Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Hijazi and Salafi-Resistance relations
Sunday, October 28, 2007


Akram Hijazi, described as a writer and university professor,
someone Marc Lynch tells us is a frequent and apparently influential
contributor to the jihadi forums, has a recent post entitled "Slow down there!
This speech [of Osama bin Laden] wasn't a confessional, it was a call to arms".
Marc gives us a head start by locating this in the context of one of
Hijazi's themes, namely the important difference between the
fundamentally religious "salafi jihadi" approach and that of the non-
salafi resistance groups, the idea being that any "mistakes"
referred to in the Bin Laden speech are mistakes in the application
of Islamic religious law, not "mistakes" in the sense of political
errors. Hijazi sees the need to really harp on the point at the
present time, because otherwise there are those who will interpret
the Bin Laden speech as a specific criticism of the Islamic State of
Iraq in political terms, maybe even suggesting it should be
dissolved. A grave misreading, says Hijazi.

And with this as a legup thanks to the Abu Aardvark blog, let's see
where this takes us in the question of jihadi-resistance relations.
Because even after admitting the radical difference between salafi
jihadi groups that refer only to religious law and their allies who
recognize in some sense positive law as well, the fact remains that
the Bin Laden speech raised for the first time (from the AQ side)
the idea of points of contact, and Hijazi seems to recognize that,
albeit in a very roundabout and tendentious way.

I think it's worth getting into the tall reeds here, because of the
importance of the underlying question about the relationship between
the salafi jihadis and the non-salafi Iraqi resistance.

We know that Bin Laden spoke about the necessary unity of
the "honest groups" and about the damage that "taassub" or absolute
and narrow devotion to a particular group and its leadership. Hijazi
asks: "...whether the unity Bin Laden calls for among the jihadi
groups is the unity of creed, or whether on the other hand is it a
general political unity?" He says if you read the speech from the
standpoint of positive law and existing political arrangements, then
the reading is likely to be that a focus on the idea that AlQaeda
for the first time admitted mistakes in Iraq, and then
"[T]he initial gist of our conclusion will be that AlQaeda is intent
on dissolving he Islamic State of Iraq, on the basis it is the
biggest mistake leading to "the crisis it is undergoing, which
centers essentially on the loss of a popular supporting environment
for it, and the alienation of a good part of the masses from it
after it tried to impose its views on the other groups and set up
the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and requiring everyone to pledge
allegiance to its leader." But does this reading, and that result,
actually correspond to the essence of what Bin Laden was saying, and
to the essence of the mistakes he was talking about?
(The part I italicized is something that Hijazi encloses in
quotation marks. I don't know who he is quoting, but clearly it is
meant to be representative of what he considers to be the
unacceptable conclusion from a non-religious mis-reading of the

Hijazi's answer is obviously no. That isn't the right reading. But
my point here is that he says it isn't the right reading because it
leads to an unacceptable conclusion, as a form of reduction ad
absurdum. The right reading, and the one that doesn't lead to the
danger of thinking about dissolving the ISI or anything like that,
is the careful reading that puts the whole speech in its religious
context, where mistakes are universal and human, to be corrected by
the application of religious law by persons who are qualified to do
so. In support of this Hijazi quotes the religious texts that are
the source of ideas like human fallibility, and he shows how
glorifying the orders of your own group as if they were infallible
is one type of error, and participating in democratic forms of
government is another. So from that point of view too, the Bin Laden
speech clearly wasn't intended as a political criticism, veiled or
otherwise, of the ISI.

Of course, Hijazi's choice between "unity of creed" and "general
political unity" is quite limiting. And in a way the arguments are
spurious in other ways: No political unity is possible outside of
unity of creed, but the person saying that defines "creed" as he
sees fit. Or to put it another way, the aim of jihad is the actual
implementation of transnational Islamic justice, and therefore this
particular Islamic State (Omar al-Baghdadi's) is not to be
specifically criticized in a political sense. He hides the political
reality of the ISI behind an argument that the whole idea isn't
political but religious.

Fine. Now, having limbered up by practicing how to differentiate
between two different readings of the Bin Laden text, let's return
to the question of the relationship between the salafi jihadis and
what Bin Laden referred to as the "honest groups", because the
latter expression is clearly intended to refer to a group broader in
scope than the former, raising in many minds the question of
jihadi/resistance unification. Here's how Hijazi treats the
question. In his concluding section he lists points to be taken from
the Bin Laden speech, and the first four have to do broadly with the
question of admitting error among jihadis, dealing with error, and
not confusing that with declaring war on jihad itself. The fifth and
sixth points are as follows:
Fifth: There was a new term in the speech, namely "the honest groups
(jama'at al-sadiqa)", and it appears to have been a definitive and
clear reply to those who promote the expression "the honorable
resistance and the resistance that isn't honorable". Because in
shariah there are distinctions between the believers and those who
lie, and between the honest and those who lie, between believers and
non-believers, between believers and muslims, between unity and poly
[theism], but there isn't [any equivalent specific differentiation]
between honorable and non-honorable. This is a good example of the
need to interpret salafi jihadi discourse based on religion and not
based on political reality.

Sixth: People refer to statements by Sheikh Harith al-Dhari a few
days ago where he said that 90% of AlQaeda in Iraq are Iraqis, and
consequently they are of us and we are of them, and it isn't
permitted to fight against them on the basis of mistakes they make.
[Hijazi refers to an essay of his own dating from August, apparently
taking up the same point, about the local-Iraqi nature of AQ in
Iraq, and he continues], but nobody took up that point, and
meanwhile the storm raged and it hasn't calmed down yet...[but in
any event] the statement [of Al-Dhari] was the first from an Iraqi,
and it means that the idea of fighting AlQaeda as an extraneous
group has disappeared not to return. And does this have the meaning
of a lead-in to the expression about "honest groups" capable of
achieving a "year of the group", and the elimination of the war-
cries like those about "honorable resistance" and "non-honorable
resistance"? Or [the talk about] the "mistakes of AlQaeda" or about
the "awakening councils", particularly after hitting a number of
their leaders?

Obviously a one-way street, you will say. People of good will like
Al-Dhari help to discourage the idea of fighting against AQ and the
ISI, but what do they get in return, beyond an implied designation
from Bin Laden as part of the universe of "honest groups"? The
answer could be: First, given the "scholastic" nature of the whole
discussion, the distinction is an important one from the point of
view of mutual respect. And second, as I tried to indicate, Hijazi
seems focused in this little essay on fending off an anti-ISI
interpretation of the Bin Laden speech, so it is highly polemical,
and for that reason not conducive to being generous to the other

Monday, 29 October 2007


"The Turkish Invasion of Iraq's Kuwait"
Taken from

On October 27, the Palestinian-owned newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi carried the following article by Chief Editor Abed Al Bari Atwan:

“The collapse of the negotiations, which were held between Turkey and the government of new Iraq in Ankara yesterday, reminds us of the collapse of the negotiations that were held between the government of the late President Saddam Husayn and its Kuwaiti neighbour in the city of Al-Ta'if, under the sponsorship of Saudi King Fahd Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, only two days before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

“The Al-Ta'if negotiations collapsed because the Kuwaiti side, which was represented by then Heir Apparent Shaykh Sa'd al-Abdallah, did not accept the Iraqi demands, such as assisting Iraq financially, stopping the pumping of Iraqi oil from Al-Rumaylah oil field, and not flooding the international market with additional quantities of oil that led to a big drop in its prices. The Kuwaitis considered these demands to be exaggerated and unachievable. Shaykh Sa'd al-Abdallah made his famous statement that Kuwait does not yield to blackmail, only to be surprised by the Iraqi tanks in the heart of the capital of his country at dawn the next day.

“After a day of intensive talks with the Iraqi delegation, the Turkish Government has said that the Iraqi proposals for dealing with the Turkish demands by handing over the members of the Kurdistan Workers Party and destroying its bases in northern Iraq are unsatisfactory, and Turkey is in a hurry and it cannot wait.

“The collapse of the talks was expected because Turkey was very simply negotiating with the wrong side, since the Iraqi central government, which was represented by the negotiating delegation, cannot mobilize a single soldier in the north and, consequently, it does not control the border with Turkey. In fact, the flag of the Iraqi central government is not flying over all Iraqi-Kurdish areas.

“Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing mounting public and military pressures to invade the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq as soon as possible. Erdogan's hesitation to take this step has begun to reflect negatively on his popularity in the Turkish street in favour of the military establishment.

“Through its operations against the Turkish Army, the PKK has reversed all equations in the region. The PKK has added another headache to the administration of President George W Bush. The administration does not need this headache not because it came at the wrong time, considering that its chances have started to improve in Iraq after the success of its plan in turning some of the Sunni tribes against Al-Qa'idah Organization, but because it was presented with a very critical choice.

“This means that it has to choose between two allies, one of them is a big strategic ally; namely, Turkey, and the other is a small strategic ally; namely, the Kurds in northern Iraq who were the key player in facilitating its invasion and then occupation of Iraq. The administration of President Bush will emerge as the biggest loser from any Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, because it will lose Turkey if it confronts this incursion, and it will lose the Kurds if does not. The attempts of the administration to urge Turkey to show restraint may not bear fruit, and if they do, this will not last a long time.

“In his reply to the calls of US Secretary of State Ms Condoleezza Rice to wait and give diplomacy more time, Erdogan was crude and right at the same time when he said that the United States did not hesitate for one moment to invade Iraq and did not heed all the calls on it to show restraint. It said that it is defending its interests and security, although it is 10,000 km away from Iraq. So how can it lecture Turkey on things that it did not do?

“The Kurds have involved Washington in a bloody war in Iraq that has depleted their financial and human resources, without any hope on the horizon of winning this war. They are about to involve it in another war against its strongest ally in the region, without being prepared to bear the consequences of any step they take, whether by confronting the Turkish incursion or giving up the greater and only achievement of their invasion of Iraq; that is, establishing a semi-independent, stable state for the Kurds in this afflicted country.

“Ironically, the PKK leaders are implementing the theory of Al-Qa'idah Organization and its leader, Usamah Bin-Ladin, in involving the United States more and more in the region's wars and regional disputes. Whether or not they have planned this in advance, the results serve this goal. Al-Qa'idah Organization carried out the New York and Washington attacks for the purpose of dragging the United States and its forces into wars on Islamic and Arab territories, where it can launch a war of attrition against them. President has fulfilled this wish of Al-Qa'idah Organization and has fallen into the trap.

“The PKK is doing the same thing by using the safe, US-protected areas in northern Iraq to launch its attacks against Turkey and its forces. This will prompt Turkey to invade this region and face America, the greatest power in history, in the hope that it will destroy the strong, strategic US-Turkish relationship or weaken it, at least. Apparently, it is about to achieve this goal, but this may have negative, dire consequences for the Kurds in Iraq in particular.

“The Turks in the military and political establishments, including Islamists and secularists, disagree on many things. However, they agree on one thing, which is the rejection of the Kurdish model in northern Iraq because this model poses a structural danger to them and lays the foundations of the greater Kurdish state, which covers parts of Syria, Iran, and Turkey itself.

“It was not surprising that the Turkish threats to invade Iraqi Kurdistan were met with support by the neighbouring countries, including public support (by Syria) and secret support (by Iran). This support may also exist in the quarters of the Iraqi Arabs, including Sunnis and Shi'is, who were upset by the Kurdish dictatorship, the successive steps towards secession, and the special, growing relationship between the Kurds and the US Administration - a relationship that often reached the extent of pampering.

“The Kurds, including those in Iraq, Syria, and Iran, lack a wise leadership that would lead them to a safe shore and towards the historical dream of establishing their independent state. The main proof of the stupidity of this leadership are the disastrous results of its current policies, which have left the Kurds without any real friends in the areas where they live or the areas around them. No one, including the Europeans and Americans, has rushed to rescue or stand by them in their current tribulation in front of the Turkish threats.

“The enemy here is not Saddam Husayn, who wants to develop weapons of mass destruction in a way that threatens the US domination over the region, but the enemy is Turkey - the big power that has the second largest army in NATO and the number 19 economy in the world. It should be admitted that the Kurds face difficult circumstances in all the countries they live in and do not enjoy the minimum level of their national, cultural, and political rights. Their history is full of bloody massacres and betrayal by friends and allies.

“However, some people also argue that the Kurds do not remember the favours of others, since what the Arabs in Iraq gave them was not given to them by the Turks and Iranians, in terms of autonomy and recognition of their national identity, even during Saddam Husayn's rule, or, to put it more accurately, in his last days.

“Despite this, they have completely turned their back on the Arabs, placed them in the category of enemies, and made Arabic the third, and even fourth language, after English, French, and German. The Iraqi Arab, be he Sunni or Shi'i, now needs a visa to enter Iraqi Kurdistan. And if enters it, he is not allowed to reside there unless he has a Kurdish sponsor.

“We must say that the Turkish incursion, if it takes place, will not be without consequences, because military involvement could lead to a state of chaos and an increase in the Kurdish military operations, as well as the possibility of losing the strategic US ally indefinitely. The Turkish incursion is now imminent. Only a miracle will stop this incursion and its consequences, but the age of miracles is over.

“The only thing we can be certain of, if the incursion takes place, is that all the current equations in the region will turn upside down and that what is left of stability in the region is threatened with collapse. The United States will definitely be the biggest loser. It is enough that it is now hated by the vast majority of Turks, after it lost the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims. This will add a new burden to its attempts to win the hearts and minds of Muslims. As for the semi-independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, it may be breathing its last. It may face a situation similar to that of the rest of Iraq; that is, bloody chaos.”


Engaging Hamas and Hizballah
Ali Abunimah,
The Electronic Intifada
Oct 29, 2007

Palestinian supporters of Hamas wave Lebanon and Hamas flags during a rally backing Hizballah, Gaza City, August 2006. (Wesam Saleh/MaanImages)

Nothing could be easier in the present atmosphere than to accuse anyone who calls for recognition of and dialogue with Hamas, Hizballah and other Islamist movements of being closet supporters of reactionary "extremism" or naive fellow travelers of "terrorists." This tactic is not surprising coming from neoconservatives and Zionists. What is novel is to see it expressed in supposedly progressive quarters.

Arun Kundnani has written about a "new breed of liberal" whose outlook "regards Muslims as uniquely problematic and in need of forceful integration into what it views as the inherently superior values of the West." The target of these former leftists, Kundnani argues, "is not so much Islamism as the appeasing attitudes they detect among [other] liberals." [1]

Such views are now creeping into the Palestinian solidarity movement. MADRE, an "international women's human rights organization," presents one example. In the wake of the Hamas election victory and takeover of Gaza from US- and Israeli-backed Fatah warlords, MADRE declared that the challenge for Palestine solidarity activists is "how do we support the people of Palestine without endorsing the Hamas leadership?" Calling for what it terms "strategic solidarity" as opposed to "reflexive solidarity," MADRE defines Hamas as a "repressive" movement "driven by militarism and nationalism," which "aims to institutionalize reactionary ideas about gender and sexuality," while using "religion as a smokescreen to pursue its agenda." [2] Similarly strident and dismissive claims have been made by a Washington-based pro-Palestinian advocacy group. [3]

Some of these attitudes may arise from confusion, but there may also be an effort to scare us off from attempting to understand Hamas in Palestine and Hizballah in Lebanon outside any paradigm except a "clash of civilizations" that pits allegedly universal and superior Western liberal values against what is represented as medieval oriental barbarity.

It is essential to note that the Islamist movements under consideration, although they may identify themselves as being part of the umma (the global community of Muslims) are heterogenous; each emerged in a particular context. Their ideologies and positions are moving targets -- changing over time as a result of fierce and ongoing internal debates and their encounters with external influences. These points may seem obvious as they apply to an analysis of any social or political movement, but they have to be restated here because of the constant effort to portray all Islamist movements as being, inflexible, rooted in unchanging and ancient views of the world, and indistinguishable from the most exotic, marginal and unrepresentative "jihadi" groups.

Hamas and Hizballah emerged in the context of brutal Israeli invasions and military occupations. Their popular support and legitimacy have increased as they demonstrated their ability to present a credible veto on the unrestrained exercise of Israeli power where state actors, international bodies, the peace process industry and secular nationalist resistance movements notably failed.

As their influence has grown, both movements have steadily tempered their universalist Islamist rhetoric and adopted the language and imagery of classical national liberation struggles albeit with an Islamist identity. A political path that was pioneered by Hizballah of recasting its Islamist identity and goals within the constraints imposed by pluralist national politics is now being trodden by Hamas. [4]

Contrary to the oft-repeated claim that Hamas inflexibly seeks the complete conquest of Palestine and the expulsion of all Jews (aka "the destruction of Israel"), the movement has moved over time to explicitly endorse a generation-long truce with Israel and unspecified future political arrangements that will be the outcome of negotiations. [5] Hamas leaders have been able to justify this shift within the Islamist concept of a hudna, but have also explicitly modeled their approach on that of other modern national liberation movements in Ireland, South Africa and Vietnam. [6]

The much condemned use of violence by Hamas and Hizballah -- particularly suicide bombings -- had more in common with other nationalist movements facing foreign occupation, than deriving from any "Islamist" ideology, as University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape demonstrated in his book Dying to Win. Hizballah has focused its military strategy on countering Israeli military might, retaliating against Israeli civilian areas only in response to Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians (as we saw in the July 2006 war). Hamas unilaterally suspended its notorious campaign of suicide attacks on Israeli civilians more than two years ago, again following the pattern of other groups like the IRA that sought to enter a political process. Hamas maintains this suspension despite escalating Israeli attacks and collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.

Both movements are renowned for providing access to health, housing, jobs and income to the poorest segments of the communities from which they draw support. Anti-Islamist liberals understand this appeal, which is why a few have supported the US, Israeli and EU sanctions against Hamas in Gaza to prevent it from providing for its people, while boosting support for Mahmoud Abbas' Ramallah regime in the hope that it can buy back support and credibility.

Yet the trump card of anti-Islamist liberals remains the claim that Islamist movements like Hamas are uniquely oppressive to women, sticking to rigid ideologies which prescribe for them a subordinate role. Here their positions, if not their prescriptions, coincide with that of the Bush administration which cynically claimed that its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq with all their catastrophic consequences were partly motivated out of a fervor to "free" the women of the region. (Ironically, as journalist Susan Faludi has noted, these claims were made while the "War on Terror" was simultaneously used by American conservatives as a cover to reassert a more virulent patriarchy at home). [7]

The claim that Hamas should be opposed (while "strategic solidarity" should presumably be extended to other Palestinian factions more amenable to a so-called Western agenda) is based on a caricature of the movement's changing gender ideologies and practices and ignores the achievements of the Islamist women's movement in Palestine.

Spectacular examples of the courageous and radical role Islamist women have played came last year when mass nonviolent actions by Palestinian women prevented Israeli air raids and extrajudicial executions in Gaza. [8] But this is only the visible tip of the iceberg.

As the work of Birzeit University professor Islah Jad has demonstrated, the Islamist women's movement has played a major role in transforming Hamas' ideology about women, placing its demands at the center of internal debates, and in mobilizing women within Hamas and in society at large to play greater political and economic roles (sixty percent of students at Gaza's Islamic University, for example, are female).

Islamist women have challenged Western feminist discourses that they deemed irrelevant to their circumstances and needs. They have contended with contradictions in Islamist thinking about the role of women that mirrored the unresolved contradictions that had long plagued the declining secular nationalist movement. At the same time, these Islamist women activists engaged positively with many of the claims made by secular feminists, incorporating them into an ever-changing Islamist nationalist discourse. [9]

Islamist women have emerged as an important factor in Palestinian political life partly as a result of the demobilization of the secular nationalist women's movement as it became depoliticized, "NGOized," professionalized, and detached from its grassroots. [10]

"There are traditions here that say that a woman should take a secondary role -- that she should be at the back," said Jamila Shanti, one of Hamas' elected female members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, "But that is not Islam." Speaking after the January 2006 election, but before the EU, US and Israeli effort to destroy the Hamas government took hold, Shanti added, "Hamas will scrap many of these traditions. You will find women going out and participating." [11] Thus, the work of Islamist women, especially within Hamas, deserves to recognized, respected and engaged, not rendered invisible.

This is where we have to look beyond caricatures and consider that for many of their adherents Islamist movements are attractive because they offer the hope of alternative forms of social organization that put the human being and the community, rather than the market and the consumer at the center of life.

In poor countries, neoliberal capitalism, extolled by Western aid donors and their organs such as the IMF and the World Bank as being the corollary of democracy, has meant in practice unaccountable oligarchy, the demolition of social welfare systems, public education, subsidies for basic necessities, and the flourishing of crony privatization on an epic scale. In many places, Islamist movements have attempted to fill the void.

Hamas' changing views on a long-term truce with Israel, on forms of resistance, and the role of women in society are examples of how an Islamist movement -- like any other social movement -- responds to the real circumstances of the society of which it is part.

The dialogues that once instransigent colonial rulers and their foreign backers opened with the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, and Sinn Fein and the IRA in Northern Ireland -- that led eventually to peaceful transformations of those societies -- are the appropriate model for how to engage with movements like Hamas and Hizballah today. Some argue that these cases offer no precedent because Irish nationalists and the ANC were always part of a unifying Christian, Western tradition. That is how they may be viewed in hindsight, but like Islamists, they too were once the objects of a dehumanizing civilizational discourse that cast them as irredeemably inferior, alien and beyond inclusion, thus justifying colonial control.

And like the leaders of those movements before, Hamas and Hizballah have been reaching out, attempting to craft messages that can begin to close the seemingly unbridgeable gaps, paying careful attention to their own constituencies as well as their potential interlocutors. In Hamas' case these invitations came in a remarkable series of op-eds by its leaders published in English-language newspapers since January 2006 including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Guardian. [12] European and American governments have responded that any dialogue must be conditioned on Hamas first accepting all of Israel's demands, while Israel continues to have a free hand.

Israel and its backers routinely dismiss Hamas' overtures as insincere. They wave about the 1988 Hamas Charter -- which as current scholarship shows has little relevance or influence on actual Hamas policies and thinking -- as an excuse never to talk. Israel's propagandists used the same tactic for years with the PLO Charter (or "covenant" as they insisted on calling it). The increasing influence of mainstream Islamists also terrifies the existing establishments in the Palestinian Authority and other Arab states, who in desperation to preserve their power, have joined the chorus of fear-mongering and repression and some have forged more or less open alliances with Israel.

When broader conflict looms, fueled by the ideology of the clash of civilizations, and the American president drops casual, smirking references to World War III, a new approach is urgently needed. The European governments, for example, that speak to Hamas in secret, but collude with the brutal sanctions against Gaza, out of fear of the United States, should break with their harmful and misguided policies. They should openly defy Washington and Tel Aviv and engage with Islamist movements in Lebanon and Palestine and more broadly, on equal terms.

Since this change is unlikely in the short term, and the dangers are great, it is the role of progressives to support anti-colonial liberation movements without imposing their own agendas, to push for equal dialogue, to listen carefully to what Islamist movements are saying, and to expose and resist the efforts to demonize and dehumanize entire societies in preparation for new wars.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

[1] Arun Kundnani, "How liberals lost their anti-racism," 3 October 2007, Institute for Race Relations. (
[2] "Palestine in the Age of Hamas: The Challenge of Progressive Solidarity," MADRE press release, 11 July 2007 (
[3] See Osamah Khalil, "The politics of fear," The Electronic Intifada, 8 October 2007. (
[4] See: Azzam Tamimi, Hamas A History from Within (Olive Branch Press, 2007); Khaled Hroub, Hamas: A Beginner's Guide, (Pluto Press, 2006); Khaled Hroub, Hamas: Political Thought and Practice, (Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000); Shaul Mishal and Avraham Sela, The Palestinian Hamas, (Columbia University Press, 2000).
[5] See in particular Tamimi, Chapter 7.
[6] See Ahmed Yousef, "Pause for Peace," The New York Times, 1 November 2006; and Khaled Meshaal, "We shall never recognize ... a Zionist state on our soil," Los Angeles Times, 1 February 2006.
[7] Speaking about her new book The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (Metropolitan Books, 2007) on Democracy Now!, 4 October 2007 (
[8] See "One woman killed, 16 injured in Israeli siege on Gaza mosque," The Electronic Intifada, 3 November 2006 ( and Rami Almeghari, "Necessity is the Mother of Inventive Nonviolent Resistance," 21 November 2006, The Electronic Intifada
[9] See Islah Jad, "Between Religion and Secularism: Islamist women of Hamas," in Fereshteh Nouraie-Simone (editor), On Shifting Ground: Muslim Women in the Global Era, (The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2005).
[10] See Islah Jad, "NGOs: between buzzwords and social movements," in Development in Practice, Volume 17, Numbers 4-5, August 2007.
[11] Alan Johnston, "Women ponder future under Hamas," BBC, 3 March 2006. (
[12] In addition to items cited in endnote [6] also see: Mousa Abu Marzook, "What Hamas Is Seeking," The Washington Post, 31 January 2006; Abu Marzook, "Hamas' stand," Los Angeles Times, 10 July 2007; Abu Marzook, "Hamas is ready to talk: We welcome the call for dialogue, and reject insincere demands for an undemocratic boycott," The Guardian, 16 August 2007; Ahmed Yousef, "What Hamas Wants," The New York Times, 20 June 2007; Yousef, "Engage With Hamas; We Earned Our Support," The New York Times, 20 June 2007.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


Why the AQ brass is up in arms about AlJazeera

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Al-Fajr Media Center has posted on the internet a more-detailed
explanation of the complaint the AlQaeda media establishment is
pressing against the satellite news channel AlJazeera
for its broadcast, this past Monday, of only excerpts of the Bin
Laden statement. (And Al-Fajr posts the statement not only in Arabic
but also in an English-language rendition, suggesting that for some
reason even the AQ brass have become sensitive the state of opinions
in the anglosphere).

The Al-Fajr statement naturally complains about the fact that the
AlJazeera excerpting left out any mention of Bin Laden's warning
against allowing jihadis to participate in the electoral or
parliamentary process, his warning against the "hypocrites" who join
the factions in order to sow fitna, and against listening to the
bought-and-paid-for Saudi clerics, and so on. But their main point
is a more general one, namely the idea that AlJazeera deliberately
misrepresented who it was that Bin Laden's advice and criticism was
directed to. The statement says:

While the speech was intended as advice to the people of Iraq
generally, and to sincere (or creditable) people of jihad in
particular, in that it advised them to settle their disputes via the
precise application of law (shariah) and he invited all to submit to
the judgment of God almighty, and warned them not to submit to
jurisdiction of the clerics of the [Arabian] peninsula...

In other words, Bin Laden, according to the AQ brass, was addressing
himself to everyone--the whole ummah or that part of it living in
Iraq--and more in particular to everyone in Iraq who has genuinely
taken up the obligation of jihad. The "advice" respecting settlement
of disputes and so on is intended as advice to that whole universe
of Muslims and then to the subgroup that has taken up jihad, and not
to some particular defined group or faction called "AlQaeda". That
is their point. And it means that the whole speech on
avoiding "taassub" (which means clinging together in a narrow group;
and more particularly "fanatical adherence" to a narrow group) was
intended in that way. If you want to talk on the level
of "factions", then you could say AQ is just as much a bundle
of "factions" as any of the other group and "mistakes were made" and
so on and so forth, and of course that is true, but the whole point
is to get beyond this thinking in terms of factions. Mistakes were
made everywhere. That's what the culture of the "men of knowlege and
virtue" is supposed to be able to address. So the Al-Fajr complaint
is this: Bin Laden was addressing the ummah in Iraq and telling them
to abandon factionalism and think in terms of the whole, submitting
to a system for the resolution of disputes by those who are
qualified to do so. And what AlJazeera did, according to this
complaint, was to turn that around and make it appear that this was
addressed to only one particular "faction", namely AlQaeda, and the
Al-Fajr statement goes on:

The editors at the [AlJazeera] channel turned this matter on its
head and make it appear that the words of Sheikh Osama were directed
[only] to his brothers and sons in the AlQaeda organization, as if
he was inculpating them, and in effect absolving them of jihad and
of their commitment to it.

Which is not, of course, what AlJazeera was doing, or what Atwan, or
what any of Iraqi resistance-supporters think they were doing. This
is where it gets interesting.

In fact, if you look carefully at the statement of Bin Laden, and
then at the AlJazeera excerpts and then at the Al-Fajr complaint,
you will see something that, speaking just for myself, completely
escaped me up to now. It is that in fact Bin Laden was making an
important concession on behalf of his group, and it wasn't really
just about "mistakes". It was that AlQaeda is not the exclusive
vehicle of legitimate jihad. AlFajr's point about his addressing the
whole of Iraq and more particularly the "genuine people of jihad",
with recourse to authorities "of understanding and virtue" for
dispute-settlement means that he was addressing the whole range of
resistance groups, and by implication a whole range of mistakes, on
all sides, without distinction. That's what he was getting at. On
the ideological level that is.

In reality, some in Iraq see the mistakes overwhelmingly on the side
of ISI brutality and arrogance; others see the mistakes more on the
side of caving in to the American-sponsored political process. But
it would be wrong to focus exclusively on this as a matter of taking
sides, because the bigger importance of the Bin Laden message is
that it has started people thinking about the need to get past that
particular form of "factionalism" and start focusing instead on
common aims. Or not that it started people thinking along those
lines, but that it takes up the idea that Harith al-Dhari expressed
in more partial terms in a widely-quoted AlJazeera interview
recently, to the effect that AQ operatives are overwhelmingly Iraqis
and "they are of us and we are of them."

All of which has caused me to reflect: When reading and thinking
about material that is strange to you, you really have to be careful
not to be too dogmatic or absolute about what you take from it. If
you wanted a really ugly phrase for what I am getting at here, it
would be "English language absolutism". Speaking just for myself,
when I looked at the whole Bin Laden tape I thought it would be
quite a stretch to interpret it as having to do with cross-group
unity (I thought it sounded a bit more like domestic AQ
housekeeping). Of course that was completely wrong, because I wasn't
paying attention to the underlying assumption about the unity of the
ummah and of jihad. That's what happens when you take someone else's
ideology and dismiss it as mere words, because what then happens is
that unbeknowns to yourself you substitute your own ideology.
Sometimes it makes a difference. One example of that would be the
assumption in 2003 that the American tanks were going to be
garlanded with rose-petals or at least that organized or un-
organized resistance wasn't something that needed to be worried
about. And here we have a smaller example, but of the same
phenomenon. If you throw out and disregard the ideology of the unity
of the ummah and of jihad, and you thus interpret current resistance-
group jockeying as mere oneupmanship such as you might see in
Washington, say, then you will surely be caught flat-footed when and
if there is in fact a meeting of the jihadi-resistance minds. It
might not happen, but then again it seemed to many in the
anglosphere that organized resistance to the American invasion might
not happen either.

Thursday, 25 October 2007


Al-Qaeda and Iraq: Too Soon to Declare Victory

By Michael Scheuer
Terrorism Focus (The Jamestown Foundation, USA)
October 24, 2007 - Volume IV, Issue 34

"Al-Qaeda in Iraq Crippled" was the headline splashed across Western
print and electronic media on October 15. The stories accompanying
the headline described the number of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leaders
who have been killed in recent months, the downward trend in AQI car
bombings and the slowing of the infiltration of Islamist fighters
from Syria and Jordan [1]. The stories were sourced to both named
and unnamed officials of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and the
bottom-line was offered by Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno who claimed
that AQI's capabilities had been "degraded" by 60-70% so far in
2007, and Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was reported to be urging a
U.S. declaration of victory over AQI. Last week's stories were
focused on Anbar province and the Baghdad region, but it was unclear
if generals Odierno and McChrystal were limiting their analyses to
those areas or all of Iraq.

The foregoing analyses of AQI's defeat in Iraq are, of course,
impossible to assess without access to the full range of
intelligence reporting—both classified and open source. The
militaries of the U.S.-led coalition may have firm evidence that AQI
is done and finished. Yet, if they do, it means that AQI and the
central command of al-Qaeda—Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and
others—have radically changed their approach to the war in Iraq and,
indeed, to their overall approach to fighting the United States and
its allies in insurgency situations. Although this would be
excellent news for the West, it is too early to accept these
assertions completely.

Like most other insurgents, al-Qaeda's doctrine places first
priority on the survival of its forces. The equation is simple: no
forces, no insurgency. If the opinions of the above-mentioned
generals are correct, al-Qaeda has abandoned its doctrine and
decided instead to stand and fight to the death. Yet, the recent
media coverage has provided no evidence of that. The claim by the
generals that 30 AQI leaders have been killed is impressive—and
hopefully true—but after capturing and killing several hundreds of
AQI (since 2003) and al-Qaeda leaders (since 1995), 30 dead leaders
seems a weak reed on which to hang a claim of overall victory. If
AQI stood and fought to the death, there would be verified body
counts that are much higher. It is possible, however, that many AQI
fighters may have been killed by Iraqi Sunni tribal groups in Anbar,
and that their deaths may not be verifiable. That said, open source
reporting makes it seem unlikely that the Anbar Sunni leaders will
push their war with AQI to the point of eliminating the latter
simply because they know they will need the assistance of AQI and
its foreign backers when the U.S.-led coalition withdraws from Iraq
and their war against the Shiite-led regime intensifies.

Decreases in the number of car bombs, as well as in the numbers of
Islamist fighters infiltrating Iraq from Jordan and Syria, are also
good news, but they are more signs of insurgent canniness than they
are of coalition victory. The decreases have been most noticeable,
as the generals said, in Anbar province and around Baghdad. In the
former, the U.S. Marine Corps have been operating full-bore for more
than a year in both fighting and aiding local Sunni tribes. It
should be no surprise that the Marines have had some important
successes, and it should be no surprise that al-Qaeda has moved most
of its forces to other provinces—or to Jordan, Syria and Saudi
Arabia—to avoid the mayhem the Marines can inflict on them. Al-Qaeda
leaders have long said that the U.S. Marines are the only U.S.
fighters they respect, and so they have no eagerness to go toe-to-
toe with them. In Baghdad, Washington's 2007 surge of forces in the
capital area has brought larger numbers of dead insurgents and an
overall slowing of insurgent operations. The surge would have been a
failure if such results did not appear, and AQI and the insurgent
groups would have been ignorant of their own doctrine had they not
gotten out of the way of the more aggressive, numerous and powerful
U.S. force. Moving away from, not toward strong enemy conventional
forces is standard procedure for insurgents.

While not at all questioning the claims of numerous dead AQI
leaders, fewer car bombs detonating and declining infiltrations in
Anbar and Baghdad, it probably is too much to take these successes
and extrapolate them into an overall, country-wide victory. The West
made such an extrapolation soon after driving the Taliban from
Afghan cities by claiming total victory, only to soon find itself
facing a steadily intensifying insurgency with the very undefeated
Taliban (Terrorism Focus, July 3). It is more likely—especially in
Anbar—that AQI took some heavy losses from the U.S. Marines and then
decided to sidestep their wrath by moving into the Levant, Saudi
Arabia and other Iraqi provinces. The same is probably true for the
insurgents who were battered at the hands of the reinforced U.S.
Army units in and around Baghdad. Again, such bobbing and weaving is
integral to AQI and al-Qaeda doctrine, and it must always be
recalled that the insurgents are in no hurry (Terrorism Focus, March
14, 2006). If the coalition's military power is too overwhelming in
one or more areas, the insurgents will simply move or stand down and
wait until U.S. forces shift locations or begin to draw down their
ranks. AQI and al-Qaeda are clearly aware from the international
media that the U.S. will to stay in Iraq is dissolving, and that
patience on the insurgents' part may give them victory with far
fewer casualties than head-on battles with U.S. forces.

While U.S. generals are discussing whether AQI has been definitively
defeated—and the media claims that many believe such a claim is
premature—Western commentary is yet again outdoing military leaders
in both their claims of victory and in misunderstanding AQI and its
strategic doctrine. "Al-Qaeda is on the horns of a dilemma,"
syndicated columnist Clifford May wrote on October 21. "Last month,
some 30 of its senior members in Iraq were killed or captured. Now,
Osama bin Laden faces a tough decision: Send reinforcements to Iraq
in an attempt to regain the initiative? That risks losing those
combatants, too—and that could seriously diminish his global
organization. But the alternative is equally unappealing: accept
defeat in Iraq, the battlefield bin Laden has called central to the
struggle al-Qaeda is waging against America and its allies."

Having discussed above the dangers of extrapolating undeniable but
probably transitory U.S. military successes in Anbar and around
Baghdad, May implicitly argues that the Islamist insurgency in Iraq
will ultimately win or lose on the basis of what al-Qaeda and AQI
does or does not do. While this analysis is off-base, it is an
analytic line that holds sway among many Western experts. First, bin
Laden, al-Zawahiri and the rest of the al-Qaeda leadership have
described Iraq as "Islam's" central battlefield in the war against
the "Crusaders and Zionists," not as "al-Qaeda's" central
battlefield (as-Sahab Productions, September 7). Al-Qaeda leaders
deliberately describe themselves as only a part of a bigger Islamist
struggle, and seldom if ever try to hog the spotlight. This,
incidentally, is why there is no sadness among al-Qaeda's chiefs
that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is now a dead hero rather than a live
operator; al-Zarqawi was simply too insistent on al-Qaeda playing
the lead role in Iraq (Daily Star, April 3, 2006). Al-Qaeda's
doctrine is to be the vanguard of a larger movement, not the
movement itself (Terrorism Focus, September 11).

Second, May misses the point that al-Qaeda is welcomed on so many
contemporary jihadi battlefields—Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya,
Kashmir, Mindanao, southern Thailand, Algeria, among others—
precisely because it is determined to play a supporting and not a
leading role in those insurgencies. Rather than leading
insurgencies, al-Qaeda's fighters have a long record of arriving in
the battle zone and playing a subordinate role that is meant to make
the local insurgency better and more effective militarily,
politically and media-wise. The West would be very fortunate if al-
Qaeda were fielding multiple al-Zarqawi clones who caused internal
dissension in all the insurgencies which they joined, but such is
not the case. Again, al-Qaeda doctrine is to support and guide, not
to lead.

Third, and finally, no matter what al-Qaeda doctrine says, the
historical reality is that insurgencies win or lose based on their
authenticity; national insurgencies, such as the one in Iraq, must
be led, supported and overwhelmingly manned by local inhabitants.
Outsiders—as were bin Laden and other Arab mujahideen during the
Afghan-Soviet war—can assist the locals in valuable ways by
providing such things as arms and money, but they can never lead and
command an insurgency occurring in a country where they are not
natives. Bin Laden made this point explicitly on October 22 (al-
Jazeera, October 22). In speaking to the Iraqi insurgent groups, he
praised them—and not AQI—"for carrying out one of the greatest
duties that few people could carry out; namely, the duty of
repelling the enemy…The infidels have become confused and soon will
flee." Looking to the need to govern the country after a U.S.
defeat, bin Laden also admonished the "brother amirs of the mujahid
[Iraqi] groups" for being slow "in carrying out another duty…namely,
the duty of unifying your ranks as God, be He glorified and exalted
wants." The al-Qaeda chief told the Iraqi mujahideen "the Muslims
[worldwide] are waiting for you all to be united under one banner to
uphold right," warning them that disunity could yield the
squandering of their military victory over the U.S.-led coalition,
as it did for the Afghan mujahideen after they defeated the Soviet
Union (al-Jazeera, October 22).

Simply put, foreigners cannot win the popular support base
indispensable to a durable and ultimately successful insurgency, and
al-Qaeda learned that lesson well in Afghanistan in the 1980s and is
rehearsing it again there and in Iraq today. The bottom line is that
even if AQI is defeated, the Iraq insurgency—because it is authentic—
will continue. In this light, current U.S. successes against AQI—
while worthwhile and to be applauded—will not be a major factor, let
alone determinative, in defeating the Iraqi insurgency.

Michael Scheuer served as the Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the
CIA's Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999.


1. Typically, the unnamed U.S. officials promoting this story did
not mention the continuing flow of veteran and would-be mujahideen
into Iraq from Saudi Arabia.


Correcting for the cut-and-paste version of the Bin Laden talk

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's now clear that the brief taped material broadcast Monday by
AlJazeera (the basis for the prior post here) was a cut-and-paste
from a longer, 33-minute audio tape,
which was released on the Internet by the AQ media arm Al-Sahab
today, Tuesday, with English subtitles, along with a bitter
complaint from Al-Sahab
about the distortions in what AlJazeera presented on Monday. And it
seems they have a point.

The first eight minutes or so of the full tape are devoted to praise
of the Iraqis for their exploits and their courage in fighting the
occupier. This is followed by a thumbnail outline of the geo-
politics of the AQ-jihadi struggle. "The map of the region will be
redrawn," says BL, "at the hands of the mujahideen, and the
artificial borders placed by the Crusaders will be erased, for the
state of truth and justice to be established..." a project that is
being thwarted by enemies global and local, for instance the Taliban
government was toppled in Afghanistan, and in Sudan, where the
president declared that he planned to apply Islamic Shariah, "the
governor of Riyadh again sought to convince the Sudanese president
this time to implement the demands of the atheist United Nations, to
allow the entrance of Crusader forces to Darfur." This is something
that places an obligation of jihad on people both in Sudan, and in
the Arabian Peninsula as well. Bin Laden says: "I mention these
events to remind you (Iraqis) of the full size and weight of the
responsibilities placed on your shoulders, and of the full magnitude
of the conspiracies being hatched against you." In other words, BL's
point is to place Iraq in the context of the struggle for Islamic
justice regardless of existing national borders.

And it is at that point that he raises the problem of unity in the
ranks. There is a duty to unify the ranks, and there is a duty
on "sincere people of knowledge and virtue" to promote that. There
isn't any hint or any suggestion that this involves any thought of
unity between AQ and any nationalist-oriented group or groups. On
the contrary, he has just devoted a lot of time to explaining the
whole struggle in uncompromising terms of transnational Islamic
justice. Moreover, when it comes to his "advice", he talks about
the "mistakes that take place between brothers," and he talks about
the need to refer all disputes to judgment according to Islamic law
administered by men of knowlege and virtue, "for it is there that
claims are sorted out and proof is presented... and the two
disputing parties must respond to those sincere men of knowledge
calling for reform." All of which suggests it would be quite a
stretch to think that BL is raising this "unity in the ranks" issue
by way of looking to reconcile with any of the groups that aren't
already of the ideologically AQ-oriented persuasion. Rather in the
full context it reads more like a call to order respecting internal

Moreover, the section on avoiding "taassub", which was the lead
section in the AlJazeera presentation, follows the above exhortation
to settle disputes with due Islamic-law process, and here likewise
there isn't any actual indication that he means his denunciation
of "fanatical partiality" as implying any hint of criticism of the
concept behind the Islamic State of Iraq. There isn't any explicit
reference to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, so it isn't possible to exclude
the idea that he could be one of the leaders in whom BL sees the
danger of people taking his orders as infallible, but there isn't
any hint in that direction either. The Al-Sahab subtitle writer
quotes Bin Laden at this point as saying "Beware of fanatical
partiality to men, groups, and homelands. Truth is what God and the
Messenger have said...The brotherhood of faith is what ties Muslims
together..." And he does end the "A is more important that B" series
with "The ummah is prior to the [Islamic] state," so theoretically,
there could be a suggestion that he is reminding AQ members that
even the leader of the "state" has to be assessed according to law.
But the main scriptural citations are to strict application of the
law generally, without any hints about current circumstances, and
then this: "And even worse than that (doing something generally
unlawful just because it is ordered by the group's leader) is when
his group and its commander embark on the greatest of cardinal sins
and order him to embark on them, like entering the polytheistic
parliaments...and electing its members [because government is from
God not from men]. I advise myself any my brothers to be pious and
patient, for that is the provision and weapon of he who hopes for
victory." So the one specific example is in the opposite direction
to that of inter-group reconciliation: it is a denunciation of
backsliding against his view of Islamic law.

Finally, the "beware of hypocrites" section comes last of all,
following on the denunciation of those who dabble in the democratic
process. BL says: "And I tell my brothers: Beware of your enemies
especially hypocrites who infiltrate your ranks to stir up strife
among the mujahid groups and refer such people to the judiciary. And
you must check and verify [so as to avoid judgment based on
suspicion only]. So the placing of that in the context of the
overall speech suggests, again, that what BL is concerned with is
unity and good order within the AQ organization, not any "avoidance
of fanaticism" in the sense of reconciliation with non-AQ entities.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


"In His Final Will Saddam Addresses the Iraqi People..."

October 20 2007
Al Quds Al Arabi
Diya Al-Samarra’i


“Al Quds Al Arabi has obtained a copy of a will written by late Iraqi President Saddam Husayn. According to an authorized source from the clan of the late president, the will was handed over together with other possessions to Saddam's eldest daughter, Raghdah Saddam.

“The will, which was dated 26 December, i.e. three days before his execution, and in which he addressed the Iraqi people, calls on the people not to harbour grudges, and to know the real enemy who harmed the Iraqi people. Saddam says: On this basis in the recent past, you have been enjoying prosperity and security under the umbrella of the county in your bright colours, the colours of the united great Iraq. You have been loving brothers, whether in the battle trenches or in the fields of construction.

“The enemies of your country, whether they are invaders or Persians, found that the ties and reasons of your unity prevented them from enslaving you. Thus, they drove their old-new wedge in the midst of you, and the foreigners with Iraqi nationality responded; the hearts of these foreigners were either already full of hatred, or the envious in Iran had filled them with hatred. They thought, God defeat them, that they would vanquish you through sowing division.

The following is the text of the will:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

“God has spoken the truth.

“O great Iraqi people, brave warriors in our striving armed forces, glorious Iraqi women, sons of our glorious nation, brave believers in our courageous resistance. I was as you have known me in the past. Now, God Almighty wants me to be again in the arena of jihad and struggle in the same way we were before the revolution, and even in a more severe ordeal.

“O beloved people, this cruel situation in which we all are, and which afflicts the great Iraq, is a new lesson and a new calamity so that people of all descriptions learn it, and it becomes apparent before God and before the people at present and in the future, when our current condition becomes a glorious history. This lesson will first and foremost be the foundation of success in the upcoming historical stages. Learning this lesson is the right and proper stance; anything else will be false.

“Any work that man does, in which God is not in his conscience and before his eyes, is faulty and false. Even if the stupid seek power against their compatriots from the foreigner, who is stupid and ignoble like his kith and kin, the result in our country will always be that only what is correct remains correct, "For the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth," God has spoken the! truth.

“O great people, people of our nation and of the human race, many of you have known the writer of this message for his truthfulness, integrity, cleanliness of hand, commitment to the people, wisdom, vision, justice, firmness in dealing with issues, care for the funds of the people and of the state, observing his conscience and mind in everything, painstaking and relentless efforts until he raises the standard of the poor and responds to the needs of the needy, big heart that encompasses all his people and nation, sincere belief in God, and not discriminating between the sons of his people except on the basis of sincerity of efforts and national efficiency.

“Today, I say in your name, and for your sake and the sake of our nation and all righteous fair people wherever the flag of right is raised: O Iraqi, our people and family, and family of every honourable dignified man and woman in our nation, you have known your brother and leader the same as his family knew him; he has never bowed down to the unfair oppressors, and he has remained a sword and a symbol for everything the sincere love and the unfair hate.

“Is this not the way you want the stance of your brother, son, and leader to be?! Yes this is what you want. Saddam Husayn ought to be like this and his stances ought to be like this. If his stances, God forbid, were not like this, he would have rejected himself. These ought to be the stances of whoever undertakes to lead you, and whoever is going to be the nation's symbol and role model after God Almighty.

“Here I am presenting myself as a sacrifice; if the Merciful wishes, he will take my soul up to where he sends the martyrs and the faithful, and if He decides otherwise, it will be up to Him, because He is the Merciful and the Compassionate, He is our creator, and we all return to Him, "patience is most fitting against the unjust people, it is God (alone) whose help can be sought."

“O brothers and great people, I call on you to preserve the ideals that made you worthy of being believers, of being the bright lamp of civilization, and of belonging to the land that gave birth to the father of prophets, Abraham, and also of other prophets. These ideals have made you the bearer of the official and authentic greatness.

“Saddam Husayn is ready to sacrifice his life for the country and the people. From the beginning, he presented his entire life, and the lives of his family, young and old, to the nation and to the great, loyal, and honourable people, and he has continued relentlessly to do so. Despite all the difficulties and storms that we and Iraq have lived through before and after the revolution, God did not want Saddam Husayn to die.

“Now, if God wants Saddam to die this time, it is up to Him, because He has created Saddam's life, brought it up, and protected it until now. With the martyrdom of Saddam, a believer's soul will be honoured, because people younger than Saddam have gone this way with contented and reassured souls. If God wants Saddam to be a martyr, we praise and thank Him before and after that, patience is most fitting against the unjust people, it is God whose help can be sought.

“You live under the umbrella of the greatness of the Creator, God Almighty, and His care for you. You should remember that God has given you your qualities in order that you will be a model of love, forgiveness, tolerance, and coexistence among yourselves, and to build the great dignified structure using the abilities and resources the Merciful provides.

“The Almighty does not want to waste these qualities on you, but He wants to use them to test your souls. In NATO, and in the ranks of the Persians, who are malicious because of their rulers who inherited the legacy of Khosrau, Satan's alternative, there are those who whisper evil to those in your ranks who obey them against their compatriots or neighbours, or who follow the ambitions and malice of Zionism that control its representative in the White House, and hence they commit aggression and create rancour that have nothing at all to do with humanity or faith.

“It is on the basis of the ideals of faith, love, and peace that consolidate everything honourable, and not on the basis of hatred, that you have constructed and raised the structure without rancour or dispute. On this basis in the recent past, you have been enjoying prosperity and security under the umbrella of the county in your bright colours, especially after your great revolution of July 1968. You have vanquished as you have been raising the colours of the united great Iraq. You have been loving brothers, whether in the battle trenches or in the fields of construction.

“The enemies of your country, whether they are invaders or Persians, found that the ties and reasons of your unity prevented them from enslaving you. Thus, they drove their old-new wedge in the midst of you, and the foreigners with Iraqi nationality responded; the hearts of these foreigners were either already full of hatred, or the envious in Iran had filled them with hatred.

“They thought, God defeat them, that they would vanquish you through sowing division between you and the true sons of the people in order to weaken the will, and turn the sons of the country against each other rather than turn them against the real enemies. In order to confront the real enemies, we all have to pull together, even if we act under different banners; we all have to pull together under the banner of God is greater, the great banner of the people and the country.

“Brothers, mujahidin, and fighters, I call on you to do this, and to abandon malice, because malice does not leave the one who harbours it any chance to be fair and just, because it blinds the eye and soul, and because it closes the minds. Therefore, malice takes the one who harbours it away from balanced thinking, correct choices, avoiding what is wrong, and prevents him from seeing the changes in the minds of those whom he thinks to be enemies, especially the delinquent ones who repent and go back to the true path, the path of the true people and of the glorious nation.

“Brothers and sisters, my sons and sons of Iraq, comrade strugglers, I call on you not to hate the peoples of the countries that have committed aggression on us. I call on you to distinguish between the decision-makers and the people. Hate only the deed. Even if someone's deeds deserve to be fought and combated, do not hate him as a human being. Do not hate the individuals who do evil, hate only the evil deed itself, and repel that evil as it deserves.

“Whoever repents and makes good, whether in or outside Iraq, forgive him, and turn a new leaf for him, because God is Forgiving, and likes whoever forgives when he is capable of doing so. Firmness is a must whenever necessary. However, in order that firmness is acceptable to the people and the nation, it ought to be on the basis of the law, and to be fair and just, and not aggressive and based on malice or illegitimate ambitions.

“Brothers, I tell you that among the people of the aggressor countries that are groups who support your struggle against the invaders. Some of them have volunteered as lawyers to defend the detainees, including Saddam Husayn. There are others who exposed the invaders and denounced them; some of them shed sincere and noble tears as they bade us farewell at the end of their duty.

“To this I invite you as united people, who are sincere and loving to themselves, their nation, and humanity, and who are honest with the others and with themselves.

“Saddam Husayn

“President of the republic and commander-in-chief of the struggling armed forces.”

- Al Quds Al Arabi, United Kingdom

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Bin Laden statement taken as a climb-down from the ISI concept


The audio tape of Bin Laden broadcast yesterday on AlJazeera is
being widely interpreted as a combination of two new points: (1)
confession that some members of the AlQaeda affiliate in Iraq has
made "errors" (or commited "wrongdoing": same word) and should be
brought to justice, following due process; (2) that among the errors
has been a failure to appreciate the urgency of establishing unity
among all of the jihadi factions; and in connection with this Bin
Laden urges religious, tribal and other creditable authorities to to
their utmost to try and bridge differences between factions.

AlJazeera itself, in the summary on its website,
notes immediately that the official spokesman for the so-called
Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance (the recently-announced
union of Islamic Army in Iraq et al, with Hamas Iraq and an
affiliate) has said this was a good statement

Noting that some of these errors have been lethal to some resistance
factions, and these errors need to be corrrected. He referred in
particular to the establishment of the so-called Islamic State of

Abdul Wahab al-Qassab, described as an Iraqi political analyst, told
AlJazeera this acknowledgement of problems has been a long time
coming, noting that a big mistake was the original idea of trying to
impose a system that large sectors of Iraqis find unacceptable. He
said AlQaeda, having lost its popular base early on, is now trying
to hook up with the Iraqi resistance, which has a clear program
fighting the occupation and turning away from splintering Iraq, to
re-uniting it. And in a similar vein they quote a specialist in
Islamist groups, Diya Rashwan, who said Bin Laden has come to
understand the crisis of AlQaeda in Iraq and elsewhere, and is
trying to turn the program toward flexibility.

Given the fact that the spokesman for IAI and other resistance
groups is taking the latest Bin Laden statement as a possible
admission that the whole Islamic State in Iraq episode was a bad
idea, it is worth taking a closer look at the text of what Bin Laden
said. The following is my rendition of transcript excerpts published
on the website.

I advise myself and all Muslims and particularly those in AlQaeda
everywhere to avoid the clannishness (taassub) of persons or of
groups or of the homeland (watan). The truth is what has been said
by God and by his messenger...and everything that is derived from
that and responds to the messenger [is good]. But O, your
understanding of this question has been theoretical only, but you
deviate from it in actual practice. You should refer whatever anyone
says to the book of God and to the acts of the messenger, and
whatever accords with the truth, take it up, and whatever does not,
leave it....It is the brotherhood of belief that binds Muslims
together, and not the membership in a tribe or in a homeland or in
an organization. The good of the group is prior to the good of the
individual; and the good of the Muslim state is prior to the good of
the group; and the good of the ummah is prior to the good of the
state....We repeat these things in order to dispel the proliferation
among some of them of the glorification of the group and of its
leadership, where they imagine that one of them is necessarily
infallible, and they behave, in practical terms, with him as if he
were a sacrosanct manifestation, even though they understand [in
theory] that only the messenger is holy. They cling (yataassub) to
the group and to its leadership, and they are not guided by any of
the holy writings or of the sunna. And I advise myself and my
brothers to have strength and patience...

And I say to my brothers, beware of your enemies, particularly
hypocrites who have penetrated your ranks to spread fitna among the
mujahid groups, and if someone repents of this shame refer him to a
court, and you should require corroboration, and avoid judgments on
mere suspicion.

Building confidence among the people in [our] teaching and our jihad
with strength, and not with relationships or organization--this
depends on a return to our purpose. Erring is in the nature of human
beings, and the messenger of God says: "All children of Adam err,
and the best of those who do wrong are those who repent..." And
perhaps those with a sickness in their hearts follow the failings
and oversights of the mujahideen, and amplify them, and perhaps they
attribute them to a worship of jihad under the rubrics of violence
and terror. May God deal with them, because the mujahideen are part
of this ummah, [and some of them do wrong, and if any are accused
let them be brought before a court]. There is no place for fights
between Muslims who are genuinely devoted to the cause of God... All
matters and all disputes are referable to God almighty and to his
messenger, and it is incumbent on clerics, and persons of jihad, and
sheikhs of the tribes, that they exert every effort to conciliate
between differing factions, and it is incumbent on the factions that
they respond to the exhortations for improvement of creditable men
of knowlege.

[Addressing "my brothers the mujahideen of Iraq", Bin Laden says you
have lived up to one of the great obligations, and that is to beat
back a powerful enemy, but "some of you have been slow" in living up
to another equally important obligation, and that is to unify your
ranks, and he cites scripture to drive home the importance of this.
Then he concludes:] My brothers in the mujahid groups: Muslims are
waiting for you to unify under a single banner in order to bring
about the right.... How great is the yearning for that. So hurry and
fulfill this great obligation, may God be merciful to you. And it is
incumbent on those of knowledge and virtue that they exert every
effort to unify the ranks of the mujahideen, and to see that they do
not deviate from the path that leads to that. And I pray that God
strengthen them.

There you have it. As an initial reaction, I think you could say
there could be a strong reading and a weak reading of this. The
strong reading would be that among those BL is urging to get
involved in reconciliation are the likes of Harith Al-Dhari of the
Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq, but for that to be the case,
political reconciliation would have to involve major concessions
from the traditional AQ position, and at least a tacit admission
that whole ISI scheme was a mistake from the beginning. Fans of an
even stronger reading might think of the "hypocrites" who
have "penetrated the ranks" as including the likes of Abu Omar al-
Baghdadi, self-appointed head of the ISI. On the other hand, Bin
Laden did couch his warning against "taassub" as a warning against
not only the clannishness of groups and factions, but of nationalism
too. The weak reading assumes Bin Laden was referring only to
individual killers in the AQ network, and on the organizational
level, only to the inability to deal with other groups, not to any
fundamental mistake built into the whole ISI concept.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


Hamas: Islamic democracy & national liberation

*Sukant Chandan

Conflicts Forum

The Hamas election victory in January 2006 has led to an increased interest in the Islamic Resistance Movement. Hitherto little had been understood of Hamas’ history, political and social strategy and tactics. Rather rumors and cheap prejudice against Hamas have been rampant across the political spectrum in the West. Regrettably, progressives in the West have largely dodged the challenges of internationalism and anti-racism in the context of neo-colonialism’s racist campaign focused on Muslims and Islam, of which the maligning and criminalisation of Hamas is a component. Democrat-minded and progressive people who challenge the criminalisation of Hamas by the West, in so doing confront the Eurocentric idea that legitimacy is only bestowed upon those that the West consider democratic rather then what the people in the given country have chosen. This article seeks to demonstrate that Hamas’ ideology has as much claim to the values and practices of democracy and human rights as those political movements in the West. The difference is that these values are inspired and rooted in their own religious, cultural and social contexts.

The Oslo peace process failed to secure any lasting and just peace for the long-suffering and long-struggling Palestinians, thus creating the conditions in which Hamas came to the forefront of the Palestinian national struggle. Since the start of the Oslo process in the early 1990s Palestinians could see elements in the Fatah leadership living relatively opulent lives, involved in all kinds of moral and financial corruption and arresting and torturing Islamist. In stark contrast Hamas were proving increasingly popular due to their record of dedication to serving the people through their civil institutions, lack of financial corruption and frugal living of their leadership and being morally upright, all in accordance to their Islamic principles. The devastating suicide attacks inside Israel conducted by Hamas’ armed wing – the Al-Qassem Brigades – at a time when the negotiations were proving to be fruitless in deterring Israeli aggression also raised Hamas’ prestige as the defenders of the Palestinian people. This dedication to the people and struggle translated into electoral support. Hamas gained half of all votes in municipal elections by the time of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000.

Hamas withheld from participating in the presidential and national elections due to their opposition to Oslo, as they saw these elections as being an integral part of a process which they perceived as a sell-out to the Palestinian national revolution. Eventually in a historic decision they decided to stand in the 2006 elections, and even more momentous was the fact that they achieved a resounding victory at the polls.

Those interested in a more detailed analysis of Hamas’ election campaign should read Khaled Hroub’s study ‘A New Hamas through its New Documents’. Hroub states that documents issued at the time of the 2006 election campaign revealed that Hamas showed a greater commitment to unity of all Palestinian movements, a desire for a national government and a de-emphasis on Islamic rhetoric. In no way should this be interpreted meaning that Hamas abandoned its objectives of an Islamic state as the best solution for Palestinian society and liberation, but a recognition by Hamas that they must operate in a spirit of democratic tolerance and respect for other secular factions and the Palestinian electorate. Hroub also argues that these developments and documents of have been largely ignored in the West. This study is particularly pertinent at this time of national discord between Hamas and Fatah, with many portraying Hamas as ‘coupists’, Hroub’s study shows on the contrary that Hamas have for some time been calling for strategic unity amongst patriotic Palestinian ranks.

Hamas have their own Islamic strategic objectives, but they promote these by democratic and civil means. They have always maintained that the Palestinian people are the ones who have the final say on these issues by means of democratic elections. Dr Salah Bardawil leader of Hamas in southern Gaza said on this issue in the Arabic language Ashasrq al-Awsat on 30th January 2006: “…Hamas has absolutely never and is absolutely not thinking of the enactment of any laws that impose Islamic teachings and force it upon society.” He said religious teachings are followed when they are accepted by the people “not when they are imposed by terrorizing and frightening”. He explained that the Palestinian people know of the lenient approach of Hamas which has resulted in the movement winning more Christian votes than some of the other secular movements and considered the accusations that Hamas were planning religious coercion to be “a wide propaganda campaign that national, international and Israeli sides are engaged in, in order to disfigure the movements image.”

Hamas’ commitment to democracy is nothing new. Ever since its inception Hamas has expressed its commitment to the democratic will of the people no matter what their decision. The paraplegic leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin who was killed by an Israeli air strike in March 2004 stated back in 1989 in the Arabic language daily Al-Nahar: ”I want a multiparty democratic state, and I want whomever wins those elections to assume power.” When asked by the interviewer if this would still be the case if the Communist Party were to win the elections Sheikh Yassin replied “I would respect the wishes of the Palestinian people even if the Communist Party won.”

Tensions did exist between Hamas and other factions, and one should not cover-up or forget the political and cultural nature of the internal tensions that have always existed within the Palestinian national camp. There have been many cases of violent clashes between Hamas, Fatah and other factions such as the Popular Front and Democratic Front. These tensions are not always a simple case of over-zealous Islamist youth attacking those whose only crime is that they are secularists as the following anecdote illustrates.

A Palestinian political leader of a Marxist faction was often seen drunk in the streets in Gaza during the first Intifada. He was brutally attacked by Hamas youth in the first Intifada which left him hospitalized in a critical condition for weeks. He stated however that he held no grudges against Hamas and even sympathized with their actions as he felt that his behavior was unacceptable at a time when the whole community was making immense sacrifices. This is reminiscent of the scene in the film Battle of Algiers when a group of around twenty children of the Casbah attack the local drunk and expel him from the community. In a time of mass struggle, especially in a society which frowns upon such behavior at the best of times, liberation movements often take harsh although popular measures to ensure social cohesion and unity within the community.

Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, which the West and Israel hoped would do their job of repression against the Palestinian revolutionaries for them, Hamas were being detained, tortured and at times killed by the PA, but they never resorted to revenge attacks. The leadership always held back from the rank and file’s occasional demands of retribution against the PA and Fatah. Hamas has shown a remarkable amount of patience throughout its years of existence, especially as they have been treated as a veritable enemy within by the Palestinian Authority dominated by Fatah. Hamas activists and fighters, along with those of other factions, were routinely jailed and tortured by the PA, although such was their strength and support amongst the masses, Arafat always referred to Hamas as brothers in the struggle and held back from a complete crackdown. A similar situation of repression and arbitrary arrests by Fatah against Hamas activists is taking place today in the West Bank. While Fatah and other opposition forces are generally allowed to demonstrate hold rallies and meetings in Hamas-ruled Gaza, in the Fatah controlled West Bank Fatah has arrested scores of Hamas activists, with Hamas accusing Fatah of torturing many of these detainees.

Back in 2006 after winning the elections Hamas requested Fatah and other factions to join them in a unity government. Hamas leader Mesh’al was quoted on the Palestinian Information Centre website when he addressed Fatah; “Be with us, and don't abandon political partnership. Our hearts are open for you; our hands are extended to you. Let us turn a new page, and work together for the best of our people based on mutual respect and cooperation. We are one people, united in the resistance, and must unite in the political arena as well.”

The English-language Al-Jazeera website reported that newly elected Palestinian Prime Minister and Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah emphasized Hamas’ desire for unity in the Palestinian patriotic camp, again highlighting Hamas’ aspirations of unity with the other largest Palestinian movement; "Hamas ran in the race on the basis of political multiplicity. We don't deal with the political issues based on one party coming into power and another leaving. We want to come and work with each other because the challenges in front of Palestinians are so big and the war with the occupation still going on."

Even now after Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, Hamas continue to call on Fatah in joining them to build a joint Palestinian government and political leadership. Far from reciprocating, Abbas and the group around him have decided to ally closer to Israel and the West in an attempt to strangle and starve the Palestinian people away from Hamas. There is no indication that this ploy is bearing any fruits. While Abbas is widely seen as participating in inappropriately convivial meetings with Olmert while Gaza is labeled a ‘enemy entity’ by Israel, many commentators are remarking that far from gaining support from Palestinians, Abbas will be seen as a Judas to the national cause. One can only guess as to what Abbas thinks he has to gain in pursuing this strategy.

Some who thought Hamas were going to enact an intolerant and stereotypical religious fundamentalist society have been disappointed by events in Gaza. They haven’t enforced a Taliban style regime; on the contrary, their leadership often state that this is not in their line of thinking. Possibly confounding another prejudice against the movement, some may be surprised to know that Hamas women have been developing their political leadership in championing women’s rights in the struggle for liberation and in the context of their Islamic principles.

During the time of the Palestinian elections in January 2006 the Hamas aligned PIC website stated, “The Palestinian woman must assume her real role. It is high time that society appreciated the extent of her sacrifices and jihad.” The article went on to explain that Hamas will give women their role in the Legislative Council be side by side with men in the struggle against the occupation. The article continued: “Hamas will seek to pass legislation to protect women and their rights. Hamas will resist any attempts to marginalize the role of women.”

After Hamas’ election victory The Guardian in 2006 ran two articles, one written by Hamas MP Jameela al-Shanti writing from Beit Hanoun in Gaza, and another written by Chris McGreal in Bureij refugee camp in Gaza. In the article entitled ‘Women MPs vow to change face of HamasAl-Shanti argued passionately of how unarmed women, including herself, faced an Israeli assault on their community which saw the killing of many Palestinian men women and children, including her own sister-in-law, a mother of eight. She said defiantly that her peoples struggle for freedom will not be surrendered for a handful of rice. McGreal wrote about the struggle of Palestinian women in Hamas that sought to change the face of Hamas, reporting that the movement comprised of new women Palestinian leaders who are confident, intelligent and resilient and are challenging sexual discrimination in Palestinian society, discrimination which is not a product of Islam, they contended, but of outmoded traditions.

The writer has met one female Gaza resident who graduated from the Islamic University and whose lecturers included Hamas leaders Abdel Aziz Rantisi (assassinated by hellfire missiles launched from an Israeli Apache helicopter on April 17 2004) and Mahmoud al-Zahar. She was a proficient student and confident student organizer. Hamas students tried to get her to join the Hamas affiliated student organisation, but she refused as she did not share all of Hamas’ views. Recognizing her abilities they nevertheless helped her to set-up a new independent student body with her initiative. This is an anecdotal example of how Hamas is able to act in a democratic manner in developing peoples’ contribution to Palestinian struggle and society.

These positions of Hamas on the role of women in society and struggle also distinguishes the movement from the radical Islamist movements who are affiliated or openly sympathetic to Al-Qaeda who do not expound any social role for women in society and in the struggle for independence, but rather encourage women to withdraw from society. This perhaps can be understood in some instances as being more a result of the influence of tribal culture such as in Afghanistan, and in the context of brutal wars such as in Iraq where women often bear the brunt of the ensuing social calamities which occupation brings. The Palestinians in contrast are an example of a people enduring a decades-long military occupation and protracted civil and armed struggle, in which the women in the Islamic Resistance movements of Hamas, as well as in Islamic Jihad, have a social role in the community, society and in the struggle encouraged by these Islamist political parties.

Hamas’ political ideology and practice is one that shares many principles with Western democratic and progressive ideas. Instead of being inspired by the secular democratic, bourgeois and socialist traditions of the Western context, Hamas is inspired by similar principles in the cultural context and traditions of Arab and Islamic history. One should bear in mind that the political ideologies which are leading the struggle for independence and progress in the Middle East are doing so in the context of more than a century of brutal colonial and neo-colonial oppression, whereas the democratic and left-wing ideas in the West have developed out of a privileged intellectual atmosphere on the basis of a society which has stolen all of the America’s gold, exterminated indigenous populations on two continents, and ‘turned Africa into a warren for the hunting of black skins’.

We in the West must accept that secularism is not going to become a leading political force in the Middle East any time soon, due not least in part as it was brought to the region by colonialists. Arab and Muslim people, and by many more across the world who desire independence from US hegemony, see in the West many social and moral conditions that they don’t want to emulate but which Westerners often see as examples of the superiority of their societies. People around the world are developing their own political identities from their own cultural and political roots. Morales, Chavez, Lebanese Hizbullah and Hamas are a few such examples. In the process of developing these indigenous movements, there is a move away from the uniform cultural and political forms of Western secular and Marxist models. However it must be stressed that there remain universal principles that these liberation ideologies and Western democratic and progressive ideas share, and there exists the possibility of developing mutual respect, solidarity and unity between the two. This dialogue and solidarity is jeopardized by the twin problems and challenges of Eurocentric prejudice and Western oppression of Third World peoples.

*Sukant Chandan is a London-based freelance journalist, researcher and political analyst. He runs two websites: & and can be contacted at