Still working

March 7, 2015

I apologize to all three of you for not posting more. I have this problem with research: I do it. One thing leads to another and another. I’ve noticed that it’s incredibly easy to spout some unfounded “fact” off the top of one’s head or somewhere. It takes forever to check it and find out if it is totally imaginary, a half-truth, something out of context or even accurate.

So please excuse me while I track down what I can about who the real terrorists are. When I post it, there will be references.

Thanks.

Know Your Terrorist

February 1, 2015

1406367388263_wps_11_Marauding_ISIS_militia_be

The recent tragic events in France have made it clear that most of us are a little vague on the different terrorist groups operating in the world today. Even the terrorists there weren’t sure who they were working for. When I realized that even they were confused, it seemed like a good idea to give a simplistic explanation of the major non-governmental terrorists so that the next time someone takes you hostage and says that they are from the Broccoli Liberation front, you can explain to them why they should kill you for another reason, rather than to free oppressed broccoli.

Here are the most active free-lance groups. In my next essay, Ill consider the governmental and corporate terrorist organizations that have created the more openly violent cadres.

BOKO HARAM

As the link below and all the news reports seem to agree, Boko Haram, operating in Northeastern Nigeria, is the most brutal and least comprehensible of the active terrorists. They love mayhem, murder and rape and don’t seem to be making any ideological demands apart from a fuzzy connection to Islam. Originally a non-violent group that protested oppression by the Nigerian government, it grew to oppose any form of what it considers western influence. This is why even Muslim children are killed or kidnapped at western-style schools. They say they are Islamic but, as with another group, ISIS/DAESH, they are imagining a mythical Islamic past. Actually, I think they are also imagining a mythical Africa derived from western films seasoned with Lord of the Flies.

For connected topics see: Nigerian Army, Nigerian Government, International Oil Cartels, Koch Brothers

A more academic explanation is here:

http://ijpr.org/post/nigeria-boko-haram-continues-its-campaign-terror

AL-QAEDA

This is not the oldest group but one of the most visible. It began in the late 1980s in the wake of the years of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. “With Soviet forces withdrawing …, the idea of a global jihad suddenly seems possible, and al Qaeda, literally “the Base,” is born. “We used to call the training camp al Qaeda,” bin Laden would later recall. “And the name stayed.”´ [sic] (http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/17/al-qaeda-core-a-short-history) Doesn’t that sound cozy? Al-Qaeda was founded by Osama bin-Laden, born in 1957 to a Syrian mother and Yemeni father. The senior bin-Laden was a self-made millionaire contractor who became the major builder for the Saudi Arabian monarchy. PBS Frontline has posted a fascinating biography, written by one of bin-Laden’s followers, portraying him as a pious young man who was doing contracting in Afghanistan when the invasion of Kuwait began: “While he was expecting some call to mobilize his men and equipment he heard the news which transferred his life completely. The Americans are coming. He always describes that moment as shocking moment. He felt depressed and thought that maneuvers had to change. Instead of writing to the king or approaching other members of the royal family, he started lobbying through religious scholars and Muslim activists.”  [sic] (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/who/bio.html)

Al-Qaeda was born because of the American support of the Saudis and vice-versa. Osama was considered a terrorist by the Saudis and, under him, A-Qaeda organized mutual support with the Taliban. “The leader of Taliban Mulla Omer was keen to meet Osama. He met him early 1997 after two TV interviews, Channel 4 and CNN.[!?] Mulla Omer expressed respect and admiration but requested him to have low profile…. Bin Laden noticed that the driving force in Taliban were Ulema (religious scholars). He made very good links with them and lobbied specifically for the subject of American forces in the Arabian Peninsula. He was able to extract a fatwah signed by some 40 scholars in Afghanistan sanctioning the use of all means to expel the American forces from the Peninsula. The issue of that fatwah was an asset to him inside Taliban domain. He felt that Ulema were at his back and he can go high profile after long silence.” (ibid)

“His relation with Taliban would best be understood if Taliban themselves are understood properly. First of all Taliban are not simply another Afghan faction supported by Pakistan. Taliban are sincere to their beliefs, a religiously committed group unspoiled by political tactics. They would never bargain with what they see as matters of principle. Bin Laden for them is a saint. He is a symbol of sacrifice for the sake of jihad. They see him as very rich Arab from the Holy Land who gave up his wealth and luxury to fight for the sake of his brother Muslims in Afghanistan.” (ibid)

I wish there were more such biographies.  It is essential for us to comprehend the rationale of the many people who support the terrorists. One problem we have is understanding why these terrorist leaders are so protected. If you read the whole article, it continues explaining why the Taliban and Osama were so revered. The author doesn’t mention bombings, murder, or the oppression of women and minorities, of course.

Even before Osama bin-Laden was killed, his grip on Al-Qaeda was slipping. Other groups in the Sudan, Nigeria and Syria, were not looking to them for leadership. Many, such as ISIS and Boko Haram, do not have a firm theological base other than, West and Jews = bad; our Islam =good.

See Taliban, George W. Bush, Oil Cartels

THE (SO-CALLED) ISLAMIC STATE

Of the Muslim-associated terrorist groups, this is the most interesting to me because, unlike the others, there is a medieval flavor about it. Sadly, as I mentioned above, they don’t seem to have any historians among them, so that the caliphate they plan is drawn from fantasy. They do appear to have some serious and competent Muslim scholars in their ranks, but they haven’t made it clear what school of Shari’a law they are working from. Of course, few people outside of fundamentalist Islam know that there is more than one branch. Have you ever noticed how many problems occur because no one thought to consult an expert in history?

ISIS grew from the Syrian al-Qaeda sector as a result of the Syrian civil war. The reasons for that war, beyond the Arab Spring, have been minutely dissected without any consensus. Suffice to say that ISIS is the richest and best-organized of the Islamist groups operating today. As with the first two groups, they succeeded because a dictator or other person in power was tormenting a minority group and they were able to come in and fill a vacuum. In this case, they began as rebels against the government of Bashir al Assad, which is not only dictatorial but heretical in their eyes. They state that they have set up an Islamist Caliphate.   The last Caliphate in the area was defeated by the Ottoman Empire over 600 years ago so the blueprint is rather old. Both the Abbasid and Umayyad Caliphates in the 8th through 11th centuries tended to be fairly easy going about minorities, even Islamic ones. I believe that, like Boko Haram, ISIS has been taken over by the psychopathic wing of the party. Their treatment of the Yazidi is an example of this. It’s not likely that their Caliphate will resemble the ancient ones.

Much has been made of the foreign volunteers coming to fight for ISIS. Some of these fighters arriving from other countries are devout Muslims who may be horrified by what they find. Indications are that others come in a spirit of adventure or from a feeling of failure at home. But too many recruits have come because they love having power and not having any rules of behavior. For historians out there, think French Revolution.

There are many other terrorist groups that have no religious attachments. Most of these are political or territorial. ETA, or Basque liberation, has been attempting to find a peaceful solution recently as has the socialist FARC, in Columbia. Greece has the far-right Golden Dawn; Ireland, the reformed Sinn Fein. All of these have used violence and terrorism in their quest to achieve their goals.

There have been many explanations for the success of the recent Islamist terrorists. Some say that it is a relic of European colonialism. Others that the terrorists are a reaction to oppressive governments and cultures of corruption and bribery at every level. Well, I don’t think any of these things helped. Certainly, many of the most violent groups are fighting against leaders who have ignored and oppressed sections of the society.

After much consideration, it seems to me that we and much of the media are looking at the problem from the wrong direction. We see the horrific actions of ISIS and Boko Haram, but these are distracting us from much more widespread and pernicious terrorism.

As I was working on this, I began to realize that, while we are busy trying to stop murderers, rapists and torturers, the people who are really responsible for their actions are thousands of miles away, moving pieces on metaphorical chess boards.

This will be the topic of my next post.

Interview on ISIS

January 5, 2015

Hi all! I’m working up to a look at who are joining ISIS, Boko Haram and also who are coming to Nigeria, Syria and Iraq to fight against them. Until then, here is an interview on the topic that I did with Prof. Andrew Holt.

http://apholt.com/2015/01/05/isis-and-medievalism-an-interview-with-dr-sharan-newman/

ISIS (etc) a Medieval throwback?

December 28, 2014

Sharan Newman:

For weeks I have been researching background information on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. I’ve learned that the leaders, at least, are Salafi, a fundamentalist branch of Islam and that their idea of Shari’a law is fairly narrow, considering that there are four main branches of the law, just among Sunni. Since they have been called “medieval” and “apocalyptic” I felt the need to find out if there is any truth in it.
Of course, the answer I came up with is “sort of”. According to ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, a Syrian from near Aleppo, the West is associated with the Crusaders. However, he doesn’t seem to know much about the period. There are parallels with the 11th -13th centuries, however. War then was generally fought for control of territory, just as now. The difference was that there were no real standing armies so that the ground fighters were paid in booty: loot and women. Groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram seem to have that idea down.
The other constant, according to Adnani, is that the real enemies are not Western powers, or even Israel, but Shi’a Muslims. He writes, quoting, “Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi to build his case against the Shi’a. “Even though the US is dangerous, Rafidha [another derogatory term for Shi’a] are more dangerous on {to] the Umma [the Islamic nation or Muslims around the world]. Rafidha are the most dangerous enemy that threatens Islam and Muslims. The Islamic State took it upon itself to fiercely fight Rafidha everywhere. We will completely destroy them even if it took the death of our last soldier. Our fight against them is a united fight in Iraq, Sham [Syria and Lebanon], Yemen, the rest of the peninsula, and Khurassan [Iran].” http://iswiraq.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-time-to-harvest-is-coming-isis.html
Thus the need is to destroy all Muslims who deviate from their beliefs, including other Sunni. This has been voiced by Muslim writers since the eighth century. Most of the Muslim chroniclers of the Crusade era are much more concerned with the conflict between Muslims than with the Christian invaders.
OK, this is as much as I could learn. There are medieval traits to ISIS but clearly they have about as much understanding of the Middle Ages as the average Westerner, which is none.
I think it might be more profitable to look at ISIS in comparison with Utopian movements. Because that is was it really is. What they are trying to do is much the same as Cromwell in England, Savonarola in Florence, Hong Xiuquan in Nanking and many others. In all of these, people flocked to them, hoping for a better life. The idea of a Utopia is to establish heaven on earth. But, as with the other attempts, the heaven for a few is hell for everyone else. This is what many of the young people who have rushed to join the jihad are discovering.
My conclusions? ISIS is not medieval but part of a constant struggle in human society. Is it apocalyptic? Not really, as far as I can tell. But I’m reserving judgment until I’ve studied the matter more. My own mental breakthrough came when I realized that the debate about Islamism is obscuring the real nature of this movement and the motivations of those who join.
I have more thoughts on that topic. But this is enough for now. My recent books, The Real History of the End of the World http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-History-End-World/dp/0425232530 and Defending the City of God http://www.amazon.com/Defending-City-God-Medieval-Jerusalem/dp/113727865X cover some of the topics mentioned here. While you can get them from Amazon, I’m sure that your local independent bookstore or your local library will get them for you.

Originally posted on Apocalypses and Other Thoughts:

For weeks I have been researching background information on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. I’ve learned that the leaders, at least, are Salafi, a fundamentalist branch of Islam and that their idea of Shari’a law is fairly narrow, considering that there are four main branches of the law, just among Sunni. Since they have been called “medieval” and “apocalyptic” I felt the need to find out if there is any truth in it.

Of course, the answer I came up with is “sort of”. According to ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, a Syrian from near Aleppo, the West is associated with the Crusaders. However, he doesn’t seem to know much about the period. There are parallels with the 11th -13th centuries, however. War then was generally fought for control of territory, just as now. The difference was that there were no real standing armies so that the ground fighters…

View original 462 more words

ISIS (etc) a Medieval throwback?

December 28, 2014

For weeks I have been researching background information on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. I’ve learned that the leaders, at least, are Salafi, a fundamentalist branch of Islam and that their idea of Shari’a law is fairly narrow, considering that there are four main branches of the law, just among Sunni. Since they have been called “medieval” and “apocalyptic” I felt the need to find out if there is any truth in it.

Of course, the answer I came up with is “sort of”. According to ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, a Syrian from near Aleppo, the West is associated with the Crusaders. However, he doesn’t seem to know much about the period. There are parallels with the 11th -13th centuries, however. War then was generally fought for control of territory, just as now. The difference was that there were no real standing armies so that the ground fighters were paid in booty: loot and women. Groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram seem to have that idea down.

The other constant, according to Adnani, is that the real enemies are not Western powers, or even Israel, but Shi’a Muslims. He writes, quoting, “Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi to build his case against the Shi’a. “Even though the US is dangerous, Rafidha [another derogatory term for Shi’a] are more dangerous on {to] the Umma [the Islamic nation or Muslims around the world]. Rafidha are the most dangerous enemy that threatens Islam and Muslims. The Islamic State took it upon itself to fiercely fight Rafidha everywhere. We will completely destroy them even if it took the death of our last soldier. Our fight against them is a united fight in Iraq, Sham [Syria and Lebanon], Yemen, the rest of the peninsula, and Khurassan [Iran]. http://iswiraq.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-time-to-harvest-is-coming-isis.html

Thus the need is to destroy all Muslims who deviate from their beliefs, including other Sunni. This has been voiced by Muslim writers since the eighth century. Most of the Muslim chroniclers of the Crusade era are much more concerned with the conflict between Muslims than with the Christian invaders.

OK, this is as much as I could learn. There are medieval traits to ISIS but clearly they have about as much understanding of the Middle Ages as the average Westerner, which is none.

I think it might be more profitable to look at ISIS in comparison with Utopian movements. Because that is was it really is. What they are trying to do is much the same as Cromwell in England, Savonarola in Florence, Hong Xiuquan in Nanking and many others. In all of these, people flocked to them, hoping for a better life. The idea of a Utopia is to establish heaven on earth. But, as with the other attempts, the heaven for a few is hell for everyone else. This is what many of the young people who have rushed to join the jihad are discovering.

My conclusions? ISIS is not medieval but part of a constant struggle in human society. Is it apocalyptic? Not really, as far as I can tell. But I’m reserving judgment until I’ve studied the matter more. My own mental breakthrough came when I realized that the debate about Islamism is obscuring the real nature of this movement and the motivations of those who join.

I have more thoughts on that topic. But this is enough for now. My recent books, The Real History of the End of the World http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-History-End-World/dp/0425232530 and Defending the City of God http://www.amazon.com/Defending-City-God-Medieval-Jerusalem/dp/113727865X cover some of the topics mentioned here. While you can get them from Amazon, I’m sure that your local independent bookstore or your local library will get them for you.

Oh Dear, I’m Going to Miss the Rapture Again

October 21, 2014

Just when I thought that the apocalypse had already happened and no one had caught on, I got a flyer in the mail that reaffirmed my faith in prognosticators and prophets. “IS THE END NEAR?” it asks. “Find out Friday, October 24.”

prophecy-signs_15Look familiar?  They seem to have read my book, at least.

Darn. I’m going to be in Indianapolis on the 24th, attending the Magna Cum Murder mystery convention. I’ll miss my chance to get the date. Of course, it’s a five night seminar, including a section on how to unmask the Antichrist, a skill that I think would be most useful.  However, if I go to seven nights I get a free DVD. Does that mean there are two nights that are secret, only for the Saved? Or does it mean that I need to sit in a hall with nothing happening in the hope that the DVD will fall from heaven?

I am doomed to ignorance. If anyone else finds the answers, please let me know.

On another eschatological note, I have heard some people say that ISIS etc. is apocalyptic. That’s not correct. For one thing, in Islam (Christianity, too, actually) it’s blasphemy to try to predict God’s plan. For another, this group wants to establish a Caliphate that, like the Third Reich, will last a thousand years. I’ll write more on them on my other blog, Cassandra. It’s taking me a long time to put it together. I keep wasting time checking my sources. If I worked from ignorance, like politicians do, I could get it done much sooner.

Still, there do seem to be Signs everywhere. I don’t rush to Revelations to see if everything that happens will release a seal, but I suspect that the people here in Aleppo wouldn’t need much convincing that the End of the World is nigh.APTOPIX Mideast Syria

The end of the world as we know it?

August 9, 2014

isis-church-1800-louis-sako-mosul-christiansThe photo above is of a centuries-old church burning in Mosul.  It survived invasions by Arabs, Turks, Crusaders, Turks again, the French and the British. No Muslim leader ever tried to destroy it, until now.  History is being misappropriated for mindless destruction.


I realize that it’s been several months since I posted on this blog. Partially, I’ve been busy. Also there didn’t seem to be any widespread panic in the media about the earth being hit by a meteor or a long-vanished culture predicting the return of the dinosaurs and so I got busy with other things, like (ahem) my new book, DEFENDING THE CITY OF GOD.
This book was begun as an investigation into life in the Crusader States between the waves of invasions from the east and west. I emphasize the interactions among the newcomers and those whose ancestors had lived there since before history was recorded. Also, I did my best to fill in the gaps left by later historians who weren’t interested in the lives of women, farmers or craftspeople.
As I researched and wrote, the Arab Spring began. As I continued, I had to keep checking to be sure that I was commenting on the past and not the present. In vain, I pointed out that the current uprisings were nothing new, just better recorded. Rarely were medieval sieges and invasions motivated solely by religion. The proof of this is the number of alliances between European Christians and Turkish Muslims, both newcomers. I also looked at something that we in the West are just picking up on, the number of communities of people who follow religions that are early Christian, Muslim splinter groups or faiths that combine bits from many sources. I found echoes of ancient prejudices in the news every day.
But now things have come to such a pass that I can’t find a medieval comparison. What’s happening now is much worse than anything that happened during the crusades. Again, I don’t think religion has anything to do with the upswing in violence and intolerance. But I do believe that there are parallels with the Crusaders moving in during a power vacuum and ISIS or ISIL or whatever, doing the same thing in the same place. What I don’t know is whether or not they will adapt to the culture as the Crusaders did or if they will be the trigger that brings about the end of everything.
Cheery, isn’t it?

The Next Apocalypse!

January 4, 2013

For those of you who were sorely disappointed when the world didn’t end or a new world begin on Dec. 21, I’ve found a new end date for you.

Get in on the ground floor!  Start a website!  Add on something from Nostradamus, the Maori or the prophecies of Merlin!  Spread the news, straight from Science Friday on NPR

http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/01/04/2013/a-journey-to-the-oort-cloud-where-comets-are-born.html

Inside this seemingly innocuous report is the information that two Russian amateur astronomers have discovered a totally NEW comet, dubbed ISON.  This comet should pass near (they say) earth around December of 2013.  No one knows where it came from, who sent it or if it will change life on earth forever!!!!

Stay tuned for more mythology as it accretes around this mysterious astral phenomenon.  Now we have have another eleven months to prepare for the End.  There is no need to return to banal daily life or worry about wars, injustice or global warming.  Hooray!

Image

It’s blurry now, but just wait! 

 

Did you miss the rapture?

December 3, 2012

I know we have almost three weeks until the Mayan calendar (one of them, anyway) ends and the galactic Death Ray will disintegrate the earth etc. but one group has already vanished, the True Believer cows!

Cow clicker inventor, Ian Bogost, informed me of this.  While humans are still waiting to be raptured up, the cows have made their getaway, rather like the dolphins in Douglas Adams’ SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH.  I’m so pleases that someone else is taking the matter as seriously as I am.

http://kotaku.com/5814207/in-cow-clickarg-the-cowpocalypse-is-nigh

cowpocalypse

For all of you who were worried about there being milk, cheese and hamburgers in Heaven, relax.  You can count on the Holy Cow to provide for you.  The rest of us will have to make do with products from heretical cows, slightly curdled, no doubt.   But that’s what happens on the edge of oblivion.  More to come….

Weathering the Apocalypse in France? What a Great Idea!

November 26, 2012

 

I’ve spent a lot of time in the back country of Southern France.  I even drove up to Rennes-le-Chateau for my book on the Da Vinci Code,   but even when I was researching THE REAL HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD, I totally missed the news about the town of Bugarach (really) apparently known as being a psychic vortex and, when the world ends, will be the only place spared.  It seems, from the articles I’ve read, that the people who survive will largely be reporters.  This should make the post-apocalyptic world interesting.   For those who, like me, have missed this, here is a link from The Guardian:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/19/bugarach-french-village-survive-mayan-apocalypse
I have radio interviews right up to Dec. 21, so I suppose that I’ll miss this one.  However, the nice thing about predicting the End is that there is always another coming up.


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