Category Archives: Islamic History

Trump’s Coming Battle of Karbala? What He Should Read about Middle East Sectarian Tensions……..

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“For Iraq, guaranteeing the safety of millions of Shiite faithful on their annual ​pilgrimage to the shrine of a revered saint in Karbala has always been a monumental challenge. The march, the largest annual religious pilgrimage on earth, ​is in defiance of Iraq’s chronic insecurity and the frequent attempts by Sunni militants – including, recently, Islamic State (ISIS) fighters – to derail this event with violence. ​This year, the pilgrimage ​to the shrine of Imam Hussein ​held special resonance, as ISIS in Iraq has been all but defeated in recent months by Iraqi security forces – supported by Iran-backed Shiite militias and a US-led bombing campaign…… The risks of attack were high, but so, too, were the rewards for the millions of Shiite pilgrims whose faith overcomes fear…….“We don’t care about security – we just come,” says Fadl Abbas, a truck driver nursing blistered feet, swollen legs, and a new limp after his 50-mile march……..” Christian Science Monitor

This is one article Donald Trump should read this week, if he were a reading man. Or he can have his son-in-law, his Middle East Gauleiter Jared Kushner, read it. They should both know what they and their regional sidekicks will be facing in the coming months if Arab media reports are true. Reports about what dangerous concoction they are brewing for our native region from Lebanon to the Persian-American Gulf.

They are brewing something from Lebanon to the Gulf, and through Yemen. Even the Gulf Muslim Brotherhood, always opportunistic, are being cagey these days, which means they anticipate a new American-Israeli folly, and that they approve. They have suddenly softened on Israeli and Trump actions in the region. Even the Salafis, the more opportunistic soul mates of ISIS/DAESH and Al Qaeda. Especially the Salafist fifth columnists, are eerily silent, waiting for those they have always called the “crusaders” and the “descendants of monkeys and pigs” to start a bloody sectarian war on their behalf. Obama knew what they sought and he denied them. He would not bluster himself into a new war, as he elaborated in an interview that was dubbed the Obama Doctrine on the Gulf.

The vast controlled media of the absolute kings are also hinting at something coming soon. Salivating at the prospect of foreign bombs blasting yet more Arab and Muslim targets on their behalf. 

A new Battle of Karbaba waged by Trump and Netanyahu as the new Umayyads, on behalf of a couple of kings and their Salafist proxies. Its battlefield to be the whole Middle East region and part of North Africa.

Remember: for years the Salafist Wahhabis kept bombing in Iraq, killing civilians, almost every day since 2003. Fourteen years of insecurity and massacres against the Shi’a (Shiite) pilgrims and their annual march to Karbala. And against many Sunnis and all Christians. Yet the pilgrims keep coming by the millions: more than the numbers that do the annual Haj in Hijaz. They keep coming by the millions, risking death. No lethal stampedes there. The march/pilgrimage was banned by the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, but resumed after his defeat. Terrorism has only made it a bigger event than ever, it increased the defiance. A new foreign war of aggression will almost certainly make them even more defiant.

Just keep it in mind. Remember, it is not all about the money and the contracts and the bluster. You don’t want to be seen as the foreign interloper who replaces Saddam or the Umayyad Dynasty……

If he is not very careful here, he may end up famously complaining, again: “nobody knew that meddling in 15-century-old Muslim sectarian tensions could be so complicated…. even more complicated than trying to dismantle the health care system……
Stay tuned…..

Cheers anyway   

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Marx, Bonaparte, and the New American Opiate of the Masses: Foreign Wars, Muslim Wars………

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More than a hundred and fifty years ago, a very hairy European, a German Jew-ish man, opined succinctly that “Religion……. is the Opiate of the People (Masses)

No, Marx was not thinking of ISIS or the Arab Wahhabi version of Islam. They say he was critiquing some thoughts of Hegel. He was not even a Zionist. Hardly anybody thought of our native Middle East region in those days, although Napoleon Bonaparte paid a very long visit and the crafty British trolled him across the Mediterranean, just to make sure he wasn’t having too much fun. He wasn’t, knowing that Josephine was otherwise occupied in Paris.

In those days, nobody from outside even wanted Holy Jerusalem anymore, except maybe some insecure Jews huddled in their Russian or Polish shtetls.

Now, with religion waning everywhere except in the Middle East and in the Red Flyover States of the United States, we can ask: “What is the new opiate of the people?

Are foreign wars the new opiate of the masses now? I mean officially and with widespread general acceptance? I mean as a political tool of any administration that fails to achieve progress in its domestic agenda? I mean in the United States over the past few years and especially from this year on? I mean especially for this new Trump administration that seems lost in the translation between conflicting domestic economic promises and the availability and expediency of foreign adventurism?

Are Arab and Muslim lands now the silent unspoken scapegoat and the excuse for domestic economic and other failures of any American administration?
You betcha…..

At least this seems to be the case…..


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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


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