Howdy, folks!

[Editors' note has been moved.]

 

The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live-long day.
The eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them, at night or early in the morn.
The eyes of Texas are upon you, till Gabriel blows his horn.

Sing me a song of Prexy, of days long since gone by.
Again I seem to greet him and hear his kind reply.
Smiles of gracious welcome before my memory rise,
Again I hear him say to me “Remember Texas‘ Eyes”.

I’m thinking of writing an opera called “Why Michael Brown Deserved to Die.”

What do you think? Do you think if I write a thought-provoking, probingly-artistic contemporary opera on the subject of Michael Brown’s untimely shooting, it will be met with critical acclaim?
Maybe it will be performed by the New York Metropolitan Opera during its 2015 season, and will be described as “dialogue” on a difficult subject.
You don’t think so? I can’t imagine why.
It seems right in line with what the Met has planned this year with “The Death of Klinghofer.” You remember Leon Klinghofer, don’t you? He was the 69-year-old Jewish man who, in 1985, was pushed off the cruise ship Achille Lauro to his death by Palestinian terrorists. Pushed into the water in his wheelchair. Because he was Jewish.
The opera portrays this murder as justified, not only because of Palestinian grievances against Israel, but also by the alleged evil and exploitative actions of Jews against others around the world.
In the opera, the terrorists are presented as heroic freedom fighters, who have been forced by Jewish and Zionist oppression to take extreme actions – and what could be more extreme (and brave!) than pushing a wheelchair-bound senior citizen overboard?
In the opera’s libretto, there are passages that defame the Jews as a people. For example, the principal terrorist says, “Wherever poor men are gathered, they can find Jews getting fat. You know how to cheat the simple, exploit the virgin, pollute where you have exploited, defame those you cheated, and break your own law with idolatry.”
At one stage, the terrorist leader says to Klinghoffer, “America is one big Jew.”
The opening scene honors terrorists with a backdrop of graffiti on a wall proclaiming “Warsaw 1943, Bethlehem 2005,” implying a moral equivalence between the acts of the Nazis and Jews today.
The Palestinians sing, “We are soldiers fighting a war. We are not criminals and we are not vandals but men of ideals.”
How is this “art?” How is this blatantly anti-Semitic performance acceptable? How can the Metropolitan Opera justify this egregious move?
Would the Met stage that comedy classic, “My Son, Mohammad, the Bacon-Eating Cross-dresser?” Probably not.
How about that tragic romance, “The Mexican Problem?” I doubt it – not in an election year.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world as Israel attempts to defend itself against an aggressor sworn to its destruction. This anti-Semitism, hiding behind a facade of anti-Zionism, is unparalleled since Nazi Germany. We must not allow it to fester on our shores.
I hope you’ll join me in calling or emailing Peter Gelb, director of the Metropolitan Opera, and demanding he cancel this production. You may call him at 212-799-3100, extension 2891 or email pgelb@metopera.org.

(Michele Hickford)

Is Starbucks anti-semitic?

The global coffee company STARBUCKS released a statement this week to clarify apparent misconceptions about the company’s patronage of Israel, Huffington Post reports.
In a fact sheet updated August 5, Starbucks notes it does not support any political or religious causes, adding that neither Starbucks nor its CEO, Howard Schultz, provides any financial support to the Israeli government or Israeli military.
“Rumors that Starbucks or Howard provides financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army are unequivocally false. Starbucks is a publicly held company and as such, is required to disclose any corporate giving each year through a proxy statement,” the statement reads, according to Huffington Post.
In Q-and-A format, the statement answers queries about Starbucks’ presence in the Middle East.
One questions asks if it is true that Starbucks has ever sent any of its profits to the Israeli government or military. “No. This is absolutely untrue,” the company responds.
As far as why the company closed its Israel locations, the statement answers, “We decided to dissolve our partnership in Israel in 2003 due to the on-going operational challenges that we experienced in that market. After many months of discussion with our partner we came to this amicable decision. While this was a difficult decision for both companies, we believe it remains the right decision for our businesses.”
While unstated, the political backdrop for the defensive nature of the statement could lie in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates for boycotting Israeli products and companies that give money to Israel.
Over the past several years, the movement has grown, even while it was criticized by people on all sides of the political spectrum.
Most recently, Britain’s largest trade union voted to boycott Israeli companies in a unanimous vote. Last week, Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, announced it will no longer sell products originating from Judea and Samaria starting this September.
Despite not currently having any locations in Israel, Starbucks operates in most other countries in the Middle East, including Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
Ironically enough, in 2009 an Egyptian Muslim cleric called on the Muslim and Arab world to boycott Starbucks, claiming the female character depicted in the company’s logo is actually Queen Esther, the heroine in the story of Purim.

Federal judge rules D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional

WASHINGTON — A federal judge struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on carrying guns outside of a person’s home, concluding it violates Second Amendment rights.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge is the latest in a protracted fight over gun laws in the District; In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision striking down the city’s 32-year-old ban on handguns. Since then, the city has rewritten its laws, lawsuits have been filed and even Congress has waded into the fight.
In a decision made public late Saturday, Scullin concluded that the Second Amendment gives people the right to carry a gun outside the home for self-defense. He cited two U.S. Supreme Court cases as important to his ruling – the 2008 opinion striking down the District of Columbia’s ban and a 2010 ruling involving Chicago’s handgun ban.
“There is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny,” wrote Scullin, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and is a retired Army colonel.
The city rewrote its rules after the 2008 Supreme Court decision. Residents were required to register their guns and keep them in their homes. Gun owners also have to take a safety class, be photographed and fingerprinted and re-register their weapons every three years. Those requirements were challenged in court but upheld by a federal judge in May.

Earlier this month, Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, successfully added an amendment to a bill that would block the District from spending any money to enforce local gun laws. Massie has conceded his amendment is unlikely to get through the Senate and become law.
The lawsuit before Scullin was filed in 2009 by the Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation on behalf of three District of Columbia residents and a New Hampshire resident who said they wanted to carry guns for protection but were denied permits by the city.
Alan Gura, the lawyer who represents the group challenging the ban and who won the 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court cases, said Sunday he was very pleased.
“If you have the right to bear, that is carry a gun, it wouldn’t make any sense to understand it is limited to just inside your living room,” Gura told ABC 7 News.
Northwest D.C. resident George Lyon, one of the plaintiffs in the case, also applauded the decision.
“I have my guns for personal protection and I’m also a firearms instructor,” he explained to ABC 7. “If I decide to walk my dog at 2 or 3 in the morning and I think I need to carry a hndgun to be safe, then I can do so.”
A spokesman for D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan told ABC 7 News on Sunday that the city would seek an immediate stay of the judge’s ruling while it considers an appeal.
Mayor Vincent Gray issued a statement Sunday saying that he would be working with Nathan “to ensure that our gun laws remain strong.”
Councilmember Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayoral nominee and leading contender to succeed Gray, also called the ruling “troubling” and said it posed “a serious threat to public safety in the District.” She too supported efforts to seek a stay while appealing the court decision.

(Richard Reeve)

Al-Baghdadi, the caliph, and Pakistan

Who will bell the cat?

The ISIS, which broke all records of brutality set by previous militant organisations, has decided to call the areas under its control the “Islamic State”. It has also anointed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph for the entire Muslim world. Once the Islamic State has stabilised itself in the swathes of the Syrian and Iraqi territory, it will seek the allegiance of all Muslim states, organisations and leaders for the new caliph. In the primitive days the custom was to send a messenger carrying the Holy Koran in one hand and a sword in the other and the ruler was asked to choose one of the two. In the modern world the same message can be sent even more effectively. The ISIS has been aptly described as a social media powerhouse.
As Aki Peritz, a former CIA counterterrorism analyst and author, has put it the group skilfully exploits platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram among others, “to promulgate many gut-churning images and videos of its war against the shi’a and the Iraqi government broadly. These include one where the group claimed to have executed some 1,700 captured soldiers. Another video shows ISIS fighters beheading a police chief, then merrily tweeting: “This is our ball. It’s made of skin #WorldCup.” Does it remind anyone of TTP’s Omar Khorasani?
The task of the consolidation of power of the so called Islamic State has been made easier by the divisive policies of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The shi’a – sunni rift, widened by the Maliki regime’s sectarian policies, has led many sunni tribes to side with the militants. The sunni middle class, pampered under Saddam, finds that there is no future for their children under the regime. There are expressions of dissatisfaction against Maliki even in the shi’a south. The Parliament is not happy with him either. The Kurdish troops have moved into oil rich Kirkuk and the Kurdish separatist sentiment is on the rise. What is more Turkey which was once its strongest opponent is now agreeable to the idea of an independent Kurdish state emerging from the ashes of Iraq.

The task of the consolidation of power of the so called Islamic State has been made easier by the divisive policies of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The conquests of the caliphate in Iraq have put it within easy reach of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Lebanon which shares border with Syria is another potential target. Recently as many as 92 per cent of the Lebanese interviewed by PEW said they were worried about extremism. What is going to become of Jordan in days to come is anybody’s guess.
Unless the caliphate is nipped in the bud, it is capable of playing enormous havoc in the region and beyond.
But who will bell the cat? None in the Middle East is willing to take the Islamic State head on after al Baghdadi’s group put to route a million strong Iraqi army, the best trained and most well equipped in the entire region. This was the natural consequence of the US disbanding a highly professional Iraqi army raised by Saddam. What was left was done by Maliki who closed all openings for the sunnis thus driving a whole lot of experienced soldiers and commanders into the rebels’ camp and from there into the lap of the rising anti shi’a ISIS.
There were expectations that the US would evolve a response after consulting Saudi Arabia and the Gulf allies which have not been fulfilled. As is his wont in situations of stress, the Saudi King has loosened his purse strings, releasing $500 million for distribution among the war affected population “regardless of their religion, sect, or ethnicity”. This is like throwing money into the sea.
Any consolidation of the group once called ISIS would be harmful for Pakistan. Its successes would encourage not only the TTP and its affiliates but also the potential jihadis under training in thousands of seminaries.
Muslims of the subcontinent have a pathological history of running after chimeras. Beginning from the ill-fated jihad by Syed Ahmad Brelvi, a misadventure widely idealised in the text books, they thronged to the Khilafat movement despite opposition by Jinnah. Iqbal, widely respected by the TTP, bemoaned the abrogation of Khilafat by Ataturk in a verse that still continues to stir the jihadis “Chak kar di turk-i-nadan ne khilafat ki qaba”. The leaders of the Khilafat movement are still widely revered by the ruling elite. The pictures of Muhammad Ali Johar and Maulana Shaukat Ali are invariably displayed on national days along with other prominent Muslim leaders. Johar Town in Lahore is named after the former. None mentions the fact that Shaukat Ali attempted a physical assault on Jinnah for his opposition to Khilafat.
Soon after the demise of the anachronistic Khilafat movement a section of the ulema called upon the Muslims to leave British India as it had turned into darul harb. The Quixotic move called “Hijrat Movement” again attracted thousands of people, many selling their belongings at throw away prices, to migrate to Afghanistan. Scores of students left colleges to undertake hijrat. Afghanistan was not able to feed them or provide them employment. The Mohajirs had to beg in the streets of Kabul. Some reportedly starved to death. A few managed to make their way to Turkey or Soviet Union. Those who decided to return to India were arrested and put on trial.

Numerous Pakistani militants are reportedly fighting with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s group in Iraq and Syria.

Little was leant from history by the military or political leaders of Pakistan as thousands of seminaries imparting extremist ideas and propagating sectarianism were allowed to be set up with Saudi funding. It suited Zia as these seminaries produced the gun fodder required to defeat the Soviet troops occupying Afghanistan. It mattered little to him if their alumni aimed at setting up a worldwide caliphate. The present Talban leaders on both sides of the Durand Line are the production of these seminaries. The madrassahs which brought forth Mullah Omar, Baitullah Mehsud, Waliur Rehman and Mullah Fazlullah, to name a few, take pride in them while the students are keen to follow in their footsteps.
In Pakistan the ground for the reception of the idea of caliphate has been prepared by the militant orgnisations like LeT and the TTP. Hafiz Saeed is among the earliest supporters of the caliphate. His denunciation of democracy as western conspiracy against Islam and enthusiastic support for caliphate as the ideal system of governance has influenced thousands. The ideas have been spread among the uneducated section of society through recorded speeches and pulpits.
Numerous Pakistani militants are reportedly fighting with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s group in Iraq and Syria. When these battle hardened desperadoes along with a contingent of low intensity warfare experts return to the country they can do a lot of harm.
Pakistan army can defeat any militant force sheltering anywhere in the country. But only the government can take action against the seminaries which impart extremism. The government has also revised the national curriculum to remove material that spreads religious or sectarian hatred. Unless a thorough cleansing is conducted fresh supply of manpower to the terrorist networks will continue. Many will idealise al Baghdadi and look for a chance to replicate in Pakistan what he is doing in the Middle East. Is there anyone in the leadership ready to act like Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the father of the Turks?

(Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad)

Up to 120 US troops training Somali forces

WASHINGTON — New details are emerging about the U.S. military mission in Somalia, where it was revealed that up to 120 U.S. special operators are training and advising local Somali forces in their fight against the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab.
Defense officials speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed that teams of advisers have been deploying to the country since 2007 for noncombat missions, and that the numbers have gradually grown over the years.
The advisers in past years worked with troops from the African Union Mission to Somalia, but are now directly training Somali armed forces. Teams of advisers are working in locations throughout the country; the numbers vary as deployments begin and end.
“We’ve had these advisers working out of AFRICOM for a while,” a defense official said. “It’s Special Forces doing what they do in the area of training and advising.”
While there are no plans to increase the size of the advisory mission, officials said, the United States’ goal is to normalize relations with Somalia, a project that would include more involvement with and support for the Somali National Army.
“We’re talking about deepening the whole of government relationship, and that will include military,” a defense official said.
AFRICOM declined to discuss in detail the mission in Somalia, emphasizing that the operations have involved limited numbers of troops.
“For security reasons, we will not disclose any specific information regarding numbers of personnel, formations, resources or time lines regarding this commitment,” said Ben Benson, an AFRICOM spokesman. “However, we are talking about a small number of personnel. Regarding the reported number of personnel (120 troops), it is important to note that there was no single deployment of such a size, rather we have operated in smaller groups that have moved in and out of multiple locations in the area.”
In recent years, U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Somalia has focused on bolstering the capabilities of African Union forces that have been doing much of the fighting against Islamic militants in Somalia. Efforts have centered on training and equipping those AU troops, many of whom have come from Uganda and Burundi.
U.S. officials have credited AU fighters with turning the tide in Somalia, where al-Shabab was once poised to overrun the capital city of Mogadishu.
Though the group remains a threat, it has been pushed out of numerous former strongholds in Somalia in the past couple of years.
Earlier this year, the U.S. military disclosed that a regular presence of U.S. troops — generally less than two dozen — are in Mogadishu at any given time as part of a “military coordination cell.”
That team, along with other military personnel scattered around the country, remain focused on building up regional militaries operating in Somalia as well as the Somali force itself.
“Our purpose is to strengthen their capability to bring security and stability to the region,” Benson said.

(Chris Carroll and John Vandiver)

With ISIL surging in Iraq, Europe fears rise in “jihadi-tourists”

BERLIN — After being injured fighting the Syrian government, 31-year-old Mohannad reached his home in Frankfurt, Germany, with a simple plan: rest, recuperate, then rejoin the fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
As related in German newspaper accounts, which by law couldn’t identify him by his full name, Mohannad even transferred the equivalent of $6,800 to a Syrian bank for use by the terror organization. With that as evidence that he was supporting a terrorist organization, German authorities seized his passport and prevented him from returning to Turkey — the jumping-off point for radicals seeking to join the fight in Syria.
But Mohannad was the exception. Officials concede that they rarely have such an extensive file against so-called “jihadi-tourists” to stop them from reaching Turkey — and Syria beyond.
At least 320 Germans and more than 2,000 other Europeans are thought to have made the trip — so many that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked European nations to stop their citizens wanting to join the fight in Syria and now Iraq from traveling to Turkey.
“Preventing people from traveling is really difficult,” said Stefan Mayer, spokesman for Germany’s national intelligence agency. “We need actionable evidence, evidence we can use in court. Unless we can prove they’ve worked for a foreign terror organization before, the law doesn’t make it easy to stop someone from making the journey.”
German courts consistently have returned seized passports before the bearers have actually broken any laws.
European Union Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove this month noted that the phenomenon of young Muslims leaving Europe to fight elsewhere is decades old. But the current numbers dwarf previous migrations. He described the current flow as “huge.”
“Compared to previous jihads, it’s unprecedented,” he said.
The trend is openly discussed in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy. Europe has long needed immigrant labor, but it has done little to integrate those who come from Muslim regions — North Africa, Pakistan and the Middle East. Their children often grow up without close ties to their adopted nations and end up finding a sense of community online and in the radical splinters of Islam set up to prey upon the lost.
Claudia Dantschke, a German specialist in Islam who tries to identify and counsel families where the young people are at risk of choosing the fight, says the official reaction struggles to keep up with the increased intensity of recruiting actions.
“The public awareness for the problem of young people from Germany joining the jihad has increased, so more families are turning to us for help,” she wrote in an email.
But that search for help is countered by what she said was “a massive increase in propaganda from recruiters” for ISIL, triggered by the group’s expansion in Syria and Iraq, where in the past three weeks it has seized control of major cities.
“A higher number of young people (are) leaving the country with the aim to join the group,” Dantschke said. “They have Germans spreading their propaganda on Facebook in German, in groups frequented by teenagers and on pages of people they identify with. The extent and effect of this radical direct approach is a new thing.”
How they get into Syria has been much simpler: Turkey.
For at least two years, Turkey has done little to stop would-be fighters from crossing its border into Syria. The lack of official action was an attempt to support the forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and it had unofficial support from nations around the world, including the United States.
But while some of those forces were and remain moderate and dedicated to increasing freedom and democracy in a repressive nation, more and more of the new recruits were seeking to join forces such as the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate, and ISIL, an organization that began as al-Qaida in Iraq and has split from al-Qaida over tactics and goals.
How many foreigners have fought in Syria is uncertain. Some reports have placed the number of foreigners fighting on the Syrian rebels’ behalf at 12,000, with the European share of that at 2,000. But a European Union official who asked to remain anonymous because he wasn’t allowed to speak on the record said the number could be higher. “The numbers are more a floor than a ceiling,” he said.
Perhaps most worrying to anti-terror experts is that ISIL is now thought to have a war chest worth from several hundred million dollars up to $2 billion. Magnus Ranstorp, a leading anti-terror expert now at the Swedish Defense College, said the concern comes from the fact that instead of relying on donations, ISIL now has what he called “360-degree revenue streams” — meaning revenue from all directions.
For comparison’ sake, the current ISIL war chest is thought to be at least 50 times larger than what Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida had at its disposal at its peak. The revenue comes in through kidnapping ransoms, the sale of antiquities, the sale of oil and natural gas from the fields ISIL has seized, plunder from captured banks, as well as road tolls and taxes levied on populations where ISIL holds sway.
The funds allow ISIL to better equip, and better maintain, a larger force.
Ranstorp said he is certain that estimates of the number of Europeans who’ve joined the fight are far below the actual numbers. With ISIL’s success in Iraq, there’s no reason to think the trend will reverse soon.
“We’ve had huge waves going down there after the last couple periods of Ramadan,” Ranstop said, referring to the Muslim holy month of fasting that begins this weekend. “We’ll see what happens this year.”
Also alarming is that although Europeans in the past generally made short trips into Syria and then returned home, many now appear to be committed to stay.
“ISIS today is burning their passports, then issuing their own,” Ranstop noted, referring to ISIL’s alternate name, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The ISIL passport isn’t valid for international travel, but that’s not the point in a movement meant to cement an identity through religious zeal.
Anti-terror workers and experts are concerned that those who do return are coming back both radicalized and trained in how to use small arms and explosives.
Already, 100 fighters have returned to Germany. German intelligence officials say that most appear to have no interest in actions in Europe. Still, Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the German national intelligence agency, recently called these people “a special security risk. They are closely monitored.”
Still, overall, there are an estimated 43,000 “radical Islamists” in Germany alone. With such large numbers, not all can be monitored all the time. In May, at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, three people were shot to death, allegedly by a returning fighter. Anti-terror officials have warned Europeans to expect more, similar, attacks.
Thomas Strobl, a member of the German Parliament, recently suggested a law allowing the nation to strip “German jihadists” of citizenship. But removing citizenship is difficult, unpopular and isn’t thought likely to be successful.
More and more, Europeans are convinced that the only real success in this fight against radical fighters who return is to get to the next generation before they leave to join the fight.

(Matthew Schofield, McClatchy Foreign Staff)

Malaysia bolsters ISIL (ISIS) with praise and child suicide bombers

WASHINGTON — Following months of anti-Shia vitriol in Malaysia, news sources have confirmed that dozens of Malaysians, including young children, have been recruited by ISIS as suicide bombers. According to Malaysian newspaper The Star, “Ahmad Tarmimi has the dubious honour of being Malaysia’s first suicide bomber linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham.” Tarmimi conducted a suicide attack last month that resulted in the deaths of more than two dozen Iraqi military members.
“Authorities believe ISIL prefers the younger ones to become suicide bombers as soldiers would be less suspicious of children. Most ISIL recruits are aged between 12 and 18,” a source told the Star.
In this instance, “Reports state that Ahmad Tarmimi, who received militant training in Port Dickson at the end of last year, drove a military SUV filled with tonnes of explosives into the SWAT headquarters, blowing himself up in the process…
“His exploits were published in the ISIL official website with the title, ‘Mujahidin Malaysia Syahid Dalam Operasi Martyrdom’ with his photograph also featured,” said the Star.
VW News reports “ISIL… is apparently looking to example its territory as far as the East coast of North Africa and all the way into South East Asia, with Malaysia and Indonesia in its sights.”

caliphate-extended

The above map is being circulated by ISIL fans on Twitter, and shows the organization’s dreams of overtaking much of central Asia. The black background with Arabic writing is the official logo for ISIL.
The Star also reports that Malaysians have been undergoing extensive physical and weapons terrorist training sessions before arriving in the Middle East. The training camps typically feature a four month training session for recruits, similar to that of many military academies. The “endgame” according to the Star, is for the Malaysians to become suicide bombers against US, Western, or religious targets.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said, according to Channel News Asia “[i]n his speech to his ruling party the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) on Monday night, he said that if UMNO members were as brave as ISIL militants, the party would be strong.”
The newspaper also reported “PM Najib said that UMNO members should emulate militants in the Middle East, whom he described as fearless in fighting for their cause.”
“Some militants from Malaysia were reported to have received physical and weapons training by ISIL militants in order to join the insurgencies in Syria and Iraq,” Channel News Asia concludes.
New Straight Times supports the analysis, saying “… the trend shows no sign of abating. Sources said scores of other Malaysians were also planning to enlist and aid the group.”
It is believed that much of the recruitment of Malaysians into ISIL is occurring through social media outlets.

(Rahat Husain, Communities Digital News)

The fierce ambition of ISIL’s Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has risen from anonymity to become the feared leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

As its feared and fearsome leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi personifies the brutality, determination and ambition of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Not since Osama bin Laden has a leader been held in such reverence among Sunni fighters, scored such stunning and shocking victories, and threatened so much of the established order.
But unlike Bin Laden, whose vast wealth aided his elevation to the “sheikh”, Baghdadi has literally fought his way from ordinary beginnings in northern Iraq to lead what is perhaps the Middle East’s most feared irregular armed force.
So emboldened by his success on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, Baghdadi has challenged the very leadership of al-Qaeda, denouncing them publicly as deviating from the cause and stating he is the true heir to Bin Laden’s legacy.
But his methods are extreme and his actions repugnant to many – captured enemy fighters are shot or decapitated and their deaths recorded for the internet.
Other armed groups in Syria are attacked as ISIL expands territory and influence, and a strict interpretation of Islam is implemented in the regions under its control – internet videos abound of thieves having their hands severed and adulterers, smokers and those who fail to attend prayer being publicly whipped.

The scholar

Little of Baghdadi’s early life is on record. It is known that he was born Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri al-Samarri to a religious family in Samarra in 1971. He studied Islamic history as a student and, according to sympathetic websites, gained a doctorate from Baghdad university in the late 1990s.
It is likely Baghdadi held a religious position in the Sunni community when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.
Like many enraged by the invasion, he became involved in the armed rebellion and began fighting in western Iraq, possibly Anbar – the stronghold of Tawhid and Jihad led by the Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who later rebranded the group al-Qaeda in Iraq.
But Baghdadi’s resistance was cut short in about 2006, when he was arrested by US forces and held in Camp Bucca, the main US-run prison in Iraq following the torture scandal and shutdown of Abu Ghraib.
Such was his relative anonymity, it seems, that Baghdadi was interred as a low-level prisoner. And it is here, analysts believe, that he became more deeply involved with fighters from al-Qaeda.
After his release in the late 2000s, he joined and fought with the Islamic State of Iraq, known as ISI, the successor group to al-Qaeda in Iraq. With its ranks swollen by foreign and Iraqi fighters, the group was the dominent Sunni force in the country, attacking and intimidating its US and sectarian enemies with suicide bombings, abductions and murder.
Perhaps as a sign of things to come, ISI was publicly reprimanded by al-Qaeda for its brutality and its willingness to kill anyone, even Sunni Muslims, it considered betrayers of their religion.
Some reports say Baghdadi held sway over his own religious court, pronouncing – often without mercy – on the fate of those before him. Others say he played a key role in smuggling foreign fighters into Iraq.
He quickly climbed the ranks, earning a place on the organisation’s ruling council before being declared leader in 2010 after his predecessor, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, was killed by US and Iraqi forces.

The usurper

It was the outbreak of the Syrian war that presented Baghdadi with the opportunity to expand his cause. He sent a lieutenant, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, to create the Nusra Front and fight the Assad regime.
From there, his rise gathered pace and he declared in 2013 the takeover of Nusra to add the Levant to the Islamic State of Iraq. Baghdadi moved to Syria and ignored pronouncements by the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawarhiri, that the merger with Nusra was invalid.
That schism deepened in April of this year, when the ISIL declared that “al-Qaeda is no longer the base of jihad… its leadership has become a hammer to break the project of the Islamic state… al-Qaeda’s leaders have deviated from the correct paths”.
Baghdadi’s interpretation of Islam has been enforced in the group’s stronghold of Raqqa, in northern Syria; capital and corporal punishment for a range of crimes, public floggings, mandatory prayer and reports of a Christian being crucified to send a message to his community.
So how did an Islamic scholar from Samarra become the most feared radical fighter in the Middle East, prepared to disregard al-Qaeda’s “old guard” and declare himself the new force?
Apart from in Syria since 2013, there is no evidence that Baghdadi has ever fought abroad, like many of his peers. At the time of his arrest by US forces he was not considered a big catch.
Events, it seems, have shaped the man, and compelled him to shape his strategy. Baghdadi supporters speak of him as al-Qaeda mark two, the leader of a new generation working to bring about the Islamic caliphate envisoned by Bin Laden.
“Sheikh Baghdadi and Sheikh Osama are similar. They always look ahead, they both seek an Islamic state,” a Syrian ISIL fighter told the Reuters news agency.
A non Syrian fighter told the agency: “The group al-Qaeda does not exist any more. It was formed as a base for the Islamic state and now we have it, Zawahiri should pledge allegiance to Sheikh Baghdadi.”

The opportunist

Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre, told Al Jazeera: “There can be no doubt ISIL’s rise in recent years is due to Baghdadi’s shaping it into a transnationally-minded and brutal organisation.
“Baghdadi has presented himself as a preeminent jihadist leader of the 21st century, and by extension, certainly a competitor and rival to Zawahiri.”
Lister, who has written extensively on Syria, said that the escalation of the Syrian conflict since mid-2011 aided Baghdadi’s successful recovery of the ISI and his expansion into Syria with ISIL.
“The sectarian element within the Syrian conflict contributed towards enhancing the principle theme used by Baghdadi to justify his fight against Baghdad.
“ISIL’s involvement in Syria and the controversy developed over its role in that conflict also, by extension, brought more and more attention to the conflict in Iraq, which appears to have encouraged increased levels of foreign fighter recruitment in Iraq also.
“ISIL’s extensive and slick PR apparatus and its bold mode of operation has undoubtedly lent it real clout within the international jihadist community. These latest gains in Iraq will have served to consolidate that status.
“A common theme among European members of ISIL is that Baghdadi represents a continuation of the ideals expounded by Bin Laden and that Zawahiri has failed to continue that line.”
The ISIL’s latest gains in Iraq are the result. Reports suggest the ISIL has plundered $425m from banks in northern Iraq, and looted the stores and equipment from Iraq army bases left undefended by fleeing troops.
“ISIL’s operations in Iraq and Syria are intricately linked together within a single strategy, with activities in one country often feeding off momentum in the other,” said Lister.
“This major push in Iraq has been long in the coming and the gains made – particularly in terms of weaponry and money – will undoubtedly bolster ISIL’s capacity to push back against rival forces in Syria, potentially even leading the group to move back into the northern governorates of Idlib, Latakia and western Aleppo.”

(Graeme Baker)

Universität Wien unterstützt Terror-Vereine

Die Finanzierung von Bildung ist in Österreich ein heißes Eisen. Die Abschaffung des Wissenschaftsressorts, das Verschwinden der Universitäts-Milliarde und Gratisstudien für zahllose Scheinstudenten lassen keinen Zweifel an der Wertigkeit der Bildung. Die vorhandenen Mittel werden aber nicht nur für die Lehre genutzt, sondern auch für ideologische Betreuung bis in Randgebiete. Nicht alle dieser öffentlichen Gelder fließen über die Hochschülerinnenschaft in die Finanzierung von Demonstrationen. Andere Projekte sind weit fragwürdiger. Read more of this post

Arab world: Has the penny finally dropped?

Is the UK’s decision to order a review of the Muslim Brotherhood a sign the West is beginning to see the organization’s true motives?

Since the start of the ill-named “Arab Spring,” the Muslim Brotherhood has been very much in the news.
Coming to power through democratic elections in Egypt and Tunisia, they were toppled within a short time by the people, who discovered their true intentions. Read more of this post

World’s first Anti Shia Alliance convention results in calls for violence and sectarian purging

WASHINGTON — Last week, the world’s first ever “Anti Shia Alliance” convention was held in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. The event was attended by thousands of participants, who called for “jihad” against Shia Muslims. Several government officials were in attendance. During the conference, a Shiite journalist who was covering the program for Ahlulbait Indonesia, reported being detained, interrogated, and beaten by group organizers and attendees.
The alliance is a coalition of various groups who all maintain an anti-Shia agenda, including the Anti-Heresy Front, led by Ahmad bin Zein al-Kaff.

The convention resulted in an “Anti Shia Declaration” which reads as follows:

The anti-Shia declaration
1. The alliance is a preaching forum to promote virtues and prevent abominable acts.
2. The alliance will take any necessary measures to maximize the prevention of the proliferation of heretical teachings by Shia followers.
3. The alliance will forge good relations with other preaching organizations.
4. The alliance will demand that the government immediately ban Shia and revoke all licenses for foundations, organizations and institutions owned by Shiites.

In a speech, bin Zein al-Kaff said “It’s time that we declared jihad against them…We should not tolerate them anymore.”
Another part of the alliance, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) had its members attend wearing black ski masks and camouflage clothing, with shirts that said “Heresy Hunters.”
The Jakarta Globe quotes the group’s leader, Tardjono Abu Muas, as saying “We all have to understand that Shia has tainted the true Islamic teaching… Our government should be like the Malaysian government.” The Malaysian government has increasingly banned the practice of Shia Islam within their country, and has been criticized by Human Rights Watch for human rights violations against the Shiite minority.
Another leader in the organization, Athian Ali said that more than 100 Muslim clerics attended the event.

The Jakarta Globe writes that anti Shia attitudes are a key component of upcoming elections in Indonesia, “[The Anti Shia Alliance] was borne out in the message to the crowd from Muhammad Al Khaththath, the secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema and Congregation Forum, or FUUI, which in 2012 issued a call to build ‘anti-Shiite posts’ saying ‘We will support any candidate who wants to make an MOU to purge the Shiites from Indonesia. If [Subianto] is ready to do that. he will become the president.’ ”
Ahmad Cholil Ridwan, a leader from the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), attended the event and also spoke of the need to “purge the Shiites” from the country.
According to the Jakarta Globe, announcements made before the convention stated the Anti-Shia Alliance event would be “attended by officials including West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan and Ahmad Cholil Ridwan, a leader of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, or MUI, the highest Islamic authority in the country.”
After extensive backlash, the West Java Governor announced he would not attend the Anti Shia Alliance meeting, but refused to speak out against the convention. Instead, Governor Heryawan sent his assistant, Ahmad Hadadi, who openly supported the conference.

According to DureanAsean, Indonesia has a history of antipathy towards Shias, reporting “[Indonesian] Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali previously called Shia Islam heretical, saying that it deviated from principal Islamic teachings.
“Persecution of Shia followers has escalated in the past few years. In 2012, Tajul Muluk, a Shia leader from Sampang, East Java, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for blasphemy.
“In the same year, a mob set fire to dozens of Shiite homes in Sampang, killing two Shia followers and forcing hundreds of others to take refuge in Sidoarjo, around 100 kilometers away.”
The Jakarta Post reported that after the Sampang burning “Some [victims] were even forced to convert to Sunni beliefs if they wished to return home.”
Last year, Indonesian Shiite leader Iklil Al Milal protested a decision to give an award to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for religious tolerance in Indonesia. “We are living as if in prison. We no longer get food rations and there has been no security guarantee from the state,” said Milal at a public forum, speaking to conditions Indonesian Shias faced after the Sampang attacks.
“Today the population of Shia’s in the country is approximately one million, they are distributed all around the country, however, they are mainly found in Jakarta-which is the capital city of Indonesia, Bandanogh and Sowra,” says Imamreza.net. The same website also claims that Shiites originally entered the country when grandchildren of Sayyid Ali al-Uraidhi, son of the Shiite Imam Jafar Sadiq, migrated to Indonesia with his family members in the 9th century CE.

(Rahat Husain, Communities Digital News)

Die Kultus–Bombe

Über Jahrhunderte war in Österreich der Staat mit religiösen Organisationen verstrickt, besonders der römisch-katholischen Kirche. Die kirchlichen Einflüsse und die teils heftigen Auseinandersetzungen zwischen katholischen und protestantischen Richtungen hinterließen ihre Spuren. Read more of this post

The Case for Nationalism

Incessant “antifascist” propaganda from Moscow, baseless claims of attacks against Russians in Ukraine, incitement of Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine, Russian troops without insignia seizing official buildings in Crimea, a stage-managed illegal plebiscite there and then its annexation by Russia, assurances from President Vladimir Putin that he has no further territorial designs in Europe (though, alas, he may be forced to intervene elsewhere to protect ethnic Russians)—yes, it all has the disturbing ring of the 1930s. Read more of this post

Sowjetischer Appetit

Unbeachtet von der schlafenden Europäischen Union baut die neue Sowjetunion ihre innere und äußere Stärke auf. Der Westen lullte sich jahrelang mit den Sirenentönen verschiedener Friendensinstitute ein, die Rote Armee sei nichts mehr wert und hätte keine Kampfkraft mehr. Die Potenz der russischen Rüstungsproduktion wurde nicht beachtet, die russische Stellung als größter Waffenexporteur der Welt (gerade noch vor China, aber nicht mehr lange) geht an Öffentlichkeit und Politik spurlos vorüber. Read more of this post

The Real Moazzam Begg

Ex-Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg was arrested earlier today as part of raid conducted by counterterrorism officials in the UK. Begg has spent most of his time living in the UK following his release from Guantanamo in 2005. He is one of the most prolific anti-Guantanamo advocates. Read more of this post