Category Archives: Islamic History

Humor and Aguafiesta Violence in History: from Early Islam to Trotsky in Mexico to Sisi……..

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“In Egypt, the attorney general for Bani Suwaif has ordered a high school Coptic student to be held for 15 days pending investigation. The teenager is accused of making anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook and other Internet media in a foreign language. In addition, security sources have divulged that the Coptic church and ‘security authorities’ have agreed to expel a Christian family of four from their village of Miyana in Ehnasia district. This came after Muslims accused the teenage son of the family of publishing comments harmful to Islam on Facebook. Sources added that a settlement meeting was held between the Church, high security officers, and some village Muslim families. As a result the Priest Butros G presented an official apology of the Coptic church for the insult published by the teenager against Islam and Muslims. The Coptic family had already abandoned its home and left their village since May 14………..”

This was a brief of the report from Egyptian media. Egypt used to be quite a cosmopolitan and tolerant country. All this started to change after the death of Nasser in 1970. Under Anwar Sadat, Islamist influence started to grow. Under Hosni Mubarak, Islamists grew stronger, Wahhabism started to creep into religious, political, and social conversation. Under Morsi, the first elected leader of Egypt, sectarian and confessional conflict broke out into the open. Salafis  were emboldened. Christians were attacked, Shi’as were lynched.

Under Al Sisi, Egypt is even more divided than ever. There is a mini-civil war in the country where both sides, Islamists and the military rulers, are ruthless: no quarter given and none expected. Parts of northern Sinai are almost attached to the Caliphate of ISIS rather than to Cairo. Other parts look like the hangout of the Hole in the Wall Gang. In villages from the Nile Delta to Upper Egypt (Al Saeed) there is a slow movement of religious displacement and confessional concentration. Egypt’s Copts are almost as grim these days as Egypt’s Islamists.

The once famous Egyptian sense of humor is moving dangerously close to that of Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, and Israel. Which means it is at the dangerous level of near extinction, what I would call pre-war or pre-civil war levels of humor. Germans, for example, lost any meager sense of humor they had quickly after 1933, not that they had much before that, not that they have much now. Attila and von Bismarck never laughed and seriously frowned upon humor. The Russians lost the remnant of their sense of humor right after Trotsky was expelled, and we all know why. Mexico, another place with a mostly humorless tradition, proved a fatal exile for Trotsky. The Russians still have to regain it.

Even the early Muslims, they come across as angry zealots. Which by definition they should have been. I believe the Prophet was almost the only one with any sense of humor among them. The rest, the Sahaba and later converts, come across as grim aguafiestas, which they mostly were. That state of grimness lasted until the Abbasids discovered the joys of humor, after the death of their founder Abul Abbas the Butcher.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Historical Hints of the Magi: Was Zarathustra Sagte……….

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“Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago. For 1000 years Zoroastrianism was one of the most powerful religions in the world. It was the official religion of Persia (Iran) from 600 BCE to 650 CE. It is now one of the world’s smallest religions………… Zoroastrians believe there is one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) and He created the world. Zoroastrians are not fire-worshippers, as some Westerners wrongly believe. Zoroastrians believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents God’s light or wisdom. Ahura Mazda revealed the truth through the Prophet, Zoroaster. Zoroastrians traditionally pray several times a day. Zoroastrians worship communally in a Fire Temple or Agiary. The Zoroastrian book of Holy Scriptures is called The Avesta…………….”

Arabs traditionally called them Majous (as in the Westernized Magi), probably after their priests, especially in the early years of the Muslim conquest. The conversion to Islam started under the second Caliph Omar I whose dedicated free-spirited desert fighters defeated the Sassanid (or Sasanian) dynasty surprisingly easily.
Because of their traditional symbolic fire rituals, Arabs and others have simplistically held throughout history that Zoroastrians were “fire worshippers”. That is equivalent to claiming Catholics worship statues or gargoyles (as in Notre Dame de Paris and other places).

During periods of regional political tension some Arabs, usually Salafi extremists on the Gulf, still call all Iranians, even the Muslims among them, Majous. They are a recognized but historically discouraged religion in theocratic Iran, and like Jews they hold one seat in Parliament. Nowadays especially the term is used quite frequently politically in Salafi ethnic propaganda campaigns and in social media, sometimes referring also to Shi’as, including many Arab Shi’as who don’t even speak Persian. Overlooking the fact that pre-Islamic Peninsula Arabs were mostly free pagans who worshiped chosen idols, and that ancient Egyptians worshiped their incestuous kings (Pharaohs) who usually married their own sisters.

Some aspects of their ancient religion are intriguing:
It is monotheistic (one supreme God-creator; one symbolic evil) – they worship several times a day – they have a book of Holy Scriptures (Avesta) – their God conveyed the truth to an ethnic Prophet (Zoroaster or Zarathustra), who was Persian rather than the usual Semite (Jewish or Arab)……..
Hint, hint, hint…………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Queen Balqis Resists the Wisdom and Charm of King Solomon in Yemen………

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“It may be that King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his younger son Mohammad, who is defence minister and chief of the royal court, saw the war in Yemen as a way of securing their power and removing rival factions in the royal family from power. On his throne for only a few months, King Salman has been taking a harder line in the Saudi confrontation with Iran and the Shia. He has not only started an air war in Yemen but has given stronger backing to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qa’ida affiliate, and other jihadi groups in Syria. These have recently won several victories in Idlib province over the Syrian army and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. A problem in ending the war in Yemen is that it will be difficult for King Salman to come out of it without a success if he wishes to avoid damage to his prestige at the start of his reign. At the same time, Saudi Arabia does not appear to have a plan other than the total defeat of the Houthis and their allies, something that is unlikely to happen…………”

The American bombs, delivered by the Saudis, have been falling for over six weeks, to no avail. Except the continued destruction of the fragile infrastructure of Yemen and the increased misery of its people.

So far there has been not a sign of Brig. Qassem Soleimani in Sanaa or Aden. Not a single Iranian has been seen, apprehended, or photographed anywhere in Yemen. As I noted once “not a soldier, Revolutionary Guard, or bricklayer“. So much for the claims, and the excuse, of “Iranian incursion” in Yemen. Al Qaeda and the Southern Independence Movement (Hirak) and ISIS (Islamic State) are now the only opponents of the Houthi-Saleh alliance. The IS have made their presence felt, but they have been reduced to beheading and shooting other Yemenis since they could not find any Iranians, nor could they find any of the Iraqis or Lebanese that Gulf Salafis and Wahhabi-Liberals claim are all over the region.

This time the wisdom of King Solomon has failed, so far, in bringing the Yemeni Queen Balqis, Queen of Sheba to her knees (forgive the irresistible pun). That is unlikely to change in modern Yemen: the rugged Houthis, northern country folks that they are, are well experienced in fighting superior forces and frustrating them.
So far. But the Saudis have deep pockets, and their Western suppliers are willing to replenish the bombs, for a price……..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Cinema and Islam: How Do You Say Cecil B. DeMille in Persian?………

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“Here in this Persian replica of Mecca, built at the cost of millions of dollars, an Iranian film company is attempting to offer the world a literal glimpse of the Prophet Muhammad despite traditional taboos against it. The movie “Muhammad, Messenger of God” already recalls the grandeur — and expense — of a Cecil B. DeMille film, with the narrow alleyways and a replica Kaaba shrine built here in the remote village of Allahyar. But by even showing the back of the Prophet Muhammad as a child before he was called upon by Allah, the most expensive film in Iranian history already has been criticized before its even widely released, calling into question who ultimately will see the Quranic story come to life on the big screen. ……….. But while Sunni Islam, the religion’s dominant branch, widely rejects any depictions of Muhammad, his close relatives or companions, Shiite Islam doesn’t. In Shiite powerhouse Iran and other countries, posters, banners, jewelry and even keychains bear the images of Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali, revered by Shiites who see him as the prophet’s rightful successor. The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, who led Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and later became the country’s supreme leader, reportedly even kept a picture similar to young Muhammad…………”

Iranians often have a penchant for making historic films that depict historic figures of the Old, New, and Islamic Testaments. A few years ago they made a film about Joseph (he of the many-colored coat, son of Jacob). It showed only in Tunisia among the Arab countries, and only briefly before the Salafis attacked and forced its closure in that country.

I wonder if they’d ever make a film about the Muslim Arabs defeating ancient Persia (under Caliph Omar I)? But this film about Mohammed and ancient Mecca is a film I’d really like to see. It could be good, it could be lousy. This Iranian replica may be one way to see an artist’s image of early Mecca before Islam. The Saudis have erased all monuments of early Islam in the real Mecca, including the childhood houses of Prophet Mohammed and his early followers, the Sahaba. The sort of thing ISIS or DAESH has been doing lately. The princes have replaced these historic Mecca sites with luxury hotels, expensive apartment complexes, and shopping malls. And parking lots of course.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Wahhabi War on History Continues: Now the Grave of the Prophet……..

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“A fatwa from a Qatari-owned online portal has been widely circulated by Egyptian press this week after it called for the destruction of pharanoic(sic) monuments on the grounds that they are contrary to Islam. The religious edict, issued by Islam Web, was picked up by several independent Egyptian news outlets…….But Egyptian newspapers carrying the story failed to notice the fatwa was first issued in December 2012…………..”

Saudi Alarabiya network is relishing this item about a Qatari fatwa against (Egyptian) monuments (the fatwa goes back to 2012 but Cairo’s subservient press has revived it recently). This indicates that the famous Saudi-Qatari dispute, the Wahhabi civil war, is on again. 
Speaking of destroying monuments, it seems to be a typical Wahhabi/Salafi thing to do. Saudi Arabia has been systematically destroying Islamic monuments over the years. In Mecca and Madinah homes of the Prophet and his early allies were razed and converted to luxury hotels, shopping malls, parking lots. On this case it is a mix of financial greed and Wahhabi doctrine. A few months ago they sent out a trial balloon about erasing, essentially desecrating, the grave of the Prophet Mohammed in Madinah.

The Taliban famously destroyed ancient Bamiyan monuments in Afghanistan. ISIS is destroying museum pieces in Mosul and monuments in other towns in Iraq (and Syria). In Syria Salafis among the ‘opposition’ destroyed shrines, threatened others, and destroyed Christian churches and old Crusader castles. They had threatened to destroy Shi’a shrines, which prompted Lebanese and Iraqi Shi’as to send armed militias to guard them. This led to their further involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Even in historically tolerant Egypt the Salafis have threatened to destroy ancient Islamic monuments, including some from the Fatimid era. Oddly they have left the Pharaonic monument alone, knowing it would be extremely unpopular to destroy major Western tourist attractions.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Cultures: Willful Arrogant Europeans, Insecure Islamists, Surviving Banu Quraydha……

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So a bunch of willful arrogant French journalists and other European cartoonists draw insulting childish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Probably knowing exactly what it would provoke, maybe with an eye toward circulation and/or publicity or some public accolades among their literati peers. Art of the kind they probably wouldn’t dare do of, say, the Queen of Denmark or Queen Elizabeth, or even Charles de Gaulle. The queen’s head on the body of a dog, for example. Such re the creative inspirations of the Euro-artistes.
They have the right to do it. And they have the right to assert that right by doing it. Even if les arabes don’t have the same right to wear the attire they want on the streets of Paris. Even knowing that les arabes on the fringes of their society would be up in arms. Responsibility is a personal choice.

Then there are the Islamists who could and should just shrug it off as one of the unpleasant facts of living in Europe, along with other distasteful things like free speech, wine, music, and casual sex. Hayat Boumedienne and her tiny bikini photos notwithstanding, of course. But some of them, a small minority, don’t shrug it off. So they kill a bunch of people they deem responsible.

But that is not the end of it. To go back fifteen centuries they need their illusory Khaybar or al-Khandaq. So they seek some Jews or Jewish targets, people who have nothing to do with the blasphemous cartoons, to hit. There is no need: Banu Qurayza (Bani Quraydha) are long gone from Madinah, beheaded and enslaved and expelled. Obviously those in Europe are not populating the settlements on the West Bank or bombing Gaza (but maybe now they will). Which means they are doing (with Jews) exactly as some of the European racists would do with them (with Arabs and Muslims): target them. Using them as convenient targets and scapegoats. But scapegoats for what?
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Islamic State of North Africa: Return to Andalucia……..

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“The caliphate has a beach. It is located on the Mediterranean Sea around 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Crete in Darna. The eastern Libya city has a population of around 80,000, a beautiful old town and an 18th century mosque, from which the black flag of the Islamic State flies. The port city is equipped with Sharia courts and an “Islamic Police” force which patrols the streets in all-terrain vehicles. A wall has been built in the university to separate female students from their male counterparts and the disciplines of law, natural sciences and languages have all been abolished. Those who would question the city’s new societal order risk death. Darna has become a colony of terror, and it is the first Islamic State enclave in North Africa. The conditions in Libya are perfect for the radical Islamists………………”

Most Jihadis, and some otherwise sane Wahhabi Arabs, often talk of Al Andalus. Andalucia is a term used not just for the famous province in Spain, but for the bulk of Iberia that was conquered by Muslims. An expansion that was stopped at Poitier (Palace of Martyrs in Arabic) and was eventually reversed by the conjugal union of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.
Andalucia is now something beyond a geographic place to most Muslims, especially to Arabs. It reflects a state of mind that looks back to a bygone bright light in a current dark tunnel. A symbol of lost glory in our current era of weakness and irrelevance.

The Jihadi Salafis claim that their goal is to ‘recover’ Al Andalus. Actually the Andalucia of early Muslims is not what the Jihadis dream of. Theirs would be an intolerant stagnant homogeneous Wahhabi theocracy that has little to do with the vibrant melting-pot Spain of the Islamic era. Others promise to have their ‘horses tied’ in the center of Rome, and not just because these Wahhabi dudes like the Chianti or the Prosecco.
And what better place to retrace history, to conquer Europa, than from the spot where that earlier successful conquest started. North Africa.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Commanders of ISIS: European Masters of Caliph Al-Baghdadi?………

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On an unusual surreal day early last summer a man I had never heard of before climbed a podium in Mosul, Iraq. He was dressed in presumably 7th century Arab attire, accurate enough to make Hollywood proud. In hindsight, he may have been playing a role selected for him. He declared the recreation of the Islamic Caliphate (meaning the state run by the heirs and followers of the Prophet Mohammed). He declared himself the new Caliph; to wit, public ruler and religious leader of Muslims- non-Wahhabis need not apply.

Then this character Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi (reportedly  Ibrahim Awwad Al Samarrai) disappeared from view. No more public pronouncements, no appearances. Gradually we have been getting reports, photos, and videos of others, of less swarthy men with red and blond beards dominating the Wahhabis in Syria and Iraq. Chechens (Shishan, or Shishani in Arabic), from Russian Chechnya, have been reported to be in Syria and Iraq for a couple of years. Now they seem to have been flooding the place, if some media reports are accurate. The most famous media face is that of Omar Al-Shishani: his real name is reported to be Batirashvili, which means he originally hails from Georgia (I think any name ending in –Shvili is Georgian, just like one Dzhugashvili who became known as Stalin). They are alleged to be the mainstay of the street fighting, the sharpshooters of city and town warfare. They also presumably have women there, as sharpshooters and as, er, companions and entertainers of the Jihadis when they are not blowing up Iraqi civilians or taking Syrians as hostages and slaves.

That probably explains the extreme bloodiness of their treatment of the captives. That is a typically European practice as we know from the history of the past two centuries. From Germany to Russia (including Chechnya) to the Balkans. The Chechnya rebellion was typically praised in the West, until the inevitable happened, just as it has happened in Syria. The inevitable is that the Wahhabi outsiders with a lot of money and a hateful message, both imported, took over the Chechen rebellion, just as they did the initial Syrian uprising. The Chechens took up chopping heads and hands and stoning quickly in their Caucasus homeland, with the zeal of the converted. Now they are in our region, likely the new European masters of the Caliphate.

One should not exaggerate: there are no doubt Arab commanders as well. We know some of the names, noms de guerre, many others are not known. This reliance on foreign military prowess has normally happened in Islamic history in the declining years of previous Caliphates and Sultanates. It was a practice from Baghdad to Cairo to Istanbul. Often the imported ‘help’, usually imported former slaves, ended up in effective command.

But there are also other ‘Europeans’ involved. This new brief Caliphate, like other Islamic Caliphates before it has fallen to reliance on the imported help. Reliance on the particular Europeans with the bloodiest recent memories and lessons of massacres and mass killings and genocide.


Is this just a repeat blast from past Islamic history? Is this Al Baghdadi (al Samarrai) a hapless figurehead for the real strongmen of the Islamic State?………….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum


m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Women of ISIS: Religion and Slavery and the Onus of Islamic History……….

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“Women in Syria and Iraq are at high risk for sexual enslavement by ISIS. ISIS is capturing, abusing, raping, trading, and selling women in areas it controls. America is politically polarized and citizens are divided on the U.S. policy on ISIS. Some think the U.S. should be doing more to combat the organization. They think America should use its full strength to ward off possible terrorist attacks on home soil. Others worry that air strikes will incur too many civilian deaths and collateral damage. They believe America should be more cautious about declaring war on another country in the Middle East………”

Classic slavery in the Middle East and North Africa lasted well after Europe and the Americas ended it. Slavery was ‘officially’ ended in Saudi Arabia only in the 1960s. In Mauritania, an Arab League member, there have been sporadic reports that slavery still exists.

Reports of Wahhabi Jihadis enslaving women and using them for sex and other labor are not exactly new. This Jihadi inclination has been more publicized in recent years, starting with developments in Iraq and Africa. These are a new wilder breed and they make their Al-Qaeda predecessors seem tame and absolutely family-oriented in comparison. (Maybe a case of “the devil you know“, etc).

Trafficking in women by these groups inside Iraq has been reported for years. Now, with full-blown wars raging in both Iraq and Syria and their territorial gains, they have the expanded access and the excuse to replenish their supply of females. The victims come mainly from among the religious minorities and non-Sunnis, but probably not exclusively so.
Others, including many in the West, also traffic in women as sex objects. But this new breed of Wahhabis are not subtle about it and they take it to historic extremes. They have a certain historical flair for the subject. They simplify the matter by throwing the onus on ancient history, blaming their ancient predecessors, their Salaf, for it.

They claim, and correctly, that early Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula took women as war booty after battles and often they sold them or used them as slaves and concubines. They also converted and married them in a few famous cases. But that was during the early ‘tribal stage’ of the expansion of Islam, when the battles were with and among the rival Arab tribes. A few of the battles were also against the Jewish tribes and clans of Madina and other parts of Hijaz in western Arabia. These latter battles also yielded slaves, concubines, and at least one famous very good wife.

Slavery existed from long before the three monotheistic religions appeared and continued long afterwards. It was an important part of the economy of the Roman Empire: the wealth and the income, the GNP. None of the major faiths of the Middle East, Judaism or Christianity or Islam, banned slavery. This is the basis of the alibi that the Caliphate of ISIS uses in taking female war captives and distributing them among its fighters to ‘use’ or sell or trade. It revives slavery because it existed under Islam and anything that existed under early Islam is considered kosher and mandatory by the Salafis.

That is why the Salafis are widely reputed in the Middle East to prefer toothpicks (miswak) to toothpaste (I am not being flippant here, it is common to profile them so in our Gulf region). You see, early Muslims did not have access to Crest or Colgate…………

Cheers
MHG

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Ancient Black Flag Revolutionaries: Abu Muslim of Khorasan and Marwan the Jackass………

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A bit of high school history here:
Why is no leader of this Wahhabi “Khorasan” group called Abu Muslim Al Khorasani? Given their penchant for noms de guerre starting with Abu and their use of Khorasan (a province in northeastern Persia/Iran)?
Abu Muslim Al Khorasani (also reportedly a nom de guerre) was the original man behind the original ‘black flag’. A Persian, he led the forces of the Abbasid, the original black flag revolution that overthrew the Umayyad dynasty which ruled from Damascus, in the eighth century (A.D.). The last Umayyad Caliph was named Marwan, he was nicknamed by some Al Homar (the Jackass) for obvious reasons.

After the Abbasids took power and started their dynasty, they started to eliminate their former allies and potential future rivals. They started by beheading the man who made their revolution possible, Abu Muslim Al Khorasani.


The Abbasids ruled for five centuries, often through Persian and Turkish surrogates and top ministers. The Abbasids were more cosmopolitan than their predecessors: they intermarried extensively with other ‘subjected’ peoples. They also shared administrative duties, unlike the extremely tribal Umayyads who kept power and influence within their own tribal kin.

The Abbasid rule was ended by the Mongols who sacked Baghdad and trampled the last Caliph, al-Must’asim, to death under their horses hoofs (reportedly after rolling him inside a nice Persian carpet).
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com