Archive for the ‘ISIS’ Category


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Why I Won’t Walk to Protest Against Islamic State

John Salisbury recently walked more than 300km to protest the treatment of Palestinians by Israel. His view about the West more broadly won’t surprise you.

In October this year I walked from The Sydney Opera House to Parliament House, Canberra in support of Palestinian human rights. It wasn’t easy but I felt compelled to do so. I would not, however, undertake a similar walk protesting against ISIS. Though Tony Abbott might encourage and support me on such a walk, my moral compass will not send me in that direction.

In November, Tony Abbott suggested that the Anglo Saxon, Christian group to which we both belong is a superior culture. He said:

“All cultures are not equal, and frankly, a culture that behaves in decency and tolerance is much to be preferred to one that thinks you can kill in the name of God, and we have got to be prepared to say that.”

Apart from Abbott’s assertion being a repugnant, racist and morally reprehensible suggestion, a closer look at history suggests he is deeply misguided and ill-informed on the history of Christianity.

The Christian religion has been the justification and basis for numerous vastly, violent conflicts. Many men have lost their lives killing in the name of the Christian God, or, by the hands of deeply religious Christian men.

Abbott would do well to read up on some of these before making such ill-informed and bigoted statements.

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Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.

There was the American Civil War in the 1860s; a Protestant versus Protestant battle with a death toll of 600,000.

And then of course there was the Franco-Prussian War, the Boer War and World War I. All these conflicts were Christian fighting Christian.

There was also the Spanish Civil War where Catholics murdered each other and then there was one of West’s greatest bloodsheds to date, World War II.

A war led by the infamous Adolf Hitler, a man born Catholic who had a deep-seated hatred for anyone from the Jewish religion. This war unleashed a violence the world had never seen before.

When spouting the superiority of Christianity, Abbott justified his assertion by saying there were some events that “Islam never had – a Reformation, an Enlightenment, a well-developed concept of the separation of church and state.”

What Abbott must also not realise, is that one of the most depressing aspects of Hitler’s Holocaust was that it happened despite The Reformation and The Enlightenment in Europe.

The Reformation actually started in Germany with Martin Luther. Realising that the Catholic church of the time was corrupt and in need of theological reform, some men decided to break away and begin their own more moral strand of Christianity. And yet still, despite this reformation many years earlier, Hitler was still able to send thousands of innocent men, women and children to their death in ovens while the good, Christian citizens of Germany fanned the flames and waved at the trains heading to Auschwitz.

All of Hitler’s willing executioners were also Christians. Perhaps Abbott believes that the Muslim religion would be able to benefit from a Reformation or Enlightenment where the Christian religion could not?

And yet, despite all this loss of life and the creation of the United Nations after World War II, still more Christian violence continued. More blood was spilt in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The only reason the Cold War did not become “hot” was because of mutually assured destruction. The acronym for this (MAD) sums up the situation so chillingly.

And then of course we come to the West’s more recent wars in the Middle East. It is well known that Saddam Hussein was a dreadful character. No-one would refute that. But it is now equally well known that he had nothing to do with 9/11. He was instead just the man who had to bear the responsibility and George W. Bush chose him as the fall guy.

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(IMAGE: STML, Flickr)

We made an unforgivable mistake invading Iraq and we should admit it. The chaos in Iraq today is largely a result of Western, and therefore Christian, interference.

We should remember also that George W. Bush specifically mentioned his prayers to God and, he claims, God influenced his decision to invade.

Our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, plus our blind and unprincipled support of Israel’s brutal 48-year occupation of Palestine, has led some Muslims to think they are under attack.

Thankfully, the number of Muslims who have succumbed to the entreaties of violent jihad and carried out revenge attacks on innocent civilians in Australia is tiny.

Everything we know from history, anthropology, archaeology, biology, physics and geology tells us that we inhabit this planet with everyone else as equals. Nobody is better than anyone else. Nobody is special.

And yet still our leaders instil fear in us and paint our fellow humans from a different religion as evil. Still our media presents us with one-sided, stereotypical views on our brothers and sisters living on other continents.

We created the United Nations after the horrors of World War II, but we are as far from united as we have ever been.

When Abbott suggests that the problem is the Muslim religion itself we should know better. Our Resources Minister, Josh Frydenberg, recently espoused a similar sentiment when he said, “We have to acknowledge that religion is part of this problem. I would say it is a problem with Islam.”

But, just as the Sunnis and Shias claim that “God is great” before they detonate bombs or kill opponents, so too did the Confederate Generals in the American Civil War kneel and pray before battling for the right to keep African-Americans as slaves.

And so too did the Christian Rwandans believe God was on their side when they massacred each other in 1994.

The common thread here is men using religion as a disguise for a more inherent, human flaw. It is not religion that is the problem, but the human desire for power and unbridled greed.

Perhaps we will see more progress, and get further, when men like Abbott start realising that our problems stem from human flaws, rather than a specific religion.

When we stop blaming one group, and start working together, then we really will become united, and work towards preventing horrendous acts of violence and bloodshed like the United Nations was initially invented to thwart.

When I walked those 330 kilometres to Canberra in October, I did so because I sought to protest a global injustice.

Regretfully, the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel is not an issue taken seriously by most of our political leaders. This occupation does not make the world a safer place.

Indeed, it only strengthens the bully mentality and sense of superiority that the West and Christians have held for so long.

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John Salisbury is a 61-year-old self-funded retiree with a life long interest in issues of global injustice. John was born in New Zealand but is a 40-year resident of Melbourne.

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Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images

Former Mexican drug lord Raul Hernandez Lechuga, center, with other alleged Zetas drug cartel members and some of their weapons in Mexico City in 2011. Although ISIL has captured the U.S. media’s attention, other groups closer to home pose much more of a threat.

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Mexican drug cartels are worse than ISIL
Western obsession with the Islamic State is fueled more by bigotry than any genuine assessment of risk or atrocities

The horrific rampage of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has captured the world’s attention. Many Western commentators have characterized ISIL’s crimes as unique, no longer practiced anywhere else in the civilized world. They argue that the group’s barbarism is intrinsically Islamic, a product of the aggressive and archaic worldview that dominates the Muslim world. The ignorance of these claims is stunning.

While there are other organized groups whose depravity and threat to the United States far surpasses that of ISIL, none has engendered the same kind of collective indignation and hysteria. This raises a question: Are Americans primarily concerned with ISIL’s atrocities or with the fact that Muslims are committing these crimes?

For example, even as the U.S. media and policymakers radically inflate ISIL’s threat to the Middle East and United States, most Americans appear to be unaware of the scale of the atrocities committed by Mexican drug cartels and the threat they pose to the United States.

Cartels versus ISIL

A recent United Nations report estimated nearly 9,000 civilians have been killed and 17,386 wounded in Iraq in 2014, more than half since ISIL fighters seized large parts on northern Iraq in June. It is likely that the group is responsible another several thousand deaths in Syria. To be sure, these numbers are staggering. But in 2013 drug cartels murdered more than 16,000 people in Mexico alone, and another 60,000 from 2006 to 2012 — a rate of more than one killing every half hour for the last seven years. What is worse, these are estimates from the Mexican government, which is known to deflate the actual death toll by about 50 percent.

Statistics alone do not convey the depravity and threat of the cartels. They carry out hundreds of beheadings every year. In addition to decapitations, the cartels are known to dismember and otherwise mutilate the corpses of their victims — displaying piles of bodies prominently in towns to terrorize the public into compliance. They routinely target women and children to further intimidate communities. Like ISIL, the cartels use social media to post graphic images of their atrocious crimes.

The narcos also recruit child soldiers, molding boys as young as 11 into assassins or sending them on suicide missions during armed confrontations with Mexico’s army. They kidnap tens of thousands of children every year to use as drug mules or prostitutes or to simply kill and harvest their organs for sale on the black market. Those who dare to call for reforms often end up dead. In September, with the apparent assistance of local police, cartels kidnapped and massacred 43 students at a teaching college near the Mexican town of Iguala in response to student protests. A search in the area for the students has uncovered a number of mass graves containing mutilated bodies burned almost beyond recognition, but none of the remains have been confirmed to be of the students.

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A still from a video released by ISIL’s official website in September 2014.
AFP / Getty Images

While the Islamic militants have killed a handful of journalists, the cartels murdered as many as 57 since 2006 for reporting on cartel crimes or exposing government complicity with the criminals. Many of Mexico’s media have been effectively silenced by intimidation or bribes. These censorship activities extend beyond professional media, with narcos tracking down and murdering ordinary citizens who criticize them on the Internet, leaving their naked and disemboweled corpses hanging in public squares. Yet American intellectuals such as Sam Harris appear to be more outraged when Muslims protest or issue threats in response to blasphemous or anti-Muslim hate speech than when cartels murder dozens of journalists and systematically co-opt an entire country’s media.

Similarly, Westerners across various political spectrums were outraged when ISIL seized 1,500 Yazidi women, committing sexual violence against the captives and using them as slaves. Here again, the cartels’ capture and trafficking of women dwarfs ISIL’s crimes. Narcos hold tens of thousands of Mexican citizens as slaves for their various enterprises and systematically use rape as a weapon of war.

U.S. media have especially hyped ISIL’s violence against Americans. This summer ISIL beheaded two Americans and has warned about executing a third; additionally, one U.S. Marine has died in efforts to combat the group. By contrast, the cartels killed 293 Americans in Mexico from 2007 to 2010 and have repeatedly attacked U.S. consulates in Mexico. While ISIL’s beheadings are no doubt outrageous, the cartels tortured, dismembered and then cooked one of the Americans they captured — possibly eating him or feeding him to dogs.

The US government cannot formulate an effective response to the narcos’ severe threats because the American public is far too busy disparaging Islam while the US military kills Arabs and Muslims abroad.

The cartels’ atrocities are not restricted to the Mexican side of the border. From 2006 to 2010 as many as 5,700 Americans were killed in the U.S. by cartel-fueled drug violence. By contrast, 2,937 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Over the last decade, some 2,349 Americans were killed in Afghanistan, and 4,487 Americans died in Iraq. In four years the cartels have managed to cause the deaths of more Americans than during 9/11 or either of those wars.

Barack Obama’s administration claims ISIL poses a severe threat to U.S. interests and national security. However, the militants were primarily concerned with seizing and holding territory in Iraq and Syria until the U.S. began targeting them. Even now, while they have called for lone wolves to carry out attacks on targets in the United States, so far those arrested in connection to ISIL have been trying to go and fight abroad rather than plotting domestic attacks. To the extent ISIL wants to kill Americans, its primary tactic has been to try to lure U.S. troops to its turf by publicly executing citizens they already hold hostage. In fact, several U.S. intelligence officials have asserted that ISIL poses no credible threat to the United States homeland. However, the same cannot be said of the cartels.

Narcos have infiltrated at least 3,000 U.S. cities and are recruiting many Americans, including U.S. troops and law enforcement officers, to their organizations. They have an increasingly sophisticated and robust foundation in the U.S., with Mexican cartels now controlling more than 80 percent of the illicit drug trade in the United States and their top agents deployed to virtually every major metropolitan area. There are no realistic assessments indicating that ISIL could achieve a similar level of penetration in the United States.

Explaining the dissonance

It is clear that the anti-ISIL campaign is not driven by the group’s relative threat to the United States or the scale or inhumane nature of their atrocities. If these were the primary considerations, the public would be far more terrified of and outraged by the narcos. Perhaps the U.S. would be mobilizing 50 nations to purge Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel rather than shielding it from prosecution, helping it polish off its rivals or even move drugs into the United States.

Some may argue that despite the asymmetries, the cartels are less of a threat than ISIL because ISIL is unified around an ideology, which is antithetical to the prevailing international order, while the cartels are concerned primarily with money. This is not true.

A good deal of the cartels’ violence is perpetrated ritualistically as part of their religion, which is centered, quite literally, on the worship of death. The narcos build and support churches all across Mexico to perpetuate their eschatology. One of the cartels, the Knights Templar (whose name evokes religious warfare), even boasts about its leader’s death and resurrection. When cartel members are killed, they are buried in lavish mausoleums, regarded as martyrs and commemorated in popular songs glorifying their exploits in all their brutality. Many of their members view the “martyrs” as heroes who died resisting an international order that exploits Latin America and fighting the feckless governments that enable it. The cartels see their role as compensating for state failures in governance. The narco gospel, which derives from Catholicism, is swiftly making inroads in the United States and Central America. In short, the cartels’ ideological disposition is no less pronounced than ISIL’s, if not worse.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government cannot formulate an effective response to these much more severe threats because the American public is far too busy disparaging Islam while the U.S. military kills Arabs and Muslims abroad. One thing is certain: America’s obsession with ISIL is fueled by Islamophobia rather than any empirical realities.

 

Musa al-Gharbi is a senior fellow with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

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Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq

The sectarian terror group won’t be defeated by the western states that incubated it in the first place

The war on terror, that campaign without end launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions. On Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.

The prosecution abandoned the case, apparently to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services. The defence argued that going ahead withthe trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition.

That didn’t only include the “non-lethal assistance” boasted of by the government (including body armour and military vehicles), but training, logistical support and the secret supply of “arms on a massive scale”. Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Clearly, the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much. But it’s only the latest of a string of such cases. Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesn’t constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions, including the Geneva convention.

But terrorism is now squarely in the eye of the beholder. And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s fighters against tyranny – and allies are enemies – often at the bewildering whim of a western policymaker’s conference call.

For the past year, US, British and other western forces have been back in Iraq, supposedly in the cause of destroying the hyper-sectarian terror group Islamic State (formerly known as al-Qaida in Iraq). This was after Isis overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory and proclaimed a self-styled Islamic caliphate.

The campaign isn’t going well. Last month, Isis rolled into the Iraqi city of Ramadi, while on the other side of the now nonexistent border its forces conquered the Syrian town of Palmyra. Al-Qaida’s official franchise, the Nusra Front, has also been making gains in Syria.

Some Iraqis complain that the US sat on its hands while all this was going on. The Americans insist they are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and claim significant successes. Privately, officials say they don’t want to be seen hammering Sunni strongholds in a sectarian war and risk upsetting their Sunni allies in the Gulf.

A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.

American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria

Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later. The report isn’t a policy document. It’s heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.

That doesn’t mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.

The calculus changed when Isis started beheading westerners and posting atrocities online, and the Gulf states are now backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front. But this US and western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them, goes back at least to the 1980s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which fostered the original al-Qaida under CIA tutelage.

It was recalibrated during the occupation of Iraq, when US forces led by General Petraeus sponsored an El Salvador-style dirty war of sectarian death squads to weaken the Iraqi resistance. And it was reprised in 2011 in the Nato-orchestrated war in Libya, where Isis last week took control of Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte.

In reality, US and western policy in the conflagration that is now the Middle East is in the classic mould of imperial divide-and-rule. American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria, and mount what are effectively joint military operations with Iran against Isis in Iraq while supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. However confused US policy may often be, a weak, partitioned Iraq and Syria fit such an approach perfectly.

What’s clear is that Isis and its monstrosities won’t be defeated by the same powers that brought it to Iraq and Syria in the first place, or whose open and covert war-making has fostered it in the years since. Endless western military interventions in the Middle East have brought only destruction and division. It’s the people of the region who can cure this disease – not those who incubated the virus.


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Roots Of Modern Terrorism And Religious Fundamentalism

By G. Asgar Mitha

– Anyone who attempts to construe a personal view of God which conflicts with Church dogma must be burned without pity – Pope Benedict III – Pope from 855 – 858 AD.

– Fear is the basis of the whole – fear of the mysterious, of defeat and death. Fear is the parent of cruelty and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand – Bertrand Russell

I‘ve quoted Bertrand Russell after reading his rather interesting essays titled Why I’m Not a Christian delivered on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch and that inspired me to write this article.

The horrors of the Catholic Church are well documented while even today the modernists, historians and politicians are turned off to discuss those horrors and are involved in discussing the horrors of a Muslim civilization. No civilization has been without its dark ages. Europe and America burnt people alive by tying them to stakes after accusations of witchcraft. Ancient Egypt used to cut off the limbs of their citizens from opposite ends and then crucify them. Rome too crucified their citizens. All kinds of horrors have been recorded in history books. One of the best movies I’d seen was The Name of the Rose starring Sean Connery regarding the Holy Inquisition involving the Church. The procedures of the Holy Inquisition involved examination of charges of heresy by the Church. Even those innocent were not spared by trumped up charges. Such was the terrorism due to religious fundamentalism within the European religious system that the Church reaped wealth, mainly from the poor and destitute while protecting the wealthy aristocrats. The Church was not only a religious entity but it also embodied politics.

The Spanish Inquisitions from 1474-1834 AD were held under Pope Sixtus IV mainly against the Jews and Muslims but also against Christian heretics. Those refusing to take up Catholic faith were led to the stake to be burnt alive in a ceremony known as auto-de-fe (act of failth) and their properties confiscated to the Church.

The horrors of the Catholic Church are provided in brief in the above paragraphs. However the roots of current situation of Muslim terrorism and fundamentalism need to be examined. The basis of all terrorism and fundamentalism is not religion (as correctly postulated by Karen Armstrong) which condemns both but rests in politics and powers of the state and the religious authorities. Both politicians and clergy have used religion to consolidate their power over the weakest of their audience condemning them as heretics and kafirs (heathen unbelievers).

While I was growing up in Pakistan until 1968, there was harmony and religious tolerance among the Shia and Sunni sects. Christians and Hindus too were accepted and tolerated and there were no Islamic laws that discriminated them. Hotels used to serve alcohol and advertise striptease shows of women from many countries. After having completed my education in the US, I returned to Pakistan in 1977 under the martial law rule of President Zia-ul-Haq only to find a Pakistani society devoid of all tolerance and one of extreme religious fundamentalism but not yet of visible terrorism. It was in the germinating stages. Zia was a diehard Saudi supporter who closely held the Wahhabist-Salfist belief of forcibly imposing religion upon the people. In exchange Zia received large Saudi monetary aid to breed religious extremism among the Taliban (students) in madressas (religious schools) operated as seminaries to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan. The Saudis in turn received the political support from the US. The students were not taught true Islamic values which are based on knowledge and free learning that benefits mankind. The Wahhabist teachings are instead based on fear aptly described by Bertrand Russell.

The other Wahhabist-Salafist fundamentalist Saudi citizen, Osama bin Laden, led the Afghan Mujahideen (holy warriors) and Taliban against the Soviets under the umbrella of Al-Qaeda (the base). He was supposedly killed in Pakistan in May 2011 by the Americans. The Soviet war in Afghanistan lasted over nine years from December 1979 to February 1989. Zia died in August 1988 in a mysterious plane crash. He’d served his masters well and the Americans and Saudis rewarded him with a plea to God to open the doors of Heaven for him and for the houris (female angels) to entertain him. Unfortunately I perceive the same fates for other current Pakistani leaders who are serving their masters.

IS (Islamic States), for example, has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with fear, cruelty, politics and religious intolerance. IS does not represent Islamic moderation, tolerance, respect and knowledge. The IS Jihadists being recruited from Europe and N. America are most likely not mainstream Muslims but lunatics and converts in a society they hate. They could well have been victims of political and extremist religious brainwashing similar to the Taliban. Just like al-Qaeda and Taliban were recruited against the Soviets, the IS may have been created to plunder the Arab countries. The IS is conducting inquisitions against everyone regardless of their minority (Christians and Yezidis) or sectarian beliefs (Shias and Sunnis) and their methods of torture and murder (beheadings and burning) are as horrifying as was practiced by the European Churches.

Following the war’s end, Afghanistan was in ruins and those same political parties (the seven party Jihadists) that had allied against the Soviets engaged in trivial disputes and fighting among themselves. America abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan only to return in 2001 with a war against the former and military threats and promises of monetary aid for the latter. The Taliban returned victorious to Pakistan after having defeated the Soviet infidels. They now believed they were God’s chosen people and like Zia, it was their bounden duty to forcibly impose Wahhabism upon a nation. Terrorism and fear became their instruments and many of these Taliban also infiltrated the political parties in Pakistan in order to gain power and wealth similar to the norms of the Christian Church of the dark ages. America watched and learnt how hyenas fight over a carcass. Pakistan and Afghanistan were ushering in the dark ages. The lessons were going to be applied throughout the Muslim world with the objectives of once again gaining not only power but control of the precious black gold resource.

Saudi Arabia and other Monarchist Arab Wahhabist countries have been natural economic allies of America and its European vassals as they are weak and in need of protection. America continues to support the Saudis in exporting their perverted religious dogma across the Muslim countries in order to breed religious intolerance, cruelty and terrorism. Some of the countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria and Palestine have been war victims, others like Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt have survived upon American and Saudi aids. Iran is the only Muslim country where America and the Saudi monarchy have failed for exporting terrorism and religious extremism and both fear it as a regional power. Iran has adopted values of democracy, tolerance, moderation, justice, knowledge and learning – the hallmarks of Islam. The roots of Wahhabism are based on an extremist form of Islam, of intolerance of all religions, injustice and implementation of fear by their religious police known as mutawwas supported by the monarchies which the west supports. The one thing common among the Arab monarchies and the western ‘democracy’ is deep hypocrisy.


Ivana Hoffmann.

First female western fighter dies fighting Islamic State

Ivana Hoffmann, 19, from Duisburg in Germany, died on Saturday fighting for the Turkish Marxist-Leninist Communist Party against Isis in Syria

by Louise Osborne in Berlin
A 19-year-old woman has reportedly become the first female western fighter to die in battle against Islamic State (Isis) in northern Syria.

Ivana Hoffmann, who was known by the nom de guerre Avaşin Tekoşin Güneş, was killed on Saturday morning while fighting alongside Kurdish fighters in the Syrian region of Tel Tamir, according to a statement published by the Turkish-Kurdish communist group Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) on Monday.

Hoffmann died at around 3am as a result of an exchange of fire between the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) with which she was stationed and around a dozen Isis extremists, said the statement.

The young woman is thought to have travelled to Turkey to fight against Isis around six months ago.

Identifying herself in a YouTube video backed with a red MLKP flag, Hoffmann says she was born in Germany on 1 September, 1995, and first found out about the party in 2011. Looking directly into the camera, she says that she travelled to the autonomous region of Rojava in 2014 to “defend the revolution” and to “hold high the party’s flag”.

The young woman, who is reported to have had African roots, lived in the western German town of Duisburg and was believed to have attended the Aletta-Haniel comprehensive school, according to the German local newspaper the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. The information could not immediately be confirmed.

In another YouTube video purportedly showing Hoffmann later, with her face covered with a scarf and holding a rifle in what appears to be the Turkish-Syrian border region, the young woman says in German she has been there for a week.

She adds that she is with the unit “to fight for humanity” and “to fight for freedom”.

According to tweets posted on Monday, a memorial for the young woman is to be held in Duisburg on 14 March from 3pm.

Hoffmann is not the first European to have died fighting Isis extremists alongside Kurdish fighters in Syria. Last week former British royal marine Konstandinos Erik Scurfield died in Al-Hol in Hasaka province, close to the Iraq border.

A spokesman for Germany’s foreign ministry said it was unable to comment.


Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

By Jay Michaelson

Evangelicals & ISIS Feel Fine About the End of the World

End Times prophecies for Evangelical and the Islamic State are eerily similar. God help us if they ever become self-fulfilling.

What if two mortal enemies both wanted a cataclysmic, world-ending battle, at roughly the same time, in roughly the same place?

Can you say “self-fulfilling prophecy”?

As Americans become better acquainted with the apocalyptic beliefs of the Islamic State, thanks to a spate of recent presentations of them, it’s worth noting that there are end-timers on our side as well: over three-quarters of U.S. evangelicals believe we’re living in the End Times right now. And while evangelical millennialists are not calling the military shots at the moment, their prophecies align in potentially terrifying ways with those of our enemy.

ISIS, as Graeme Wood unveiled in The Atlantic recently, is an apocalyptic death cult. It is Aum Shinrikyu and the Branch Davidians, but with machine guns, brutality, and a swath of territory with 8 million people living in it.

(Many have criticized Wood’s article, but only that it does not emphasize enough that there are many other streams of Islam, that ISIS’s brand is on the fringe, and that there are alternatives to Wood’s literalistic reading of the Koran. Which is fine—and says nothing about his analysis of ISIS itself.)

ISIS’s “prophetic methodology” (Wood’s translation) involves not just a revanchist revival of slavery, crucifixion, and excommunication but also the reestablishment of a territorial caliphate that is necessary for the coming of the Mahdi, the messiah. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is said to be the eighth of twelve caliphs—which may mean that Armageddon will not take place for another few decades, or that the caliphs’ reigns may be short.

Wood proposes that ISIS’s military strategy is driven by millenialist zeal. The capture of the Syrian town of Dabiq, for example, was heralded as a great victory not because it is strategically important (it isn’t) but because it is prophesized as the place of the final battle. Just like Megiddo, the plain in Northern Israel that gives Armageddon its name.

Dabiq is also the name of the Islamic State’s newsletter.

The specific prophecy is that the armies of “Rome” (in Islam and Judaism, Rome is a euphemism for Christianity—though some experts say it may be a stand-in for the Byzantine empire, or infidels more generally) will come to Dabiq, and lose in a great battle. Then, the victorious caliphate will expand.

But things will not go smoothly. The dajjal, an Antichrist-like figure, will arise from Persia—conveniently, ISIS’s current nemesis, Iran—and defeat most of the caliphate. The remainder will retreat to, you guessed it, Jerusalem.

And then? Remarkably, the figure who will save the caliphate is none other than Jesus, who will kill the dajjal and enable the caliphate to re-form.

This may sound familiar—because it is. It is very close to the Christian apocalyptic narrative. Indeed, as a student of millennialism for some time (my dissertation was on a false messiah), it was shocking to see the congruence between the Islamic State’s vision of the End Times and that of evangelical Christianity: a large battle somewhere north to northeast of Jerusalem, a final battle in Jerusalem with the near-defeat of the heroic believers by an Antichrist figure, and then Jesus appearing from heaven to win the battle once and for all.

It was shocking to see the congruence between the Islamic State’s vision of the End Times and that of evangelical Christianity.

A recent post on one End-Times site, raptureready.com, noticed and endorsed this alignment. It describes the period between the battle of Dabiq and the battle of Jerusalem as “a time of warning,” similar to the Great Tribulation in Christian theology. Dabiq itself is close to Damascus, about which Isaiah 17:1 prophesized, “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap.” (Especially if ‘Damascus’ is interpreted as a metonym for Syria in general.)

There are many reasons for these alignments. Islam and Christianity have long drawn on one another’s ideas, even when they are superficially antagonistic. There may also be something archetypal about the millennial narrative: the evil forces come close, they are defeated, but then they emerge stronger, until finally supernatural help arrives.

Or, of course, they may be right. I don’t mean that ascetic visionaries in the 3rd or 10th centuries actually predicted the 21st—but if enough people believe that a particular narrative is true, it can become true. Especially if those are the people with the guns.

Evangelical-led Christian Zionism has already had a substantive impact on U.S. policy, and has been driven by theological propositions. Congressman Dan Webster (R-Fla.) said in 2011 that if “we stop helping Israel, we lose God’s hand and we’re in big time trouble.” Christian Zionists point to Genesis 12:3, in which God tells Israel, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.” With Judgment Day nigh, it’s best to be on the right side.

But what “blessing” Israel means has a very specific meaning, and a very specific endgame. Christians United for Israel, led by Pastor John Hagee, has long pushed a hard-right agenda when it comes to Israel. This week, for example, its website features a pop-up saying “Bibi Did His Job. Now We Must Do Ours.”

Hagee has put his money where his mouth is. Since 2001, the John Hagee Foundation has donated over $58 million to hard-right Israeli organizations, including settlements and Im Tirtzu, a extreme nationalist group which has depicted liberal Knesset member Naomi Chazan with horns, helped pass anti-NGO laws in Israel, and led a years-long campaign against the liberal New Israel Fund.

And, of course, Christian Zionists have paid millions of dollars for Jews to immigrate to Israel, on the belief that at least half of world Jewry must be in the Land of Israel for the End Times to proceed. Last October, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the largest evangelical Christian organizational supporter of Israel (annual budget, $111 million) even announced that it would set up its own immigration program, in competition with the Jewish Agency.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Jewish Daily Forward that such efforts are “ for their own salvation, not for Jewish salvation, it’s so they will see the second coming of the messiah.” Foxman added, “a campaign of Christians to send Jews to Israel is morally offensive.”

That may be, but it is also a billion-dollar business, and a popular one: over 60 percent of white Evangelicals believe that the State of Israel fulfills a prophecy about the Second Coming. In this view, Jews living in Israel will catalyze the End Times, culminating in a huge battle with the forces of evil—first in Northern Israel or Syria, and then in Jerusalem itself. A very similar goal to that of the Islamic State.

Of course, there the comparisons end. Christians United for Israel cannot be compared with ISIS. They may share a millennial view of the near future, but CUFI is not executing, torturing, beheading, or enslaving anyone. Christian Zionists are not building a theocracy. And while they can boast of many high-level allies in the Republican elite, most of those favoring a stepped-up military campaign with ISIS are foreign policy hawks, not messianic crazies.

But the crazies are out there, not on the fringe, but in CPAC, AIPAC, and the Republican establishment. And they are numerous. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. evangelicals believe we are living in the End Times, as do 40 percent of all Americans. They are avidly proselytizing not just to save the rest of us from sin—but also to save us from the tribulations that are imminent.

That America has twice been at war against Babylon (ancient Babylon’s ruins are adjacent to Saddam Hussein’s former summer palace) added fuel to the fire. Now, we find ourselves on the brink of yet a third war there.

But this time is different. When it comes to apocalyptic warfare, it takes two to tango. And now, apocalyptic Christian Zionists have found their perfect partners: a savage, bloody cult that wants to drag “Rome” into war and is doing everything possible to provoke it. God help us if both sides decide to dance.


Noam Chomsky: Defeating ISIS Starts with the US Admitting Its Role in Creating This Fundamentalist Monster

It would take remedying the massive damage inflicted on Iraq in order to deal with the turmoil in the region.


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