Thursday, 20 March 2008


Beyond Caricatures

By Sukant Chandan*
20 March, 2008

As George Bush announced ‘strategic victories’ in Iraq by helping to
foment the ‘first Arab uprising against Al-Qaeda’, Bin Laden again
stole the limelight by issuing a five minute audio statement in time
for the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and of the birthday
of the Prophet Mohammed. Leaving aside Bush’s dubious claims about
successes in Iraq (which even analysts very close to the US political
elite have been warning against) Bin Laden directs his comments to
the European governments and people. Bin Laden’s Islamist views and
violent struggle may very well be reprehensible to many but Bin Laden
remains one of the most high profile Islamist voices that is
expressing the opinions and feelings of many Muslims across the
world. There are issues raised in Bin Laden’s statement that European
would do well to address, being mainly the problem of European troops
in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq and the high-handed and provocative
way in which Europe deals with Muslim sensitivities. It is incumbent
that Europe does so as these issues impact directly on race-relations
in Europe and Europe’s relationship with the Muslim world, a
relationship which is tense and often violent and will continue to be
so if current attitudes and policies remain unchanged.

In what is becoming increasingly common practice Al-Sahab the media
arm of Al-Qaeda provide their own English subtitles to the statement
so as to make their messages readily understood by Westerners and
Al-Qaeda’s English speaking supporters. The audio message is readily
available to view on many video sharing sites and news outlets on the
internet and shows Bin Laden brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle in a
training camp in Afghanistan from some years ago and.

Although there are many subjects that Bin Laden touches upon in this
latest statement the one issue that the Western media has homed in on
are the comments around the re-publication this year of the
Islamophobic Danish cartoons and Bin Laden’s threat to hit back ‘not
with what you will hear but with what you will see’. While it is true
that Bin Laden sees the atrocities committed by European forces
against Muslim civilians in Afghanistan as ‘paling in comparison’ to
the re-printing of these cartoons in Danish newspapers, there are a
number of other issues that Bin Laden raises that are just as
important but which is given little to no airtime in the mainstream
media. The media’s coverage of Bin Laden’s comments on the
re-publication of the cartoons does not give an accurate
representation of the way in which Bin Laden is presenting the
subject. By focusing only on the Danish cartoons issue in Bin Laden’s
speech, the media continues its culture of caricaturing Muslims;
taking issues out of context, portraying Muslims as people who do not
respect freedom of speech and who are irrationally intolerant.

In fact Bin Laden’s statement puts the cartoon issue into context by
talking of Europe’s military action in Afghanistan which results in
the killing of innocent men, women and children in mud huts; that the
cartoons and the aggression against the ‘weak and oppressed in our
countries’ are together evidence of the ‘continuation of the war’
against Muslims. Bin Laden argues that Europe has violated the rules
of war by killing innocents deliberately and in so doing means
Al-Qaeda too is not tied to any rules. He derides Europe’s lack of
‘etiquette’ in the war between them and points out that amongst the
billion and a half million Muslims across the world, not one of them
has insulted the Prophet Jesus which is a revered prophet in Islam.
These themes of European insult and hypocrisy are the main themes in
this latest statement.

Perhaps unsurprisingly what most of the media seem very reluctant to
report are Bin Laden’s comments about the allegations of bribery from
the Saudis to Britain over British BAE deals to Saudi Arabia, and how
a probe into these allegations was stopped by Blair at the insistence
of the Saudi King. Seen by many as a tenuous excuse for a cover-up
Blair cited security concerns for halting all investigations. A
little over a month ago the British Campaign Against the Arms Trade
told a judicial review in London that the government acted unlawfully
when it told the Fraud Office to stop looking into alleged bribes to
Saudi officials by BAE. Last year the British media reported that
more than $2 billion from BAE ended up in Prince Bandar’s bank
accounts in Washington, money which is said to be linked to an arms
deal negotiated in 1985 worth $43 billion.

The Bin Laden statement points out the hypocrisy of the British and
the Saudis. One the one hand Bin Laden states that while the
‘crownless’ King of Saudi Arabia can stop this British investigation,
he cannot stop the re-publication of the offensive cartoons,
something which Bin Laden argues he is capable of doing. On the other
hand Bin Laden argues that while the Europeans are happy to use the
‘sacredness’ of their freedom of speech to literally add insult to
injury on Muslims, they are not so keen on these freedoms when it
comes to investigating possible corruption. Bin Laden links the
cartoons issue with European hypocrisy and corruption with Saudi
Arabia, a state which has been one of Al-Qaeda’s main targets for
guerrilla operations in recent years.

Bin Laden raises another issue which has hardly seen a murmur of
protest is the appointment of Blair to the Quartet. After Blair’s
infamous role in being the closest and most loyal ally of Israel and
Bush in the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, he
has been appointed by the EU to be the head of the Quartet in dealing
with the Middle East. Bin Laden explains that this is confirmation of
Europe’s attitudes towards Muslims. Bin Laden has raised an important
issue as Blair’s appointment does indeed signal a worrying sign to
Muslims that Europe is failing to put distance between itself and the
US military and propaganda campaign against independence movements of
the Middle East. Soon after the appointment of Blair in June last
year, one of the most respected Arab journalists raised the same
issue. Abdel Bari Atwan editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper
Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote in his opinion piece that the selection of
Blair indicates “once again the insistence of the western states and
the US in particular in provoking the feelings of the Arabs and
Muslims and continuing to adopt wrong policies which led to the
current state of bloody chaos in the Middle East. Blair, whom
President Georges Bush wanted to reward for blindly following his
administration, completely lost his credibility and is considered the
most hated person by Arabs and Muslims after President Bush”.
Furthermore Atwan wrote that rotten eggs were the only befitting
welcome for Blair when visiting Arab capitals, especially Jerusalem.

What seems to be lost in the headlines and selective reports about
this latest statement is that Bin Laden is essentially arguing that
the re-publication of the cartoons are significant in that they are a
sign to Muslims that not only will Europe treat Muslims in
Afghanistan and other countries with military terror, but will also
treat them with extreme insensitivity, failing to recognise that
there are certain ‘moral rules’ even in war that great powers in
history have followed. Bin Laden opens his address “to the
intelligent ones” in Europe, indicating that he is again, like his
previous offer of a security covenant, trying to reach out to those
in Europe who want to distance themselves from the war against Arabs
and Muslim peoples, and thus contribute to a more peaceful world. For
those who ridicule the possibility of people and governments
responding positively to Bin Laden, one can point to the recent
comments by Jonathan Powell, former senior aide to Blair who argues
for keeping lines of communication open with even the most bitter of
enemies: "There's nothing to say to al-Qaida and they've got nothing
to say to us at the moment, but at some stage you're going to have to
come to a political solution as well as a security solution. And that
means you need the ability to talk." Judging from the latest Bin
Laden message, Al-Qaeda have got something to say to us. If the
British could start talks without pre-conditions with hooded
guerrilla fighters from the Irish Republican Army who were blowing up
bombs left, right and centre in English towns, then developing
negotiations towards a peaceful and just agreement with today’s
hooded gunmen who happen to be Muslim and want to expel foreign
troops from their countries is not so much of an unimaginable
prospect as it might appear to some. The prospects for peace are
grim, and one hopes that we do not come to our senses about our
flawed foreign policies only after tragic events such as those in
Madrid in March 2004.


*Sukant Chandan is a consultant for Conflicts Forum, a freelance journalist
and independent publisher. He runs two websites:
Sons of Malcolm, and OURAIM.
He can be contacted at:

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


Pro-Hamas Islamist intellectual, Dr Azzam Tamimi [pictured]
on BBC Hardtalk, January 2008.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Tuesday, 18 March 2008


Former No 10 chief says Irish peace process
showed link to enemy needed

Ian Katz
Saturday, March 15 2008
The Guardian

Western governments must talk to terror groups including al-Qaida and
the Taliban if they hope to secure a long-term halt to their
campaigns of violence, according to the man who for more than a
decade was Tony Blair's most influential aide and adviser.

Jonathan Powell, who served as Blair's chief of staff from 1995 to
2007 and is widely regarded as having been instrumental in
negotiating a settlement in Northern Ireland, said his experience in
the province convinced him that it was essential to keep a line of
communication open even with one's most bitter enemies.

Powell said: "There's nothing to say to al-Qaida and they've got
nothing to say to us at the moment, but at some stage you're going to
have to come to a political solution as well as a security solution.
And that means you need the ability to talk."

In his first major interview, ahead of the publication of his book on
the behind the scenes drama leading to the Northern Ireland peace
deal, Powell also delivered a remarkably candid assessment of the
Blair years, revealing that:

· He did not think Labour had governed boldly enough because it
feared losing power.

· Blair had a tendency to change his mind about things and could be
"a bit of a flippertygibbet".

· Blair had failed in 10 years of government to sell Europe to the

· Relations between the Blair and Brown camps were so toxic that
Gordon Brown did not talk to him for 10 years.

Powell, the most senior member of the Blair circle to survive the
prime minister's full term in office, said that he had realised,
after reviewing government papers and his diaries, that a secret back
channel between the British government and the IRA, first opened in
the 1970s, was one of the key factors that contributed to a peace
deal three decades later.

"It's very difficult for democratic governments to do - talk to a
terrorist movement that's killing your people," he said. "[But] if I
was in government now I would want to have been talking to Hamas, I
would be wanting to communicate with the Taliban; and I would want to
find a channel to al-Qaida."

Powell's remarks will be highly controversial, as all western
governments have insisted any contact with al-Qaida would be immoral
and pointless. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said last night:
"It is inconceivable that HMG would ever seek to reach a mutually
acceptable accommodation with a terrorist organisation like

The government's position on the Taliban and Hamas has been more
nuanced: it did communicate with the Palestinian group for a period
through an MI6 officer, but broke off contact and now insists Hamas
must recognise Israel and end violence before talks can resume. In
December Brown ruled out talking to the Taliban leadership, but said
he would "support [Afghanistan's] President Karzai in his efforts at

Powell, whose book, Great Hatred, Little Room, will be serialised
exclusively in the Guardian from Monday, conceded that the idea of
talking to al-Qaida and the Taliban was fraught with practical
problems: "Who do you talk to? And what do you actually have to talk
about?" [...]

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Islam: The Elephant in Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth

Author: Fouzi Slisli
St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, USA

Critical Middle Eastern Studies Volume 17, Issue 1 March 2008


The motto 'look out for yourself,' the atheist's method of
salvation, is in this context forbidden.1

There is an elephant in The Wretched of the Earth. It is Islam and
its anti-colonial tradition in Algeria. Fanon continuously cites and
exalts this tradition. It even can be argued that Fanon's famous
death sentence on colonial systems was properly minted only out of
his contact with this anti-colonial tradition. But if Fanon cites
this tradition everywhere, he does not reference it anywhere. He
explains the acts of resistance and applauds the culture of Algerian
peasants, but he does not name them for what they were - the
tradition of Islamic resistance to colonialism. Rather, he
attributes the successful resistance to the famous combination of
spontaneity and organization. Marxist revolutionary theory is
credited for providing the organization, and impulsive, anti-
colonial reactions of the Algerian peasantry are said to be the
source of spontaneity. This combination has become the hallmark of
Fanon's theory of revolution and is said to be capable of breaking
the back of colonial systems. In this article, however, I argue that
the peasant spontaneity on which Fanon builds his revolutionary
theory was not that spontaneous after all. A careful reading of the
famous chapter 'Spontaneity: Its Strength and Weakness' will show
that all the examples he gives of peasant spontaneity belong to a
distinctly Islamic anti-colonial tradition that, by the time Fanon
was writing, had been in existence for over a century. It is only by
remaining silent about the Islamic source of this tradition that
Fanon manages to present it as a spontaneous and visceral peasant
outburst. In an Algerian context, the categories of spontaneity and
organization can emerge only if all references to Islam are erased.
Rather than spontaneity and organization, what The Wretched of the
Earth actually describes is the combination of two systems of
organization - one Marxist, the other Islamic.

What Made Algerian Peasants Revolutionary?

Marxist studies of the Algerian revolution have found it difficult
to explain how the peasant class became the central component of the
revolution. By neglecting the proletariat and mobilizing the
peasants instead, the Algerian revolution made a departure from
Marxist orthodoxy and revolutionary theory. Karl Marx himself gave
little revolutionary significance to the peasantry as a class. In
fact, he believed peasants to be conservative and lacking in
revolutionary consciousness. Many anthropologists and other social
scientists often have described the peasantry as an obstacle to
social change and revolution. Scientific socialism, too,
characterized the peasantry as a conservative class. According to
Marie Perinbam, for example, the peasants' attachment to the land
and to village culture prevent them from accepting social change,
let alone revolution.2 'The peasant himself,' said the famous
Vietnamese critic Nguyen Nghe, 'never can have a revolutionary
consciousness. It is the militant coming from the cities who will
have to search out patiently the most talented elements in the poor
peasantry, educate them, organize them, and it is only after a long
period of political work that one can mobilize the peasantry'; and
Fanon, according to Nghe, failed to realize that the peasants were
not inherently revolutionary.3

What made a revolutionary like Fanon glorify a class that
traditional revolutionary theory tended to scorn and saw as
retrograde, tribal and emotional? Critics who defend Fanon note that
the working class constituted a very small minority in French
Algeria, or as Fanon himself put it: 'a tiny portion of the
population, which hardly represents more than 1 per cent [of the
population]' (p. 108). They also note that the proletariat is
usually the most favored class in colonial countries. Unlike the
rest of the natives, the proletariat are integrated into the
colonial economy. Fanon, also, assigns an important role to
the 'deviant nationalists,' the young Algerians who seceded from the
old nationalist party of Messali Hadj and founded the Front de
Libération Nationale (FLN).4 These renegades sought refuge in the
countryside where they found the popular support to launch and
sustain the war of liberation. It was these renegades, according to
critics who defend Fanon, who were in charge of planning the
revolution, educating the peasantry, and channeling their energies.5
The leaders of the FLN, in that sense, had no choice but to work
with the peasantry. Algerian intelligentsia and their parties were
interested only in pursuing assimilation, not independence. The
Communist Party itself believed the future of Algeria to be better
as a province of a socialist France. These facts show that the
peasants were the most receptive Algerians to the idea of resisting
and ejecting colonialism. It is a fact, as Perinbam notes, that most
of the opposition to the French, between 1830 and 1879, came from
rural areas. What was it, though, that made these peasants more
receptive to the call of revolution than the elite and their
political parties?

Like Fanon, Perinbam finds that peasants in colonial countries have
revolutionary qualities. '[U]nlike their Western counterparts,' she
says, 'Third World peasant masses would always answer the call to
revolution.'6 Her evidence, though, is not substantial. Algerian
peasants never turned away fighters who were seeking refuge.
Peasants' generosity and altruism obliged them to accept the hunted
man and protect him without asking questions. Citing Fanon, she says
that the peasant 'never ceased to clutch at a life-style which was
in practice anti-colonial'; that the 'authentic peasant' is an anti-
colonial peasant. She speaks of a warrior and a resistance tradition
that remained alive as late as the 1940s and 1950s.7 Perinbam speaks
of 'something which the peasant dimly felt' and which 'compelled him
to participate in community action.' She mentions 'certain types of
group dynamics,' 'conditioning,' and 'instincts' that made Algerian
peasants react automatically like a pack of wolves against the
colonizer.8 She does not inquire about the nature of this 'dynamic'
or this 'conditioning' which turned the Algerian peasantry into the
backbone of the fiercest anti-colonial war of the modern era.
Neither does she seek to know the nature and characteristics of the
warrior and resistance tradition that was active in rural Algeria
throughout the nineteenth century and remained alive until the 1940s
and 1950s.

It is certainly true that Fanon was not a twentieth-century romantic
returning to the 'agrarian womb.' He was definitely not a Coleridge
or a Wordsworth awestruck with rural lifestyles and noble Bedouins.
Algerian peasantry and agrarian life, too, should not be confused
with its European counterpart. In spite of these stark differences,
Fanon's supporters have been incapable of explaining what made the
Algerian peasantry revolutionary. Interestingly, both critics and
supporters of Fanon point in the same direction. Toward the very end
of her essay, Perinbam mentions in passing the concept of jihad as a
concept that 'Muslim peasants would have grasped immediately.
Perhaps it is no coincidence,' she says, 'that during the 1954-62
war, combatants were known as mujahidin, or those who fight holy
war.'9 Similarly, when the Director of the Institute of
International Workers Movement at the USSR Academy of Science, T.
Timefeev, spoke disparagingly of Fanon and Algeria, he attributed
their deviance from Marxist orthodoxy to the strong influence of

Colonialism, Islam, and the Algerians

The opposition to the French that was active in the Algerian
countryside throughout the nineteenth century and to which Perinbam
refers, the warrior/resistance tradition that she says was alive as
late as the 1940s and 1950s was entirely Islamic in ideology, in
culture, in organization, and even in name. In eighteenth- and
nineteenth-century North Africa, it was the Sufi brotherhoods that
championed resistance to colonization. The Darqawiyya Muslim
brotherhood, for example, mounted a stiff rebellion against Ottoman
rule from 1783 to 1805, and again from 1805 to 1809. It was finally
defeated through a massive Ottoman retaliation and its member tribes
retreated to the Medea region south of Algiers. Between 1822 and
1827, the Tijaniyya brotherhood resisted the payment of taxes to the
Ottomans and fought them militarily in Western Algeria. They were
defeated eventually, and the Ottomans displayed the decapitated head
of their leader, Muhammad al-Kabir, in public as a warning to other
tribes and brotherhoods.11

It also took no more than two years after the French invasion for
the Algerians to develop one of their most formidable anti-colonial
revolts. Led by Emir Abd al-Qadir, this rebellion also had a
distinctly Islamic banner. From 1832 to 1848, Abd al-Qadir managed
to confine the French to three coastal enclaves. In the interior of
Algeria, he built an Islamic state based on the sharia that his
followers widely respected. The mobilizing ideology was the jihad to
free the land from the invaders. Abd al-Qadir was chosen because he
had earned the respect of his co-religionists as a result of the
sincerity of his Islamic convictions and his impeccable moral
credentials. He was learned in Islamic law and earned the support of
the 'ulamas (Islamic scholars). He organized a network of zawiyas (a
school-mosque institution) through the Qadiriyya Sufi brotherhood
and created a complex administration and a more egalitarian society
than had existed under the French or the Ottomans. 'I hope,' he
famously said upon his inauguration on 27 November 1832, 'to prevent
strife among Muslims, to ensure safety on the roads, to protect the
country from invaders, and to establish law and justice for both the
powerful and the weak.' The inauguration ceremony was a literal
reenactment of the one in which the Prophet Mohammad was given
allegiance by his companions in ad 627.12

Many similar anti-colonial rebellions were mobilized in the
nineteenth century throughout north, east and west Africa, and they
all were led by Sufi brotherhoods or Sufi sheikhs. Hadj el-Moqrani,
Cheikh el-Haddad and Cheikh Bouamama were the most notable in
Algeria after Abd al-Qadir. Elsewhere, Abd Allah Hasan fought the
British and the Italians in Somalia; Al Hadj Umar Tall led the jihad
in Guinea, Senegal and Mali; Mohammad al-Sanusi, founder of the
Sanusiya movement in Libya, led the resistance against the Italians;
Usman dan Fodio led the jihad in Nigeria; and Ma' al-'Aynayn in
Morocco. These are only some of the most prominent anti-colonial
leaders. They were all mystics, and most of them expressed their
ideas in writing. They all demonstrated a great deal of intellectual
independence, and developed various ideologies of jihad and diverse
methods of resistance.13 These movements, as Martin Bradford shows,
were not the expression of a stagnating Islam. On the contrary, they
constitute a pattern of renewal and revitalization that is
distinctly Islamic and that can be traced back to the practices of
the Prophet Mohammad.

Even after these movements were defeated, Islamic ideology was still
able to mobilize anti-colonial resistance and rebellions. The reason
is simply that Islam, unlike other religions, escapes
institutionalization. Closeness to power compromises the
independence of Islamic scholars. When that happens, the masses
always look for more independent scholars to follow. This is evident
even today when governments like those of Saudi Arabia or Egypt try
to create an 'official' Islam to de-legitimize Islamic opposition.
Scholars who participate in these programs always run the risk of
finding their rulings and judgments questioned by the populace. In
moments like these, even a minor religious scholar can cultivate and
unleash a widespread rebellion. After pacifying Sufi brotherhoods,
the French and the British turned them into collaborating
institutions, hoping to foster an 'official' Islam that would
promote European colonization. In Algeria, the French created what
they called 'administrative mosques' and started organizing
pilgrimages to Mecca. They instituted civil servant cadis (judges)
who ruled by a new legal code, a 'bastard product of Muslim law and
French jurisprudence.14' There is no doubt, wrote E. Doutté in 1900,
that France can use the marabouts (Sufi brotherhoods) to its

In purely administrative matters, the marabouts have been of service
to us: we have seen them order their followers, in the name of God
and at the behest of an administrator of a commune mixte, to follow
an administrative ruling.15

The pacification of Sufi brotherhoods, though, only triggered the
Islamic Reform movement led by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Mohammed
Abduh. The latter denounced the intellectual complacencies of the
Sufi brotherhoods, developed modernizing school systems, and
promoted resistance to colonialism. By the 1930s, reformist
movements were a force to reckon with in almost every Islamic
country. In Algeria, it was led by the Association of Islamic
Scholars ('ulemas). It is no exaggeration to say that 'the most
important political development in the first half of the twentieth
century in Algeria' was the cultural and educational work that the
Association of Islamic Scholars undertook:

Without the Association's work in education and culture, the
Algerian movement for independence in the 1950's would have had to
have been postponed. Without their effort to establish a cultural
basis for Algerian nationalism, the Algerian revolution would never
have been successful.16

From the Sufis of the nineteenth century to the Reformists of the
twentieth, an important characteristic of Islamic history becomes
obvious. In moments of ideological conservatism, cultural and
religious decay, or foreign invasions, Islamic history shows the
emergence of movements that promote cultural and political
revitalization.17 These were not religious movements. They were
political movements that Islamic mandates legitimize in moments of
crises or threats. Historians attest that their leaders were
remarkable politicians and diplomats, pragmatic statesmen, shrewd
military strategists, and even original writers and poets. Abd al-
Qadir, says Danziger, was 'a pragmatic Islamic resistance leader,
and a state builder.'18 The state that he founded and ran was not a
religious state. It was an efficient bureaucracy run by an educated
elite, and the French adopted it wholesale after defeating him.19
Pessah Shinar describes him as 'a combination of sharif, Arab knight
and Muslim scholar, a poet, idealist and romantic; an ascetic and
(presumably) mystic by inclination, and a charismatic war leader, a
statesman and an administrator (albeit an able and original one) by
necessity.'20 Islamic political history abounds with such leaders,
who become legitimized automatically in times of palpable injustice,
popular discontent, foreign occupations, or even natural disasters.

Contrary to Western conceptions, then, Algerian peasants did not
rebel against French colonization out of instinctive, subconscious
reflex mechanisms, as would a pack of wolves. On the contrary,
Islam's social and political mandates provided an authentic anti-
colonial ideology capable of mobilizing the peasant as well as the
urban masses. It is true that Islam catalyzed these rebellions and
Islamic institutions organized them, but their goals were always
political and concrete. Contrary to Western conceptions, also,
Algerian peasants were not illiterate. According to colonial
scholarship, the rate of illiteracy in Algeria when the French
arrived in the 1830s was lower than that of France.21 Abd al-Qadir's
zawiyas, like all Sufi zawiyas, were centers of literacy,
jurisprudence, theology, mathematics, geography, and astronomy. They
were mosques, but they were also centers of learning with scholars
from all over the Arab world visiting and lecturing.

Finally, rather than having an aversion to change, Algerian peasants
(Muslims) made the legitimacy of their own existence dependent on
change - the ejection of the occupier from the land. As Fanon notes,
throughout the years when the nationalist parties were pursuing
assimilation and civil rights within a French republic,
the 'peasants' knew in their heart of hearts that nothing short of
the total ejection of the occupiers could create legitimacy in their
world. Rather than primitive peasant culture, though, it was their
Islamic faith that made it impossible for the Algerians ever to
accommodate unjust colonialism in their world. When Messali Hadj
turned the demonstration in support of the Blum-Violette reforms, on
2 August 1936, into the first large Algerian demonstration in favor
of independence, he invoked the Qu'ran and Islam.22

Islam in The Wretched of the Earth

Fanon was crystal clear in his condemnation of Christianity. He
famously compared Christianity in the colonies to the pesticide
DDT. 'The church in the colonies,' he says, 'is the white people's
Church, the foreigner's Church. She does not call the native to
God's ways but to the ways of the white man, of the master, of the
oppressor. And as we know, in this matter many are called but few
chosen' (p. 42). With regard to Islam, though, Fanon's attitude was
not so clear. On the one hand, he was a secular revolutionary, and
he perceived the Algerian revolution as a secular, peasant, anti-
colonial revolt. However, he did edit the FLN's organ, El-Moudjahid.
The people he passionately supported in that uprising were called
moujahidin and were engaged in jihad. Fanon's negative attitude
toward Christianity never extended to Islam. In fact, by editing El-
Moudjahid and by championing a revolution that was fundamentally a
jihad, one can say that he essentially endorsed the jihad against
the colonizer. He did express concerns to Ali Shariati, who would
become the main intellectual force behind the Islamic Revolution in
Iran, that religious and sectarian spirits might become an obstacle
to Third World unification. But he also encouraged Shariati to
exploit the immense social and intellectual resources of Islam for
the emancipation of the masses and the creation of a new and
egalitarian society. 'Breathe this spirit,' he told Shariati in a
letter from El-Moujahid's office in Tunis, 'into the body of the
Muslim Orient.23' In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon is also aware
of the limitations of atheist ideologies in grasping the Algerian
situation: 'the atheist method of salvation in this context,' he
says, 'is forbidden' (p. 47).

But Fanon's attitude toward Islam is even more complicated. The
careful reader can discern that he makes constant references to
Islam without acknowledgement. He says, for example that 'the memory
of the anti-colonial period is very much alive in the villages.' Did
he know that Algeria's anti-colonial tradition in the nineteenth and
early twentieth century was mobilized and organized by Islamic Sufi
brotherhoods in the name of jihad against occupation? He says that
the children of the douars (villages) knew already at 12 or 13 years
of age 'the names of the old men who were in the old rising' (p.
112). Who were these old men, one would like to ask? Did Fanon know
he was referring to Emir Abd al-Qadir, to Hadj el-Moqrani, to Cheikh
el-Haddad, to Cheikh Bouamama and their tradition of jihad? He says
that 'country people as a whole remained disciplined and altruistic'
(p. 112). He says the peasant 'never stopped clutching to a way of
life which was in practice anti-colonial' (p. 138), that 'country
people had more or less kept their individuality free from colonial
imposition' (ibid.). What was this way of life, one would like to
ask, that was in practice anti-colonial?

The total submission that France demanded of its colonial subjects
in Algeria, described eloquently by Fanon, constituted an affront to
the foundation of Islam. Absolute submission in Islam should not be
given to anything or anyone except God. That would be a violation of
the first and only article of faith in Islam - the shahada. The
entire thrust of the mission civilizatrice consisted of degrading
Islam as a primitive religion and its language, which was deemed
incomprehensible, was labeled sharabia.24 By simply practicing his
religion and speaking Arabic, the Algerian was defying the mission
civilizatrice. It is no coincidence that schools where the Arabic
language and its literature primarily were taught constituted the
central nerve of Sufi rebellions. It is also no coincidence that the
Algerian insurrection of the 1950s would have been inconceivable
without the educational groundwork that the Association of Muslim
Scholars did in the 1930s. The 'anti-colonial lifestyle' that Fanon
says Algerian peasants always clutched was Islamic. The heroes and
the names of this anti-colonial tradition are Islamic in
inspiration, in practice and in organization. These facts are well
known in the cultures of North Africa. They are also well known in
colonial history. Why did Fanon call this anti-colonial culture and
tradition a peasant culture instead of what is was: a Muslim culture?

Algerian militants who knew Fanon recall that he was astonished to
discover that Algerian resistance had been a prominent feature of
Algerian life before 1954.25 Fanon's late discovery of this
tradition could explain its partial treatment in The Wretched of the
Earth. In his letter to Shariati, however, Fanon seemed aware of
what he called 'the work of cultural resistance' that the
Association of Islamic Scholars was doing throughout the first half
of the twentieth century. Although he did not agree with the Islamic
Scholars entirely, he told Shariati that he respected 'their
efficient contribution in the struggle against French cultural
colonialism.'26 While it is clear from this letter that Fanon was
aware of the Association's work in the twentieth century, this
knowledge hardly ever gets a right of citation in his publications
on Algeria. To be more precise, the actual work of the Association
is cited extensively in Fanon's work, but it is always stripped of
its Islamic references and never attributed to the Association. Even
when he describes insurgency tactics that used traditional Islamic
symbols, like the veil in 'L'Algérie se dévoile' [Algeria unveils
itself], Fanon is silent on the Islamic source of these tactics and
does not recognize the part that the Association of Muslim Scholars
played in them.27 Thus, while Fanon relies heavily on this Islamic
tradition to argue that the peasants had an authentic anti-colonial
tradition, he also seems to weed out all its Islamic references. Was
he ignorant of this Islamic tradition or did he choose to ignore it?

Even when he talks about the Algerians' religion, he mentions 'an
atmosphere of solemnity,' a 'veritable collective ecstasy,' but he
does not name it for what it is: Islam. He goes out of his way to
borrow words from other religious traditions like 'confraternity'
or 'mystical body of belief.' He even describes the spiritual
atmosphere of Algerian villages as that of a church: 'All this is
evocative of a confraternity, a church, and a mystical body of
belief at one and the same time' (pp. 132-133). Curiously, though,
Fanon does not name this spiritual tradition Islam, even once. He
even says that the 'mass of the peasantry continue to revere their
religious leaders who are descendent of ancient families' (p. 136),
but he does not name this culture, these people, these practices,
and these religious leaders for what they were: Muslims.

From the start of the book, in its very title, Fanon clearly is
determined to talk about the 'wretched of the earth.' His passion
for their cause and his full engagement are both concrete and
remarkable. By failing to name them as Muslims and their anti-
colonial culture as Islamic, however, Fanon has no choice but to
attribute that anti-colonial culture to tribalism and primitivism.
He attributes their opposition to colonialism simply to a
peasant, 'noble savage' culture. Sometimes, under noticeable
surrealist influence, he even degenerates into an orientalism
reminiscent of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The Algerian
peasant, he says, 'defends his tradition stubbornly' (p. 111).
The 'wretched of the earth' are comparable to 'hordes of rats' who
act when moved by the primordial spirits of their environments - the
bush, the jungle, or the desert (p. 130). The Algerians are,
ultimately, 'the pimps, the hooligans, the unemployed, and the petty
criminals' who 'throw themselves into the struggle for liberation
like stout working men,' but they have to be 'urged from behind'
first (p. 130).

The fact is that Fanon's distinction between peasants and city-
dwellers in Algeria is to some extent inaccurate. The anti-colonial
culture to which he refers was not restricted to the countryside.
The Islamic Association of Scholars was even more active in the
cities, especially Algiers, Oran and Constantine, than in the
countryside. By the 1930s, however, their educational and cultural
associations had penetrated the countryside, the mountainous areas,
and the Berber regions, and were smashing the then complacent and
collaborationist culture of the Sufi brotherhoods.28 By 1935, and
despite French obstructions, the Association had established 70
elementary schools and three seminaries. By 1947 the Association
increased the number of its elementary schools to 90, and by 1955 it
had established 181 schools, 50 seminaries, and 441 educational
centers with branches all over Algeria as well as in Paris and
Cairo.29 The Association also boasted a number of newspapers and
magazines like al-Muntaqid and al-Shihab. Its famous motto - 'Islam
is my religion, Arabic is my language, Algeria is my country' -
became the rallying cry of the armed insurrection of 1954. This can
hardly be the work that visceral peasant energy alone could
accomplish, and these are hardly the people who can be compared, as
Fanon does, to packs of wolves or 'hordes of rats' (p. 130). The
educational and cultural effort of the Association of Muslim
Scholars was, as John Damis and others have noted, 'a necessary
psychological precondition for the Algerian revolution.' This
intellectual revolt (thawra fikriya), as the Algerians call
it, 'paved the way for the armed insurrection.'30

It might no longer be possible to ascertain for sure whether Fanon
was truly ignorant of the Islamic anti-colonial tradition of
Algeria, or whether he simply chose to ignore it. One thing is sure,
however: Fanon's description of the Algerians' anti-colonial
ideology as 'spontaneous' and primitive is possible only if one
ignores Islam and its culture based on the Arabic language and
literature. Without that exclusion, Fanon's combination of
spontaneity and organization would have had to be substituted for a
combination of two systems of organization: one Islamic, with its
schools, mosques, its intelligentsia, its language, its literature
and its anti-colonial ideology, and the other Western, Marxist, and
revolutionary. What The Wretched of the Earth presents, instead, is
the famous combination of spontaneity and organization. The first is
presented as the illiterate culture of the majority peasant
population, while the second is presented as a Marxist revolutionary
culture introduced by the small Westernized elite.

Algerians who knew Fanon and fought alongside him have highlighted
his lack of knowledge about Islam.31 They simply wanted to stress
that there were other anti-colonial ideas in Algeria besides those
of Fanon. Western critics tend to accuse these Algerians of
being 'ungrateful' to Fanon, or of trying to appease the post-
independence regime.32 While Fanon contributed greatly in explaining
the revolution to a Western readership in a language and a
terminology that they understood, it certainly would be preposterous
to assume that Algerians had to wait for Fanon to teach them the
ABCs of anti-colonialism. It would be equally preposterous to claim
that he had any decisive impact on the course of that revolution.
The war of liberation in Algeria was mobilized, organized, and
fought following patterns of rebellion and insurgency that had been
simmering there since the days of Emir Abd al-Qadir. Fanon himself,
as shown above, cites this tradition extensively and praises it
without referencing it. His failure to reference it is
understandable given his ignorance of Islam in Algeria. It is also
understandable given that he was addressing a Western, atheist
readership that had no epistemological frame of reference to
understand the role of a non-Western religion in wars of national
liberation. Fanon simply used a revolutionary terminology familiar
to Western readers and cleansed from his content all references to

More importantly, the foundation of The Wretched of the Earth is the
combination of spontaneity and organization. Bringing in Islam would
have upset this theoretical framework. Instead of a combination of
spontaneity and organization, Fanon would have been forced to look
at a combination of two systems of organization - one that was
Islamic, literate, and indigenous with its own anti-colonial
ideology and modes of organization through schools and mosques and
its own intelligentsia, and the other Western, Marxist, atheist, and
revolutionary. Fanon would have been mired in theoretical problems
whose existence academia hadn't even recognized at that time.
Moreover, Fanon was waging a people's war, and The Wretched of the
Earth has to be understood as a contribution to the military effort.
In the midst of a people's war, one does not always have the time or
the luxury to scrutinize the theoretical foundation of everything
that is written. Finally, Fanon was also passionate about making the
Algerian revolution applicable to other Third World countries,
especially black Africa. One would not be surprised if he excluded
aspects that he thought were specific to Algeria from his discourse
(like Islam) simply to make the lessons of that war as relevant as
possible to other African countries.

These considerations provide ample justifications for why Fanon did
not reference the Islamic tradition on which he heavily relies in
The Wretched of the Earth. His book openly aims to be a contribution
to the Algerian war effort in its final years. Under such
conditions, it would be safe to say that Fanon simply did the best
he could with the resources and the knowledge he had at his

To a large extent, though, Fanon's partial perspective still informs
Western discussions of the Algerian revolution. If Fanon recognizes
no other epistemology in Algeria besides Western Marxist ideology,
Western scholarship has made no effort to find one either. Fanon is
considered in the West to be the chief ideologist of the Algerian
revolution. Of the small camp of Westernized elite, his account has
been considered most representative. His portrayal of the Islamic
anti-colonial culture of Algeria as primal, illiterate, and
instinctive still goes unchallenged. This attitude hardly reflects
the fact that this culture had a written language, a literature, an
organized and text-based religion, and an effective school system
that could spread with minimum resources. It also had newspapers,
magazines, cultural centers, an Arabophone intelligentsia, and an
ideology that strongly encourages social action to effect change.
The fact that the few Algerian voices that have been included in
this post-independence debate have almost all been secular (if not
atheist) does not help, either.

If Fanon's silence is ethically and operationally understandable,
the continuous refusal to recognize the central contribution of the
Islamic anti-colonial tradition to all the rebellions and
insurrections in Algeria is not. This attitude, one might add,
concurs with France's mission civilizatrice that Islam in Algeria is
an archaic and pre-modern tradition, and that civilization
(understood to be exclusively a Western affair) should extinguish
it. The fact is that it hasn't. While scholarship persists in seeing
the world exclusively through its 'atheist method of salvation,'
that Islamic anti-colonial tradition is again clearly at work today
in Palestine, in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other
Muslim lands. In the same way that it was incomprehensible then, it
is still incomprehensible today.

The Frantz Fanon of The Wretched of the Earth is himself a product
of Algeria's Islamic anti-colonial tradition. The extent to which he
draws on this tradition makes one wonder whether his intransigence
to colonialism was minted coherently only out of his contact with
this tradition. Without the physical ejection of the colonizer, he
says, 'there is nothing but a fancy-dress parade and the blare of
the trumpets. There is nothing but a minimum of readaptation, a few
reforms at the top, a flag waving' (p. 147). How much was the
Islamic anti-colonial tradition of Algeria behind Fanon's legendary
death warrant (or should we say fatwa?) on colonial systems?

1. Aron, R. (1962) Les Origines de la guerre d'Algérie Fayard ,
2. Bradford, M. (1976) Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth Century
Africa Cambridge University Press , New York
3. Buss, R. (1970) Wary Partners: The Soviet Union and Arab
Socialism Institute for Strategic Studies , London
4. O'Brien, D. Cruise (1967) Towards an 'Islamic policy' in French
West Africa, 1854-1914. Journal of African History 8:2 , pp. 303-
5. Damis, J. (1974) The free-school phenomenon: the cases of Tunisia
and Algeria. International Journal of Middle East Studies 5:4 , pp.
6. Danziger, R. (1977) Abd al-Qadir and the Algerians Holmes &
Meier , New York and London
7. Mili, M. el (1971) The Algerian revolution and Fanon. al Thaqafag
pp. 40-54.
8. Mili, M. el (1971) The Algerian roots of Fanon's thought. al
Thaqafa pp. 22-45.
9. Mili, M. el (1971) Fanon and Western thought. al Thaqafa pp. 10-
10. (Emerit, M. ed.) (1951) L'Algérie a l'époque d'abd-El-Kader
Edition Larose , Paris
11. Fanon, F. (1982) L'Algérie se dévoile,. Sociologie d'une
révolution pp. 16-48. Maspero , Paris
12. Fanon, F. (1963) The Wretched of the Earth Grove Press , New
13. Gendzier, I. (1973) Frantz Fanon: A Critical Study Pantheon
Books , New York
14. Laremont, R. R. (2000) Islam and the Politics of Resistance in
Algeria 1783-1992 Africa World Press , Trenton, NJ
15. Chatelier, A. Le (1910) Politique Musulmane. Revue du Monde
Musulman XII:September , pp. 1-165.
16. Nguyen, Nghe (1963) Frantz Fanon et les problèmes de
l'indépendance. La Pensée no. 107:February , p. 29.
17. Perinbam, B. M. (1973) Fanon and the revolutionary peasantry -
the Algerian case. Journal of Modern African Studies 11:3 , pp. 427-
18. Revere, R. (1973) Revolutionary ideology in Algeria. Polity
5:4 , pp. 477-488.
19. - Shariati, Sarah (2004) Le Fanon connu de nous. Ghorba, 14
December, available at <> (accessed 20 February 2007).
20. Shinar, P. (1965) Abd al-Qadir and Abd al-Krim: religious
influences on their thought and action. Asian and African Studies
1 , pp. 139-174.
21. Sivan, E. (1979) Colonialism and popular culture in Algeria.
Journal of Contemporary History 14:1 , pp. 21-53.
1 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press,
1963), p. 47. All subsequent references to this edition will be
given in the text.

2 B. Marie Perinbam, 'Fanon and the revolutionary peasantry - the
Algerian case,' Journal of Modern African Studies, 11(3) (1973), p.

3 Nguyen Nghe, 'Frantz Fanon et les problèmes de l'indépendance,' La
Pensée, no. 107 (February 1963), p. 29.

4 Messali Hadj's party was the PPA-MTLD (Party of the Algerian
People-Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties). A splinter
group founded the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale), which
eventually led and won the revolution.

5 Irene Gendzier, Frantz Fanon: A Critical Study (New York: Pantheon
Books, 1973), p. 209.

6 Perinbam, 'Fanon and the revolutionary peasantry,' p. 432.

7 Perinbam, 'Fanon and the revolutionary peasantry, p. 436.

8 Perinbam, 'Fanon and the revolutionary peasantry, p. 433.

9 Perinbam, 'Fanon and the revolutionary peasantry, p. 442.

10 See Gendzier, Frantz Fanon, p. 215; see also Robin Buss, Wary
Partners: The Soviet Union and Arab Socialism, Adelphi Papers, no.
73 (London: Institute for Strategic Studies, 1970), p. 22.

11 See Ricardo René Laremont, Islam and the Politics of Resistance
in Algeria 1783-1992 (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2000), pp. 27-

12 For an extensive study, see Raphael Danziger, Abd al-Qadir and
the Algerians (New York and London: Holmes & Meier, 1977).

13 See especially Martin Bradford, Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth
Century Africa, African Studies Series, 18 (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1976).

14 A. Le Chatelier, 'Politique Musulmane,' Revue du Monde Musulman,
XII (September 1910), p. 80.

15 E. Doutté, Les Marabouts (Paris: Leroux, 1900), p. 118, quoted
here from Donal Cruse O'Brien, 'Towards an "Islamic policy" in
French West Africa, 1854-1914,' Journal of African History, 8(2)
(1967), pp. 306-307.

16 Laremont, Islam and the Politics of Resistance, p. 80.

17 This is one of the main conclusions, for example, of Martin
Bradford, Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth Century Africa.

18 Danziger, Abd al-Qadir and the Algerians, p. 218.

19 'Perhaps the greatest tribute to the effectiveness of Abd al-
Qadir's governmental system was paid by his French enemiesWith few
modifications, this replica of Abd al-Qadir's administration was
maintained in Algeria's interior until the elimination of military
rule after the suppression of Muqrani's insurrection in 1871.'
Danziger, Abd al-Qadir and the Algerians, pp. 215-216.

20 Pessah Shinar, 'Abd al-Qadir and Abd al-Krim: religious
influences on their thought and action,' Asian and African Studies,
1, p. 173.

21 France's rate of illiteracy in the 1830s was estimated to be
higher than 40 percent; see Marcel Emerit (Ed.), L'Algérie a
l'époque d'abd-El-Kader (Paris: Edition Larose, 1951), p. 199.

22 France's rate of illiteracy in the 1830s was estimated to be
higher than 40 percent; see Marcel Emerit (Ed.), L'Algérie a
l'époque d'abd-El-Kader (Paris: Edition Larose, 1951), p. 71. Part
of Messali Hadj's speech is quoted in Robert Aron, Les Origines de
la guerre d'Algérie (Paris: Fayard, 1962), p. 70.

23 Quoted in Sarah Shariati, 'Le Fanon connu de nous,' Ghorba, 14
December 2004, available at <> (accessed 20 February 2007).

24 The foremost single element the French used to develop Muslim
stereotypes of backwardness was the Arabic language. Sharabia
remains a French word today denoting any language perceived to
be 'incomprehensible.' See Emanuel Sivan, 'Colonialism and popular
culture in Algeria,' Journal of Contemporary History, 14(1) (1979),
p. 32.

25 Gendzier, Frantz Fanon, p. 247.

26 Quoted in Shariati, 'Le Fanon connu de nous.'

27 Frantz Fanon, 'L'Algérie se dévoile,' in Sociologie d'une
révolution (Paris: Maspero, 1982), pp. 16-48. Among the literature
surveyed for this paper, only Robert Revere recognizes this fact. In
a footnote, he says: 'Fanon fails to recognize the reform effort of
the Society of Algerian 'Ulema and their work of secularization of
education, an important step in the reawakening of Algerian
nationalism in the 1930s and 1940s which led to the revolution
itself'; see Robert Revere, 'Revolutionary ideology in Algeria,'
Polity, 5(4) (1973), p. 483, n. 22.

28 John Damis, 'The free-school phenomenon: the cases of Tunisia and
Algeria,' International Journal of Middle East Studies, 5(4) (1974),
p. 445.

29 Laremont, Islam and the Politics of Resistance, p. 84.

30 Damis, 'The free-school phenomenon,' p. 449.

31 See especially the three articles by Mohamed el Mili: 'Fanon and
Western thought,' al Thaqafa (March 1971), pp. 10-25; 'The Algerian
revolution and Fanon,' al Thaqafa (May 1971), pp. 40-54; and 'The
Algerian roots of Fanon's thought,' al Thaqafa (November 1971), pp.

32 These accusations are made in Irene Gendzier, Frantz Fanon, pp.
231-260. The fact that the study of Fanon's text continues to happen
in the abstract with no real reference to the social, political, and
religious context of Algeria at the time of the revolution is proof
that the indigenous Algerian perspective still does not have a right
of citation in what has become a decidedly Western debate

Monday, 10 March 2008


Looking to the Levant: Internationalizing the Iraqi Insurgency

Volume 6, Issue 5 (March 7, 2008)

By Pascale Combelles Siegel

A number of Iraqi insurgents are increasingly turning their
guns outward—rhetorically at least—toward the Levant
(Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and Lebanon) in
general and Israel in particular. It is no secret that Osama bin
Laden has renewed calls for the destruction of Israel and the
liberation of Palestine, and has also stepped up efforts to set up
bases of operations around the Levant in its attempt to restore the
Caliphate over every former territory of Islam, from Spain to Iraq.
At a time when al-Qaeda is enhancing its Israeli-Palestinian
agit-prop and is developing networks in Lebanon and Palestine, the
rhetoric of Iraqi insurgents—whether involuntarily or by design—might
play into the hands of al-Qaeda’s master plan for the region.

Iraq a Cornerstone for al-Qaeda’s Expansion Toward the Levant

Since 2003, Iraq has become the main front of al-Qaeda’s war against
the West. Iraq has served as a recruiting poster for would-be jihadis
from all over the world and as a training ground for thousands of
foreign and Iraqi fighters. Maybe more importantly, it appears clear
now that al-Qaeda has skillfully exploited the situation in Iraq to
establish a base in the heart of the Middle East—something it had
never accomplished before—a conveniently located stepping-stone from
which to launch the liberation of Jerusalem through the infiltration
of operators into the Levant and the spread of its brand of
Salafist-jihadist ideology.

In his July 2006 commentary on Israel’s war against Lebanon, al-Qaeda
ideologist Ayman al-Zawahiri said:

By Iraq being near Palestine it is an advantage; therefore the
Muslims should support its mujahideen until an Islamic Emirate of
jihad is established there. Subsequently it would transfer the jihad
to the borders of Palestine with the aid of Allah, then the
mujahideen in and out of Palestine would unite and the greatest
conquest [i.e. that of Israel] would be accomplished [1].

In May 2007, al-Zawahiri reinforced the same point:

The jihad in Iraq today, by the grace of Allah, is moving from the
stage of defeat of the Crusader invaders and their traitorous
underlings to the stage of consolidating a mujahid Islamic Emirate
which will liberate the homelands of Islam, protect the sacred things
of the Muslims, implement the rules of the sharia, give the weak and
oppressed their rights back, and raise the banner of jihad as it
makes its way through a rugged path of sacrifice and giving toward
the environs of Jerusalem, with Allah’s permission [2].

Al-Qaeda in Iraq Calls for Jihad in Palestine

Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) logically appears to be al-Qaeda’s greatest
ally in its plan to subvert the Levant. The group, echoing al-Qaeda’s
leaders and ideologues, has consistently claimed the suffering of the
Palestinians epitomizes the suffering of Muslims around the world,
treating their plight as a symbol of the so-called Western war on
Islam. Consequently, AQI has made it clear that its enterprise in
Iraq was one of the struggles that will lead to the liberation of
Jerusalem. In an April 2006 speech, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi declared:
“In Iraq we are very close to al-Aqsa Mosque of the Messenger of
Allah, so we fight in Iraq and our eyes are on Jerusalem which can
only be restored by the guiding Quran and sword of victory” [3].

More importantly, AQI’s development in Iraq seemed to follow the path
outlined by al-Qaeda’s leaders. After al-Zawahiri announced that the
mujahideen should unify and create an emirate in Iraq, AQI formed the
Islamic State of Iraq, an emirate designed to unify all the
mujahideen fighting in Iraq under the banner of Islam [4]. When
al-Zawahiri called on Iraq to become a consolidating base from which
to launch the liberation of all Muslim lands last May, the leader of
the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, made similar
references while emphasizing the duty of Iraqi Muslims to join the
ranks of the mujahideen and reject the Coalition’s engagement
mechanisms—such as Awakening Councils, political parties and local
concerned citizen groups [5].

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq in Collusion

The rhetorical and operational collusion between the two plans has
become even more apparent in recent months. First, al-Zawahiri has
repeatedly condemned the Palestinian factions—Fatah and Hamas—for
either endorsing negotiations to achieve a two-state solution (Fatah)
or for engaging in the democratic political process (Hamas).
Al-Zawahiri contends that these actions are a betrayal of jihad and
true Islamic tenets. Second, Osama bin Laden reminded his supporters:

I reassure my people in Palestine specifically that we will expand
our jihad, Allah willing, and will not acknowledge the Sykes-Picot
border, nor the rulers installed by colonialism… if [America] and its
agents are defeated in Iraq, then hopefully not much will remain
before the mujahideen from Baghdad, Anbar, Mosul, Diyala and Salah
al-Din will go to liberate Hittin [6] for us—Allah willing—and we
will not acknowledge the Jewish state's existence on one inch of
Palestinian land like all the Arab rulers did when they accepted the
Riyadh initiative years ago.

During remarks on the Israeli blockade of Gaza, ISI leader
al-Baghdadi expressed views perfectly congruent with al-Qaeda’s
leadership: “Our conversation today is our view of terminating the
struggle with the Jews in the Land of Congregation and Resurrection
[Palestine].” According to Baghdadi, because Israel is a religious
state and because there is “no difference between Judaism and
Zionism,” Israel has no claim to statehood. Like al-Zawahiri, he
heavily criticizes Fatah and the secularist-nationalist Palestinian
leadership who he says has achieved nothing after years of lying.
Like al-Zawahiri, he repudiates Hamas as betraying Islam and the
ummah (Islamic community) [7].

Maybe more worrisome, anecdotal evidence suggests that both al-Qaeda
and the ISI have moved beyond the motivational phase and into a more
operational one. A document calling for the implementation of a
three-year plan to move from Iraq into the Levant recently surfaced
on the web. The document calls for the establishment of
Salafist-jihadist cells in Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon
(, January 28). Meanwhile, al-Baghdadi is recommending
actions that fit within that plan. In particular, he calls for the
creation of a Salafist creed and belief group in Palestine and
advises the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades—Hamas’ military wing—to
secede from Hamas and act on its own according to sharia principles.
Finally, U.S. military commanders have recently noticed that several
ISI leaders are leaving Iraq in response to the increased U.S.
military pressure there (AFP, February 11). Although their
whereabouts and future plans remain unknown, their escape from Iraq
at a time when al-Qaeda/AQI have established the liberation of
Jerusalem as their ultimate goal begs the question of their potential
role in making this happen.

Are Nationalist and Islamist Insurgents Joining the International

At the same time, non-al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents in Iraq have
increasingly commented on international issues and affairs as they
relate to Islam or the Palestinians. In effect, these groups are
using selected events to show that Islam is under existential attack
and/or that the West does not care about Muslim suffering. For
example, the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI), a large insurgent group
which has cooperated temporarily with the United States on the ground
in Iraq, recently delivered a vitriolic indictment of Western
policies in the Middle East, accusing the United States of seeking to
control the economic wealth of Muslims, facilitating Western cultural
domination and enabling the establishment of a “Greater Israel” that
would include Iraq [8]. A larger alliance that includes the IAI along
with more nationalistic movements—such as the Islamic Front of the
Iraqi Resistance and the Mujahideen Army—the Political Council of the
Iraqi Resistance (PCIR) condemned Denmark for the re-publication of
cartoons that seemed to equate the Prophet with terrorism. The group
says that retaliatory strikes are to be expected [9]. Central to
al-Qaeda’s strategy, such stories reinforce the idea that the West in
general and the United States in particular are seeking to dominate
and subjugate the Islamic world.

The continuously stalled peace process between Israel and the
Palestinians as well as Israel’s deadly incursions into Gaza and the
month-long Israeli blockade all figure prominently in the nationalist
and Islamist insurgents’ propaganda. In late January, the Reformation
and Jihad Front, Hamas-Iraq and the Islamic Front for the Iraqi
Resistance (JAMI) strongly condemned the Israeli blockade of Gaza
[10]. Meanwhile, the Jihad and Change Front (JACF), along with
al-Furqan Army, the Conquering Army, the Brigades of Martyrs in Iraq
and the Army of Ansar al-Mujahideen issued a statement of support to
the Palestinians, claiming that they “will strike the occupier on our
land [i.e. the United States] and give him a taste of defeat and
shame” while their “eyes are on al-Aqsa” [11]. Recently, the IAI
released a documentary equating the U.S. occupation of Iraq with the
Israeli blockade of Gaza [12]. The visuals are well done and
professional and their subtext speaks to all—Arab and non-Arab,
Muslim or non-Muslim—who view what Israelis do in Gaza and what
Americans do in Iraq as oppression. The visuals can be both
interpreted within a secular/anti-imperialist framework—most common
in Europe and parts of Asia—or within an Islamist framework—most
common in the Middle East. However, the speech accompanying the
images, in Arabic, calls for jihad against the infidels and vows to
liberate Palestine from Israeli aggression.

This use of radical Islamist rhetoric by nationalist and Islamist
Iraqi insurgents will most probably have a pernicious effect in the
future. Whether the leadership of these groups actually intends to
transform their operations into international jihad is not yet known.
However, regardless of the intentions of these leaders, their use of
such rhetoric, their focus on the resemblance between Iraq and
Palestine and their use of religious justifications to examine the
“crimes” committed by the West against Muslims play exactly into the
hands of al-Qaeda’s plan for the Middle East.


1. Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, “The Zio-Crusaders’ War on Gaza and
Lebanon,” As-Sahab Media Production Company, July 27, 2006.

2. “Third Interview with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri,” As-Sahab Media
Production Company, May 5, 2007.

3. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, “A Message to the People,” Mujahideen Shura
Council, April 25, 2006.

4. The Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, “Announcing the
Establishment of the State of Iraq,” October 15, 2006.

5. See for example, “Between Perversion of Creed and Tenets of
Jihad,” Statement by the Islamic State of Iraq, August 27, 2007.

6. The former Palestinian town of Hittin was the site of Salah
al-Din’s 1187 victory over the crusaders that allowed the re-conquest
of Jerusalem.

7. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, “Religion is Sincere Advice,” Islamic State
of Iraq, February 14.

8. “A message from the Islamic Army leader\Bush and Sarkozy…Political
alliance or wealth and power share,” Islamic Army in Iraq, January

9. “Response to Denmark,” Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance,
February 18.

10. “Formation of a campaign of the Iraqi resistance to support
Gaza,” Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance, January 21.

11. “Start of the Campaign of the ‘Twins’ Operation in support for
our brothers in Gaza and All of Palestine,” Joint statement by the
Furqan Army, the Conquering Army, the Brigades of Martyrs in Iraq and
the Army of Ansar al-Mujahideen, January 23.

12. The video is available on the video-sharing website LiveLeak:

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Seamus Milne comments on Gaza

To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

Washington's covert attempts to overturn an election result lie behind
the crisis in Gaza, as leaked papers show

The Guardian
Wednesday March 05 2008

The attempt by western politicians and media to present this week's
carnage in the Gaza Strip as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence
- or at best the latest phase of a wearisome conflict between two
somehow equivalent sides - has reached Alice-in-Wonderland
proportions. Since Israel's deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai,
issued his chilling warning last week that Palestinians faced a
"holocaust" if they continued to fire home-made rockets into Israel,
the balance sheet of suffering has become ever clearer. More than 120
Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces in the past
week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were
civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
During the same period, three Israelis were killed, two of whom were
soldiers taking part in the attacks.

So what was the response of the British foreign secretary, David
Miliband, to this horrific killing spree? It was to blame the
"numerous civilian casualties" on the week's "significant rise" in
Palestinian rocket attacks "and the Israeli response", condemn the
firing of rockets as "terrorist acts" and defend Israel's right to
self-defence "in accordance with international law". But of course it
has been nothing of the kind - any more than has been Israel's 40-year
occupation of the Palestinian territories, its continued expansion of
settlements or its refusal to allow the return of expelled refugees.

Nor is the past week's one-sided burden of casualties and misery
anything new, but the gap is certainly getting wider. After the
election of Hamas two years ago, Israel - backed by the US and the
European Union - imposed a punitive economic blockade, which has
hardened over the past months into a full-scale siege of the Gaza
Strip, including fuel, electricity and essential supplies. Since
January's mass breakout across the Egyptian border signalled that
collective punishment wouldn't work, Israel has opted for military
escalation. What that means on the ground can be seen from the fact
that at the height of the intifada, from 2000 to 2005, four
Palestinians were killed for every Israeli; in 2006 it was 30; last
year the ratio was 40 to one. In the three months since the US-
sponsored Middle East peace conference at Annapolis, 323 Palestinians
have been killed compared with seven Israelis, two of whom were

But the US and Europe's response is to blame the principal victims for
a crisis it has underwritten at every stage. In interviews with
Palestinian leaders over the past few days, BBC presenters have
insisted that Palestinian rockets have been the "starting point" of
the violence, as if the occupation itself did not exist. In the West
Bank, from which no rockets are currently fired and where the US-
backed administration of Mahmoud Abbas maintains a ceasefire, there
have been 480 Israeli military attacks over the past three months and
26 Palestinians killed. By contrast, the rockets from Gaza which are
supposed to be the justification for the latest Israeli onslaught have
killed a total of 14 people over seven years.

Like any other people, the Palestinians have the right to resist
occupation - or to self-defence - whether they choose to exercise it
or not. In spite of Israel's disengagement in 2005, Gaza remains
occupied territory, both legally and in reality. It is the world's
largest open-air prison, with land, sea and air access controlled by
Israel, which carries out military operations at will. Palestinians
may differ about the tactics of resistance, but the dominant view (if
not that of Abbas) has long been that without some armed pressure,
their negotiating hand will inevitably be weaker. And while it might
be objected that the rockets are indiscriminate, that is not an easy
argument for Israel to make, given its appalling record of civilian
casualties in both the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

The truth is that Hamas's control of Gaza is the direct result of the
US refusal to accept the Palestinians' democratic choice in 2006 and
its covert attempt to overthrow the elected administration by force
through its Fatah placeman Muhammad Dahlan. As confirmed by secret
documents leaked to the US magazine Vanity Fair - and also passed to
the Guardian - George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Elliott Abrams, the
US deputy national security adviser (of Iran-Contra fame), funnelled
cash, weapons and instructions to Dahlan, partly through Arab
intermediaries such as Jordan and Egypt, in an effort to provoke a
Palestinian civil war. As evidence of the military buildup emerged,
Hamas moved to forestall the US plan with its own takeover of Gaza
last June. David Wurmser, who resigned as Dick Cheney's chief Middle
East adviser the following month, argues: "What happened wasn't so
much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-
empted before it could happen."

Yesterday, Rice attempted to defend the failed US attempt to reverse
the results of the Palestinian elections by pointing to Iran's support
for Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel's attacks on Gaza are expected to resume
once she has left the region, even if no one believes they will stop
the rockets. Some in the Israeli government hope that they can
nevertheless weaken Hamas as a prelude to pushing Gaza into Egypt's
unwilling arms; others hope to bring Abbas and his entourage back to
Gaza after they have crushed Hamas, perhaps with a transitional
international force to save the Palestinian president's face.

Neither looks a serious option, not least because Hamas cannot be
crushed by force, even with the bloodbath that some envisage. The
third, commonsense option, backed by 64% of Israelis, is to take up
Hamas's offer - repeated by its leader Khalid Mish'al at the weekend -
and negotiate a truce. It's a move that now attracts not only left-
leaning Israeli politicians such as Yossi Beilin, but also a growing
number of rightwing establishment figures, including Ariel Sharon's
former security adviser Giora Eiland, the former Mossad boss Efraim
Halevy, and the ex-defence minister Shaul Mofaz.

The US, however, is resolutely opposed to negotiating with what it has
long branded a terrorist organisation - or allowing anyone else to do
so, including other Palestinians. As the leaked American papers
confirm, Rice effectively instructed Abbas to "collapse" the joint
Hamas-Fatah national unity government agreed in Mecca early last year,
a decision carried out after Hamas's pre-emptive takeover. But for the
Palestinians, national unity is an absolute necessity if they are to
have any chance of escaping a world of walled cantons, checkpoints,
ethnically segregated roads, dispossession and humiliation.

What else can Israel do to stop the rockets, its supporters ask. The
answer could not be more obvious: end the illegal occupation of the
Palestinian territories and negotiate a just settlement for the
Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed 60 years ago - who, with
their families, make up the majority of Gaza's 1.5 million people. All
the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, accept that as the basis
for a permanent settlement or indefinite end of armed conflict. In the
meantime, agree a truce, exchange prisoners and lift the blockade.
Israelis increasingly seem to get it - but the grim reality appears to
be that a lot more blood is going to have to flow before it's accepted
in Washington.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Jamestown Terrorism Focus
March 4, 2008 – Volume 5, Issue 9

Morocco Charges Cooperation Between Terrorists & Organized Crime

Moroccan intelligence is claiming its greatest success against
terrorism since the 2003 suicide attacks in Casablanca that killed 45
people. Two weeks ago, the government announced the arrest of 35
alleged members of a cell led by Abdelkader Belliraj, who holds both
Belgian and Moroccan citizenship. The revelation came as a surprise to
Belgian intelligence, which monitored Belliraj and other suspects for
years without finding evidence of their involvement in terrorist
activities. If Moroccan accusations are confirmed, the case could rock
the counter-terrorism community for two reasons. First, the Belliraj
network could become one of the most glaring illustrations of a
growing nexus between terrorism and organized crime. Second, it would
confirm the existence of a long-debated connection between Shiite and
Sunni radical groups. The question is whether the Moroccan allegations
have any real substance.

Since February 18, Moroccan police forces have arrested 35 persons.
Surprisingly, the suspects include politicians, businessmen,
bureaucrats, a police commander and the correspondent of Hezbollah’s
al-Manar TV (Radio television belge de la communaute francaise,
February 21). A stockpile of arms was found during the police raids,
including AK-47 assault rifles, Skorpio machine pistols, Uzi machine
guns and detonators (Actualites du Maroc, February 20). According to
the authorities, it was the most formidable arsenal ever seized in a
terrorism case in Morocco.

On February 20, the small Islamist party al-Badil al-Hadari (Civilized
Alternative) was dissolved by the Moroccan government in the aftermath
of the arrests, with the government claiming strong connections
between the party and the Belliraj network (Le Soir, February 21).
Among the 35 detainees, several were affiliated with the party,
including its secretary general. The members of the Belliraj network
were charged with a long list of crimes led by “setting up a criminal
gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts as part of a collective plan
aimed at undermining public order through fear and violence” (Maghreb
Arabe Presse, February 29).

According to Moroccan Minister of the Interior Chakib Benmoussa, the
targets of the cell included government ministers, high officers of
the Forces Armees Royales (Moroccan armed forces) and Jewish Moroccans
(Le Matin, February 22). Chakib Benmoussa claimed that the Belliraj
network had prior contacts with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Groupe
Islamique Combattant Marocain (GICM) and the Algerian Groupe Salafiste
pour la Predication et le Combat (GSPC) (Maghreb Arabe Presse,
February 20). The Belliraj network is also reported to have sought
permission to train in camps of the Lebanese Hezbollah in 2000
(Aujourd’hui le Maroc, February 28).

The allegations of the Interior Minister offer the picture of a
terrorist cell that scorns religious and ideological cleavages. The
alleged leader, Abdelkader Belliraj, is a 51-year old Moroccan-Belgian
Shiite. He moved to Brussels in the 1980s, where he was known for
militancy on Palestinian issues. He was also allegedly close to the
Syrian Muslim Brothers (Le Vif, February 27). Other members of the
network previously had contacts with several radical movements,
including Chabiba Islamiya (Islamic Youth), created in the 1970s (Le
Soir, February 21). To make things even muddier, some of the suspects,
including Mustapha Moatassim, secretary general of the dissolved
Islamic party al-Badil al-Hadari, were close to leftist movements.
Despite occasional Sunni-Shiite collaboration in the past, the
Belliraj network appears to be an exceptional case of a militant
Shiite group with ideological ties to far-left politics, created with
the help of Sunni organizations.

Other allegations of the Moroccan government are related to events
that occurred in Belgium and Luxemburg. According to Interior Minister
Benmoussa, Belliraj was responsible for six unresolved cases of
assassination in Belgium between 1986 and 1989. Belliraj was
questioned by Belgian investigators concerning the murder of the
rector of the Brussels Grande Mosquee, Abdullah al-Ahdal, in March
1989, but was released due to a lack of evidence (Le Soir, February
25). Some of these attacks were claimed by the now-defunct Abu Nidal
group, raising the possibility that Belliraj was a hitman for Abu

In addition, Rabat pointed to the Belliraj network as the culprits in
a series of hold-ups between 1992 and 2001. In 2003, Abdellatif
Bekhti, another Belgian-Moroccan, was sentenced to prison for the hold-
up of a Brink’s depot in Luxembourg in 2000. He escaped two months
later and disappeared until his arrest in the Belliraj case two weeks
ago. It is estimated that Bekhti received about $5 million of the $24
million taken in the robbery. That money was later laundered through
Moroccan hotels and real estate and was used to finance the group,
according to police (Le Quotidien, February 21).

Not every terrorist group receives $5 million in its bank account
overnight. Questions arise over why the group undertook such a
dangerous plan and what the ultimate destination was for the funds
collected through this and other robberies. There is a growing concern
among specialists regarding a potential nexus between terrorism and
organized crime—the Columbian FARC and the Taliban are often mentioned
as illustrations. But the nexus, in their case, primarily involves
drug trafficking. Cases of grand banditry are much rarer. Conducting a
major hold-up in Western Europe requires skill, sophistication and
careful planning.

Belgian authorities remain relatively dubious concerning the Moroccan
allegations. Indeed, Belliraj was well-known in Belgium. He was
monitored and even interrogated but always released. According to
Belgian intelligence, Belliraj did not have the profile of a terrorist
(Le Soir, February 20). Given that there was no bilateral cooperation
on this case, Belgian investigators wonder what information Moroccans
have that Belgium does not. Belgian police officials have been sent to
Rabat to pursue the matter.

Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique wonders whether Moroccan
intelligence officials are not merely attempting to please the
Moroccan king (February 22). Some specialists interpreted the firing
of General Hamidou Laanigri, head of the Direction Generale de la
Surete Nationale (DGSN—Moroccan domestic intelligence) by King
Mohammed VI in 2006 as a consequence of the DGSN’s poor performance in
eradicating terrorism. Another Belgian paper added to the confusion by
claiming Belliraj had for several years been an informer for the
Belgian domestic intelligence agency, Surete de l’Etat (De Standaard,
February 29).

The light has yet to dawn on this case. More information should become
available in the coming days or weeks as Morocco and Belgium exchange
information. So far, three conclusions can be drawn with some
certainty. First, terrorism remains one of the main concerns of
Moroccan authorities. Second, Morocco has a willingness to demonstrate
its efficiency in counter-terrorism to both its own people and to the
international community. Rabat is trying to become one of the world
centers of counter-terrorism, as demonstrated by the summit on nuclear
terrorism held in February in Rabat. Third, the threat of terrorism is
likely to rise in Morocco as jihad is spreading in North Africa and
Moroccan fighters are returning from Iraq with lessons to teach to
would-be terrorists. It will be interesting to see if the nexus
between terrorism and organized crime is confirmed, as well as the
alleged cooperation between radical groups with apparent religious and
ideological incompatibilities.

Thomas Renard is a Washington-based freelance journalist and
occasional collaborator with Le Soir, the main French-speaking
newspaper in Belgium.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008


March 3, 2008


Carlos Latuff's statement:

I'd like to beg all viewers to spread this image anywhere, as a way to expose Israeli war crimes against Palestinians. Use it on t-shirts, posters, banners. Reproduce it in zines, papers, magazines, and make it visible everywhere. Here is the high-resolution version for printing purposes: [link]

Thank you in the name of every suffering Palestinian.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

© 2008 Carlos Latuff