Thursday, November 15, 2007

a history lesson

This article was submitted as a response to Mr. al-Zawahri's comments published by the New York Times. The response was submitted via email to the New York Times, al-Jazeera and the Reno Gazette Journal in 2006.

Mr. Ayman al-Zawahri’s comments in his latest recorded message released by al-Jazeera and the New York Times on July 28 2006, seeks to fold the predominately Shiite Hizzbolah into al Qaeda’s predominantly Sunni “Muslim Nation.” His comments bring to mind a passage from the Koran:

In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful

“There are some who declare, ‘we believe in God and the Last Day,’ yet they are not true believers. They seek to deceive God and those who believe in Him: but they deceive none save themselves, though they may not perceive it. There is a sickness in their hearts which God has aggrevated: they shall be sternly punished for the lies they tell.

When they are told: ‘You shall not do evil in the land,’ they reply: ‘Surely we are doing only what is good.’ But it is they who are the evil-doers, though they may not perceive it.”

-Al Baqarah (2:10)

Does al-Zawahri really believe that he can fool the Shiites with a second Abbassid betrayal? After the rise of Shiism under Muktar in 686 A.D., descendants of Al-Abbas, an uncle of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, assumed the mantle of leadership within the Shiite movement in 716 A.D. The Abbasids deceived the Shiites and used them to challenge the Omayyad Caliphate by pretending to subscribe to Muktar’s designated line of Imams descending from Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, a son of Ali’s, the Abbassids claimed their bloodline flowed like theTigris from the ahl-al-bayt, the Prophet’s bloodline, peace and blessing be upon him. At this time many Shiites supported the claim that Imamate flowed to Muhammad ibn Ali, the great grandson of al-Abbas, and thus believed the Abbassid deception. In 749 A.D. the Abbassids with the help of the Shiites defeated the Omayyad forces at Kufa, and Abu al-Abbas was proclaimed the first Abbassid Imam. The following year, the Abbassids drove the Omayyads from Egypt, and in 762 the Abbassids established their capital in Baghdad, where al-Zawahri and his master Osama bin Laden seek to re-establish a new Caliphate. Within Islam there is a concept of a government of the Ummah, or the universal body of Muslims. The Caliph, or “successor to the prophet” is to administer the government over the Ummah. While the Western world has very limited experience with true theocracy, one did exist in the Middle East about almost a century ago: the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Caliph ruled over nearly every Muslim in the world, from Turkey to Iran from 1517 until 1922.

Bin Laden’s earlier struggle against the Soviets was an attempt to resurrect this system by defending members of the Ummah against external enemy. Bin Laden saw the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as the first modern case of non-Muslims invading a Muslim nation. And when that happened, the Ummah responded in the form of a jihad. Under Bin Laden and al-Zawahri, most of the other troops fighting the Soviets were not Afghani, they were from across the Arab world, called to fight against those who would invade a Holy Land. This struggle became the hallmark for bin Laden’s later attacks on the secular West. It also led to the creation of a core organization that would lay the foundation for the resurrection of the Caliphate. This organization would be later known as “the base”, or in Arabic, “Al Qaeda.” Bin Laden is attempting to do on a global scale what the Ayatollah Khomeini did in Iran in 1979; he wants the title of Caliph of Islam (”Khalifa” in Arabic). That would make al-Zawahri his Vizier. The position of Khalifa has been vacant since the last Padishah Emperor of the Ottoman Empire was deposed in 1924. Before that, the Caliph was in theory both the supreme temporal and spiritual ruler of the Islamic world. There are some critical differences between Bin Laden’s vision of a new Caliphate and the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution; first, because Khomeini was not a plausible warlord, and second because he’s part of the 10% Shiite minority that disputes the Khalifal succession. The next Caliph, if there is one, will have to belong to the 90% Sunni majority.

Now back to the history lesson. For three decades after establishing their Imamate, the Abbassids preached their belief of the legitimacy of the Alid line and the sanctity of the lineal descendants of Ali. However, immediately after the Abbassid secured their dynastic rule, they betrayed the Alid faithful who had helped them secure victory in the first place. In order to be accepted by the Muslim majority, the Abbassids rejected their Shiite roots and declared themselves a Sunni dynasty following not the Alid line, but Abu Bakr’s lineage. They instituted violently repressive measures against the Alid faithful, which included summary executions, imprisonment and massacres. This pattern of oppression and intimidation was evident under Saddam Hussein’s regime that violently oppressed a Shi’a majority in Iraq. Currently Al-Qaeda in Iraq or as Al Jazeera renders the group's current name as al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers continues this prsctice of oppression and terrorism. Prior to the fall of 2004 the group was called Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Monotheism and Holy War Movement) The group's name, which is usually abbreviated as JTJ. The name change is significant as it uses the archaic name of Iraq used in the Islamic Caliphate era of the Abbassids. Like the Abbassid, Al Qaeda, under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, assassinated Shi’a leaders in Iraq like Mohammad Baqr al-Hakim, the leader the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Al-Hakim was one of the foremost Shia Muslim leaders in Iraq until his assassination in a bombing in Najaf in 2003. He was killed when a massive car bomb exploded as he left the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf. The blast killed at least 84 others; other estimates claim as many as 125 died in the bombing. Another victim of al-Zawahri’s assassins was Iraqi Governing Council president Abdel-Zahraa Othman, better known as Izzadine Saleem. In 2004 Othman was killed in a suicide car bombing as he waited in his vehicle at a security checkpoint. Othman, a Shia Muslim was one of eight Iraqis killed in the blast (Guardian Unlimited May 17 2004).

Not only were the Alid faithful targeted, but their holiest cities and shrines were desecrated as well. Both Karbala and Najaf were often targets of al-Zawarhi’s and al-Zarqawi’s assassins. A series of bombings in Baghdad and Karbala killed at least 181 people and injured hundreds more during the Ashoura, a Shiite holiday. The Ashura massacre of March 2, 2004 in Iraq was a series of planned terrorist explosions that killed 170 and injured 500 Iraqi Shiite Muslims commemorating the Ashura festival. According to Associated Press, Tens of thousands of pilgrims from Iraq, Iran and other Shiite communities were gathered around the golden domed Mosque of Imam Hussien in Karbala and the Kazimiya Shrine in Baghdad when coordinated explosions tore through the worshipers inside and outside the mosques. Witnesses told reporters of the carnage as the martyrs’ blood pooled in the streets and the worship halls damaging the ancient shrines. Iran stated that among the dead were at least 22 Iranians. Iranians have made the pilgrimage to Shi’a’s most holiest of cities by the thousands since Saddam Hussien’s removal. Under Saddam Hussien’s repressive Baathist Party, many of these sites had been closed off for decades. Al-Zawahri’s assassins killed 1,372 Iraqis in 2005 alone. That is more than half of the number of American deaths for the entire conflict from 2003-2006. Al-Zawahri would have you believe these Iraqi deaths are incidental to killing the Americans, but if you look at the figures, it would appear this is yet another deception. In June of 2004, attacks in Baghdad, Mosul, Baquba, Ramadi, and Falluja killed about 100 people, but only killed 3 U.S. Soldiers. Al-Zawahri hides in Pakistan and wages a war in Shi’a most sacred Holy Lands, but it is not a Jihad to remove the Americans, but to oppress the Shiites. In the very country he is seeking refuge in, his assassins killed 42 Shiite pilgrims in the city of Quetta the same day they desecrated the Imam Ali Mosque and the Kazimya Shrine. There are no occupiers or infidels in Quetta. With the death of his chief assassin al-Zarqawi, and Hizzbolah’s actions in Lebanon threatening to send al Qaeda to obscurity, al-Zawahri seeks to wrap an old lie in new wrappings to once again deceive the Alid faithful and steal their lands from them as the Abbassids once did.

I am not condoning Hizzbolah’s attacks on Israel. Their rocket attacks continue to kill non-combatants including Palestinian-Israelis and Arab-Israelis. These powerfully destructive weapons are not targeting military forces but innocent civilians, indiscriminate of whether they are Arabs, Jews or Druze. As is Israel’s attacks on non-Hizzbolah territories inside Lebanon are equally deplorable. Remember the passage from the Al Baqarah, “When they are told: ‘You shall not do evil in the land,’ they reply: ‘Surely we are doing only what is good.’ But it is they who are the evil-doers, though they may not perceive it.” Israel had not occupied Lebanon since 2000 so what is Hizzbolah’s reasons for crossing into Israel’s northern frontier. The attack that killed 8 Israeli soldiers and resulted in the abduction of two others was one of several that had occurred since Israel’s withdrawal. Hizzbolah uses innocents, women and children, as human shields to protect themselves. Verily this is not how Husayn Ibn Ali faced his attackers when he was martyred in Karbala. The governments of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have condemned Hizzbolah’s provacation. Pope Benedict in Rome has called for an immediate ceasefire and the Grand Ayatolla Ali Sistani issued a Fatwa for a ceasefire as well. But in the end I am afraid it will not be stubborn Israel or righteous Hizzbolah who will be the true victims of this thrice cursed war, but it will be, as the Prophet Isaiah once called, the daughters and merchants of Sidon who will be the true victims of this war that will yield no victors, only widows and orphans. Jews, Christians and Muslims, we all bow to the same God and we are all commanded not to do evil in our land. Are we not all called “People of the Book?”

Al-Zawahri can not deny that niether his master nor he has enjoyed the recognition that Hizzbolah’s leader has enjoyed. There were no mass demonstrations of Muslims carrying portraits of al-Zawahri or bin Laden, but Sheik Nasrallah of Hizzbolah has been elevated to a folk hero status as Muktar was. After the death of Husayn ibn Ali in Karbala, Muktar gathered Husayn ibn Ali’s remaining followers and formed the Army of the Penitents and avenged Husayn’s death by defeating the very assassins who had murdered Husayn. Upon this victory the Abbassids built their deception and stole the holy lands from the Shiites placing their capital in Baghdad, now al-Zawahri wishes to do the same with Nasrallah’s fame, to decieve the Alid faithful once again. For once, in a democratic Iraq, the Alid faithful can once again control the sacred lands of their faith. The Alid faithful must learn their own history and should not fall for al-Zawahri’s lies. As Mowlana Julaluddin Rumi once wrote: “I am God’s Lion, not the lion of passion…I have no longing but for the One. When the wind of personal reaction comes, I do not go along with it. There are many winds full of anger, and lust, and greed. They move rubbish around, but the solid mountain of our true nature stays where it’s always been.” Al-Zawahri’s message is like these false winds that move rubbish around and the Shiites must stand as God’s Lion, as the mountain, unmoved by the lies of Al-Zawahri and his master. La ilaha illa Allah; Allahu akbar.


See Britain's MI-5 assessment of Al Queda's Ideology at: