sadism and bloodlust. It’s the comment of a psychopath, who has absolutely no feelings for the suffering of others, and in fact only derives pleasure and amusement from them.

I realise that kids getting sick pleasure from watching the suffering and deaths of others on video is hardly confined to Muslims. A friend of mine told me years ago how one of his friends – who was definitely White, and non-Muslim – had a copy of the video, Executions. This was ostensibly produced by an organisation opposed to the death penalty, and purported to show how horrific execution actually was. My friend was shocked by the way his friend was just laughing and sniggering at the last, desperate actions of those killed.

The girl’s applauding of the murder of the American aid worker goes beyond this. She wasn’t just a passive spectator; she demanded more, and in doing so became complicit in further atrocities, even if she did not, in fact, commit them herself. As for the victim, if he is the person of whom I’m thinking, then his death was even more iniquitous than the usual run of murders. The man was an aid worker, who had dedicated his life to helping the local people. He had identified with them so much, that he had converted to Islam. By no stretch of the imagination could he ever be considered a threat to Islam or its people.

Except in the twisted minds of ISIS, who captured him purely because he was an American. When the Americans refused to make a deal for his release, they butchered him. Just like they’ve butchered so many others.

I have every sympathy for the parents of children, who have gone to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, from those of the girls from Bethnal Green to the parents of ‘Jihadi John’ Emwezee. Clearly they wanted the best for their children, as most parents do across the world, regardless of race or faith. The last thing they wanted was for them to join monsters and mass-murderers.

But this is what has happened. And I’m not convinced that the girls, who ran off to join ISIS should be seen as somehow more innocent than the boys and young men, who did so. Considering the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, they should be seen exactly as modern counterparts to the women, who volunteered as guards for the female sections of the Nazi concentration camps, and who showed themselves as brutal as the men.

Vintage Curtis: The Power of Nightmares

January 23, 2015

This is an attempt to provide a fuller answer to the question Mike over at Vox Political posed in his post Terrorism, Islam, and the need to keep the Western world in fear. Mike suggested that politicians were exaggerating the scale of the threat from Islamist terrorists, and, for that matter, Russia, in order to keep us down. Ten years ago the Beeb’s Adam Curtis produced the documentary, The Power of Nightmares, arguing that this was precisely the case.

The Power of Nightmares: Politicians and the Use of the External Threat

The Power of Nightmares is a superb documentary. I found it stored at the Internet Archive. Broadcast eleven years ago, it was a series of 3 films titled Baby, It’s Cold Outside, The Phantom Victory and The Shadows in the Cave. The series examined the rise of the Neo-Cons in America, the origins of radical Islamism in the ideas of Sayyid Qutb and the War on Terror. Curtis took the view that the scale of the terrorist threat had been exaggerated out of all proportion to reality in order to serve the Neo-Cons’ right wing agenda. Politicians, according to Curtis, had used external threats to restore their own power and authority. Whereas once they power and prestige through offering the possibility of transforming the world for the better, people had now become disillusioned. In this post-ideological vacuum, politicians became mere managers. Now, by exploiting the fears of terrorism, and of terrible, unimaginable enemies that only they could correctly identify, they hoped to win back their status by presenting themselves as being the only people, who could protect us.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

In the first episode, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, Curtis described the origins both of the Neo-Cons, and radical Islamism. The Neo-Cons were the followers of the philosopher Leo Strauss. Strauss believed that modern, liberal society had made Americans socially atomised, nihilistic and materialistic. He wished to counter this by stressing religion as a socially cohesive force, which could be used to unite America. His ideas were then taken over by Irving Kristol, a former liberal, who crossed over to the Dark Side following the race riots of the ’60s and ’70s. He believed that Liberalism itself was responsible for the breakdown and moral decline of American society. The Neo-Cons attempted to reverse this process, not only by using religion, but also by stressing the existence of an external threat. This would be used to unite Americans behind traditional, Conservative values, as well as restore American particularism – the view that America had a unique identity and duty to tackle evil in the world.

This external threat was the Soviet Union.

The Neo-Cons and the Demonisation of the USSR

Here, their ideas of the military power of the USSR was entirely illusory. The Neo-Cons were originally entirely cynical in their use of religion and the existence of an external threat. These were, to them, nothing more than Plato’s ‘Noble Lie’, a useful mythology to move the populace to a desired end. It did not matter whether the myth was factually true or not. As they became obsessed with finding evidence of Soviet military supremacy, they became convinced by their own propaganda.

This part of the film is blackly funny. The Neo-Cons hated Kissinger, because Kissinger was ruthless pragmatic. Kissinger did not believe in moral absolutes. He was merely interested in creating a stable world. He therefore signed the arms limitation agreements with the Brezhnev regime which formed the basis of the détente between America and the USSR. The Neo-Cons thus created ‘Team B’, to examine the military reports the government was using, but use them to show that in reality the Russians really were ahead of America. There was absolutely no evidence of this. And so the Neo-Cons decided that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. The absence of any evidence that the Soviet were superior, meant that they were so far ahead their weapon systems had evaded detection. The Americans had been unable to find any evidence that the Russians had acoustic detection equipment on their submarines. Instead of concluding, however, that this meant that they didn’t have any detection equipment, the Neo-Cons instead decided that the Soviets had something better, and so sophisticated, it was undetectable. Similarly, line of radar installations in the Soviet Far East were interpreted, not as anything as mundane as radar installations, but as a super-sophisticated laser weapon array. The Neo-Cons thought they finally had found the positive proof they needed when they discovered a document written by the CIA presenting the case that the Soviets were indeed militarily superior. Except that the CIA informed them that it was rubbish. They knew, because they’d written it, and it was nothing but black propaganda. They even brought out the document’s author, to tell the Neo-Cons that it was nonsense. But the Neo-Cons still wouldn’t believe it. The Neo-Cons had also managed to convince themselves that the USSR was responsible for the proliferation of Marxist terrorist organisations around the world, such as Germany’s notorious Baader-Meinhof Gang. Again, there was no evidence for this, and it was entirely illusory. Nevertheless, to the Neo-Cons it was a fact.

The Rise of Reagan

The Neo-Cons finally gained the power they craved when Reagan took office. Reagan had partly succeeded through an alliance with the American religious right. Believing that America was fundamentally corrupt, these had traditionally stood aloof from politics, as they did not wish to become entwined with such a corrupt system by voting. The Neo-Cons allied the religious Conservatives to oust more traditional Conservatives, who stressed personal freedom and choice. The film here includes footage of a Republican candidate stating his support for a woman’s right to choose on abortion being booed off the platform at a Republican convention. The result was the renewed Cold War in the 1980s, and the funding of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan as part of Reagan’s confrontation with the Evil Empire.

Sayyid Qutb and Radical Islam

At the opposite political extreme were the radical Islamists, who took their ideas from Sayyid Qutb. Qutb was an Egyptian schoolteacher, who had gone to America in the 1950s to study the American way of life, and bring the lessons learned back to Egypt. He did, but they were lessons that the US definitely didn’t want to give. Like the Neo-Cons, he believed that American society was fundamentally rotten and materialistic. Americans pursued material goods, fussing over their lawns and consumer accessories. He was particularly shocked by a dance held in a church hall, which he described as being full of ‘love and lust’. While most Westerners would simply regard the dance as being entirely innocent, rather than any kind of orgy, to Qutb it was an example of the way Liberalism allowed people to give way entirely to their animal desires. And he definitely didn’t want this coming back to his homeland.

When he returned to Egypt, Qutb joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He wanted a morally regenerate, Islamic society, that would enjoy all the technological and scientific benefits of Western society, but would have none of the materialism or permissiveness of Western Liberalism. The Egyptian president, Gamal Nasser, was adamant that Egypt would be a secular society, and Qutb was imprisoned and tortured. His experiences in prison convinced Qutb that Western liberalism and democracy were fundamentally brutal. He formulated an ideology which advocated the formation of an elite, who would act as a revolutionary vanguard to create the new Islamic society. The Islamist revolutionaries believed that by adopting Western values of democracy, the country’s political leaders had betrayed Islam. And as Islam’s enemies, they deserved to be killed.

The Assassination of Sadat and Ayman Zawahiri

This doctrine resulted in the assassination of Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat. Qutb had been executed, and was succeeded as the leader of the Islamist revolutionaries by Ayman Zawahiri. Sadat was marked for assassination both because of the domestic corruption of his regime and because he signed the peace accords with Israel at Camp David. Sadat publicly denied any corruption, but in fact his administration was marked by the corrupt influence of six bankers. Rather than returning to the kind of arch-traditionalist Islam Zawahiri and the others wanted, he pursued an open-doors policy towards the West. His signing of the peace agreement with Israel was also seen, not as a heroic act of a genuine peacemaker, but as that of someone who had fundamentally betrayed Islam. As a result, the Islamists rose up and assassinated him.

They were profoundly disappointed with the result. The Muslim Brotherhood had believed that the assassination of the liberal, secular leaders would provoke the masses to rise up against the Westernised, secular society that had been imposed on them. But the Egyptian masses didn’t rise up, and the Islamists were rounded up, and put on trial. As a result, the Islamists pushed their doctrine further. They decided that the Jaihiliyya, the non-Islamic state of ignorance created by Westernisation had corrupted even the people themselves. Hitherto they had confined their violence to politicians. Now they argued that even members of the public should be killed as traitors to Islam.

The Phantom Victory: Afghanistan and the Fall of Communism

Episode 2: The Phantom Victory discussed the War in Afghanistan, and the Neo-Cons fall from power with the accession of George Bush snr and then Bill Clinton to the presidency. The Americans saw the War in Afghanistan as part of their crusade to destroy the Soviet Union. They therefore began to arm the Mujahideen. These were initially organised around Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar. Azzam, however, did not believe in killing non-combatants, and made his followers take an oath to that effect. In competition with Azzam, however, was a smaller group of Islamist rebels, the followers of Zawahiri, who were quite prepared to kill and murder innocents. These were the group Islamic Jihad. One of those idealistic Muslims, who went to Afghanistan to join the struggle against the Soviet, was Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was originally a follower of Azzam, but was seduced away from him to Zawahiri’s group. Complementing the fighters were many political dissidents, who had been released from prisons all over the Arab world in the hope that they would go to Afghanistan, and not come back.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Gorbachev, the new Soviet leader, was acutely aware of the immense problems facing the Soviet Union. He believed that the USSR was in danger of imminent collapse, and so wished to push forward a comprehensive campaign of reform. In order to do so, he wished to withdraw from Afghanistan in order to concentrate on the USSR’s domestic problems. He therefore sought a negotiated peace with Reagan and the Mujahideen. But the Reagan administration would not make a deal, and Gorby was shocked by their intransigence. In the period following the Soviet withdrawal, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet bloc collapsed completely. Both the American Neo-Cons and the radical Islamists believed they had been responsible for the USSR’s collapse. But this was untrue. The USSR fell, not because of military defeat, but because the regime and society was fundamentally rotten.

George Bush Snr

Convinced of America’s special destiny to promote democracy and correct moral values in the world, the Neo-Cons wanted Bush’s regime to export it at gunpoint to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during Gulf War I. But Bush was, like Kissinger, another pragmatist, and so was content merely with freeing Kuwait, and containing Saddam. He did not want to change the Iraqi regime, and his supporters believed that, had he adopted this aim, America would still be in Iraq 14 years or so later.

Bill Clinton

The Neo-Cons were further disappointed when Clinton became president. Slick Willy had succeeded partly by winning over Republican supporters alienated by the religious influence on their party. The Neo-Cons saw him in the same Manichaean terms they applied to the Soviet Union – as the embodiment of evil itself. They therefore sought to blacken him anyway they could. Clinton was accused of multiple adultery, of fraudulent land deals in the Whitewater scandal, assassinating one of his aides, and smuggling drugs through an airport in Arkansas. These accusations all came from a minute American Conservative magazine, the American Spectator. With the exception of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, none of this was true. And in the case of the Whitewater deal, the Clinton’s actually lost money. One of those speaking in the documentary about this was a former journalist on the magazine, who had initially believed these stories, but then came to repudiate them utterly.

The Brutal Collapse of Islamism in Algeria

The Islamists in the Middle East were also suffering their own setbacks. In Algeria, the Islamic party, the FLN, had won the first round of elections. They presented a challenge to democracy, as the Islamists wished to replace secular authority with that of the Qu’ran. This would effectively make political parties obsolete, as the Qu’ran could not be challenged as the source of law. The armed forces stepped in and seized power, rather than the secular society destroyed. The Islamist forces in their turn rose up against them. The result was a bloody civil war, in which the Islamists took to attacking and killing the civilians they felt had betrayed Islam by not supporting the revolution. The various Islamist militias were infiltrated by the Algerian armed forces, who turned them into committing increasingly extreme and horrific acts of terrorism. The intention was to turn ordinary Algerians away from these groups through disgust at the atrocities they were committing. The tactic succeeded, and the Islamists terrorists became ever more extreme. Finally they turned on each other. Each group believed that they, and only they, were the true Muslims. The end finally came with one Islamist group, led by a former chicken farmer, declaring that it and only it represented true Islam, and advocating the death of everybody else.

The Shadows in the Cave: Dubya and 9/11

Shadows in the Cave, the third and final film, took the story from the election of George ‘Dubya’ Bush
to the time the show was screened in 2004. As is now notorious, Dubya was another Neo-Con, and believed that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden really were at the centre of a vast, global terrorist network. This network was another illusion. There was just a number of different, radical Islamic groups, who used bin Laden as a source of funding. But bin Laden himself was in no way their leader. Rather, they were using him. The idea of a single terror network, al-Qaeda, really only appeared after 9/11, and was a result of the American legal system. In the aftermath, the Americans rounded up other Islamists, who had been complicit in the atrocity, with the aim also of convicting bin Laden himself. But the legislation under which the terrorists were tried had been put in place in order to deal with organised crime. In order to convict bin Laden, the authorities needed to prove that he was head of a distinct terrorist organisation with its own identity. And hence they produced al-Qaeda, which was largely a legal fiction. Bin Laden himself only started using the term after it was used by the Americans.

The 9/11 attack, rather than being a sign of the movement’s international strength, was even then the result of a small minority. Most of the Islamists in Afghanistan were radical nationalists, who wished to export the Islamic revolution to their own countries. However, rather than taking that step, bin Laden had gone for ‘the further enemy’ America.

The Northern Alliance: Dodgy Information and the Selling of Prisoners

In hunting down al-Qaeda, Americans also allied themselves with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, a group of warlords fighting the Taliban. They were given arms and money in return for intelligence and al-Qaeda prisoners. A total of a million dollars may have been given to them. But some of the information they supplied, and the prisoners they handed over, were much less than what they seemed.

Remember Tora Bora? Those were the caves in which bin Laden supposedly had his lair. The documentary includes footage of American news programmes, in which the caves were presented as a highly sophisticated complex, complete with separate living units, offices and replete with high-powered surveillance devices. The Americans duly bombed the caves, only to find to find that it was a simple series of caves. Some had been used to store equipment, but it was definitely not the underground Bond-villain style fortress it had been built up as.

As for the prisoners, many of whom may not have been directly involved in the attacks, but were shipped off to Gitmo anyway. It’s even doubtful how many of them were actually al-Qaeda terrorists. Some may just have been Arabs unlucky enough to have been picked off the street by the Northern Alliance to sell to the Americans.

The Hunt for Domestic Terrorists

The authorities were naturally keen to round up possible domestic terrorists. There developed a theory that there were a number of terrorist ‘sleeper cells’ in America, ready to rise up and commit further atrocities. Several of the Muslims arrested on suspicion of terrorism seem to have been innocent. There was a group of three men, who had gone away to a terrorist training camp, before returning to America. They were watched by the FBI for a year as suspected terrorists, but none of them did anything terrorist-related. In fact, one of them had been so desperate to get back to America, that he had actually feigned illness. Then one of them left for Bahrain, and sent his friends a letter, stating that he was getting married and would not see them for some time. The authorities swooped, believing that this was a code for a possible suicide attack on the American Gulf fleet. No, the message was as innocuous as it appeared. Rather than going to blow himself up, the man really had gone to get married, and so didn’t expect to see his friends for some time.

Another group were arrested after they filmed themselves going to Disneyworld. This was seen by the authorities, following their experience with criminals, as a kind of casing video, in which the suspected terrorists were looking for points of attack. They had disguised their actions, however, simply as a group of tourists making an ordinary video of their day. Other evidence was a doodle from the house they occupied, which was interpreted as a secret map of the defences of an American base in Turkey by its head of security. It wasn’t. Subsequent investigation showed it had been drawn by a madman a year previously. The man had occupied the same house, and was convinced he was head of the Yemeni security forces. He had drawn the doodle, which then got lost down the back of the furniture, until it was discovered by the FBI.

Other suspects included a group of young Muslims, who’d been out paintballing. This was again interpreted as terrorist training, but was in fact exactly what it appeared: a group of young guys out paintballing.

And some of the people making the accusations were themselves very dodgy. One was a Mr Mimzy. Mimzy was a multiply fraudster, wanted on 13 counts. In return for a lighter sentence, Mimzy made a deal with the Federal authorities in which he accused one of the supposed ‘terrorist’ groups above. They were arrested, but his evidence was thrown out after he was heard telling one of his fellow prisoners that he’d made it all up.

The Mirage of a Dirty Bomb

And then there was the furore about the terrible possibility Islamic terrorists could produce a ‘dirty bomb’. This was a conventional bomb that was designed to hurl amounts of radioactive material out with the explosion, to contaminate the surroundings. People were naturally afraid that such a device would be used, and they, their friends and families were suffer a long, lingering death from radiation sickness.

The federal authorities had prepared for that, and experts from the various atomic organisation simulated the result of such a bomb. They found that rather than cause mass death, it would be extremely surprising if a single person died. They found that it was possible people would suffer a massive, but non-fatal exposure to radiation, but only if they remained where they were for a long time.

A very long time.

About a year.

In reality, the bomb’s explosion would result in the material being so widely scattered and rarefied, that there simply would not be enough of it to cause serious harm, especially if the detonation zone was carefully clean up afterwards.

British Failures

And just in case we in Britain think that it’s only the Americans who got carried away with this, Curtis provided some domestic examples from Blair’s Britain. When Britain joined the hunt for bin Laden, it was with much fanfare. We were going to do better than the Americans, because of our long experience fighting terrorism in Northern Ireland. This didn’t fare much better either. Curtis shows footage of a British officer looking embarrassed as he admits that they haven’t found bin Laden, or captured any terrorists either. Of the 664 people arrested after 9/11 in London, all but a handful were guilty of no more than watching terrorist videos or reading their literature. Many of them were not actually terrorists at all. One of the Jihadis was the owner of a gym, which specialised in self-defence training. It was called ‘Ultimate Jihad Training’, but in reality its only client was a security guard, who wanted to learn how to defend himself at his job. The vast amount of terrorism in Britain was committed, not by Muslims, but by the Protestant and Roman Catholic paramilitaries in Ulster.

Curtis’ film argues that rather than really existing, Blair and the others had taken over the precautionary principle from the Green movement. This urged that even if there was no evidence of a threat, one should nevertheless be prepared for the very worst, and take precautions. The result was politicians imagining a series of terrible threats and events, for which there was no evidence. He contrasted the panic sweeping Britain with the relative calm in Spain. Despite the horrors of 7/7, the Spanish had not panicked and become afraid their entire society was under threat. He concluded that, while there clearly was a threat of Islamist terrorism, and there had been legitimate reasons for suspecting some of those arrested as terrorists, Bush, Blair and the other politicos had massive overstated the extent of the threat. A threat existed, but we were actually quite safe.

The series can be found at:

https://archive.org/details/ThePowerOfNightmares-Episode1BabyItsColdOutside

It’s very well worth watching.

Je Suis Charlie

January 8, 2015

The world was stunned and horrified yesterday when three masked gunmen burst into the headquarters of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, and murdered twelve of the staff. The motive for the attack was in retaliation for the edition in 2011 when the magazine published a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The attackers shouted ‘Allahu akbar’, (‘God is greatest’ in Arabic), and one of them said ‘Now we have avenged the Prophet.

Tributes have poured in today for the victims from across the world, including places as far from Paris as London, New York and Rio de Janeiro. Vigils have been held in which crowds have held up pens both as a tribute to the cartoonists, and a symbolic defence of the right to free speech. The organisers of these demonstrations made it clear that they were about spreading love, and advised ‘haters stay away’.

Mike over at Vox Political is a long-term member of the comics community and a friend of a number of comic artists. He has published his view of the matter in the article ‘Je Suis Charlie’, the slogan now being adopted across the world to express solidarity with the victims of this massacre. It begins

You won’t see any images purporting to be of the Prophet Muhammad on Vox Political.

This is because this writer has been on good terms with many Muslims and understands that any such depiction is extremely insulting to them and to their faith. Why would anybody want to inflict a bitter insult on someone they consider to be a friend?

By the same token, if an insult of such magnitude was inflicted on Yr Obdt Srvt, the possibility of a machine-gun attack figuring in any retaliatory gesture is, quite simply, unthinkable. Civilised people don’t do that. Psychopaths do that.

Yet this is what we are being told happened at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris today (January 7).

He goes on to say:

Whatever the perpetrators thought they were doing today, they were not exacting vengeance for an insult, or justice for a crime. They were murdering a dozen innocent people because one of them had drawn a picture.

The article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/07/je-suis-charlie/#comments.

Among the comments to this article is this, from a practising Muslim, Nightentity who used to instruct converts and those who had return to Islam:

Those that believe these so called Imams are Ignorant of their faith and will believe anything they hear that makes them seem intelligent and all knowing to the other Ignorant. Terrorism is not Islamic, you don’t cause suffering to the aged the weak and the innocent, you don’t hide behind masks and scarves, you stand like a man and fight a man’s battle. These terrorists are cowards and weaklings for they hide behind a faith that does not condone what they do. Yes there are Hadith out there that say certain things, but these are obscure and are not accepted as true Hadith. These terrorists are only out for power and control, they are not true Muslims in any sense of the word. And yes I can speak with some authority on this as I am a Muslim and used to teach new converts (or reverts) and children the basics of Islam and how to pray etc. I have probably ruffled quite a few feathers if this is read by certain quarters, but when we defend Islam the least we can do is use our words, and so I have. xx

I studied Islam at College as part of the Religious Studies course, and done some reading myself on Islam. The shariah religious law code does forbid attacks on non-combatants in warfare, such as children, the elderly, and women. Adam Curtis covered the rise of radical Islam in his series, The Power of Nightmares. Curtis took the view that the spectre of a world-wide, radical Islamic movement, al-Qaeda, was largely a myth. There was no monolithic, global terrorist organisation but rather a continuum of individual radical Islamist terrorist groups, all with slightly different beliefs and produced by differing circumstances from country to country. Al-Qaeda’s ideology, which justified attacks on civilians, was actually the product of Western total war doctrines, which had been taken over by Sayyid Qutb, one of the founders of modern Islamic radicalism. Curtis himself took the view that the real dangers of Islamic terrorism had been magnified in the West by politicians for their own ends. The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, also considered that the menace of Islamist terrorism was also being used by the West’s intelligence services after the fall of Communism, to find a new enemy, which could be used to continue funding and fight off possible budget cuts.

Curtis’ documentary was made and broadcast before 9/11, and so some – but not all – of his conclusions in the series should be rejected. Nevertheless, other documentaries have made pretty much the same point about terrorism being un-Islamic. A documentary broadcast a few years ago by Channel 4 on radical Islam filmed one radical Muslim actually admitting this. ‘Well, of course terrorism is against Islam’, he said, ‘but what can we do?’

Well, the simple answer is: don’t murder civilians. Even Western military tacticians have abandoned the total war doctrine.

As for the spectre of radical Islamic terrorism being used by Western politicians and industrialists to promote their own interests, that did happen with Bush and Blair’s spurious pretext for the invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, but he was a secular tyrant. He had absolutely no connection to Osama bin Laden, who cordially hated him and the secular Ba’athist regime. The real reason for the invasion of Iraq were purely economic: the desire of the big oil companies, including the Saudis, to seize the country’s oil industry and its reserves; and by the Neo-Cons and their corporate backers to pillage the country’s industry and create their shoddy free trade utopia. Hussein supported the Palestinians, which is why Likud wanted the invasion of Iraq. But he was not an Islamist, and had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

What the people of the world need to do at this time, is to stand together against the terrorists and the preachers of hate, both Islamist and the nationalist demogogues in the West, who will try to foment hatred against innocent Muslims, and defend peace and free speech.