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A blog on terrorism, democracy and international politics

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Al-Qaeda's Rising Star in Europe 

The Christian Science Monitor reports on Abu Musab Zarqawi, a key figure in al-Qaeda's European network linked to Mullah Krekar, the Istanbul bombings, and more.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Not Making Distinctions 

Although it at first appears to be a fairly obvious but superficial dig at the recent 'artwork', "Snow White and the Madness of Truth" by Mrs and Mrs Feiler, this "Hitler Memorial" parody is quite clever.

The æsthetics of the Third Reich and of the Snow White installation are similar - for example, both use blood red, white and black. Hitler's "Blut und Boden" (blood and soil) comes to mind. Both Snow White and Hitler Memorial justify an absolute evil - the murder of innocent civilians. In my opinion, the fact that both sets of victims were Jews is beside the point because Snow White does not draw attention to the religion of the victims or the terrorist. The point is that Snow White attempts to obscure the existence of evil. However, this correspondence between Hitler Memorial and Snow White also adds to the effect.

The 'Memorial' includes a poem that closely mirrors the Snow White poem. Take the following line, in which only the gender of the pronoun is changed:

Weeping bitterly, he added: "If our nation cannot realize its dream and the goals of the victims,
and live in freedom and dignity, then let the whole world be erased"

This is reminiscent of Hitler's "let them reign over ash", uttered in the dying days of World War II.

I can't see a significant difference between the two exhibits, but it is obvious that the Hitler Memorial would never be displayed at Historiska Museet - at least not since Germany lost the war.

(Source: 'me here' commenting on Bjørn Stærk's Blog.)

Monday, January 19, 2004

Zvi Mazel Still Making Waves 

Jewish-Russian artist Dmitri Wasserman has modified an art installation at Stockholm's Historiska Museet by floating a picture of Anna Lindh's murderer, Mijailo Mijalovic alongside the picture of a Palestinian suicide bomber that was the work's original centrepiece.

The original artwork exhibits a naive or cynical moral equivalency in attempting to 'understand' the motivations of Islamic Jihad bomber Hanadi Jaradat, by floating her picture in a boat on a blood-red pool in the grounds of Historiska Museet. The work was accompanied by classical music and a postmodern poem that juxtaposed hypothetical thoughts of the suicide bomber with a fairy tale.

Israeli ambassador Zvi Mazel came under criticism for making his own artistic statement recently, unplugging the spotlights that illuminated the otherwise dark installation. Mazel's performance art was accompanied by a poem of its own; Mazel made the following statement:

I felt that I was standing in front of a horror, I felt that I was standing in front of an exhibit that, while it was in an historic and big museum in the heart of Europe, was glorifying genocide. I was standing before an exhibit calling for genocide, praising the genocide of me, you, my brothers and sisters. I pulled the plug on the three spotlights and plunged the exhibit into darkness. I think one of the spotlights fell into water.

Given that Mazel's act involved the temporary unplugging of some lamps, it is curious that Haretz and Jerusalem Post chose to describe the act as destroying or wrecking: Government supports wrecking of terror exhibit.
(The Ha'aretz article I linked to yesterday has been replaced by one that does not accuse Mazel of 'destroying' the work. The original title was "Top Israeli diplomat to Sweden destroys 'suicide bomb' artwork.")

Ironically, Mr and Mrs Feiler, the artists who created the original installation, while understanding the motivations of a suicide bomber, 'don't understand the ambassador's rage'.

See also: Bjorn Staerk's blog and Zvi Mazel, iconoclast

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Genocide against the Hmong 

Aside from the one tasteless exhibit at the "Making Differences" exhibition (see previous entry), the idea of the anti-genocide project itself is obviously very worthwhile.

Philip Blenkinsop's photographs of the Hmong people, erstwhile allies of the Australians and Americans in Laos and Vietnam are also being exhibited at "Making Differences". Since the withdrawal of the American-led forces from Indochina, and the resultant communist revolutions, the Hmong are now hunted through the jungles of Laos and Vietnam by the communists.

See also Lao Human Rights Council and Hmong International Human Rights Watch

Freedom to offend against decency 

Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, has been criticised for allegedly damaging artwork.

Zvi Mazel was attending the Making Differences exhibition at Stockholm's Historiska Museet as part of an international anti-genocide conference. Israel had apparently been assured by the Swedish Government that the conference would not be linked to the conflict in the Middle East. However, one exhibit, "Snow White and the Madness of Truth",

consisted of a rectangular basin filled with red water on which floated a boat carrying a portrait of Islamic Jihad suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who killed herself and 21 others in an attack at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa on October 4.

As Mazel put it,

This was not a piece of art. . . It was a monstrosity. An obscene distortion of reality."

Both Mazel and the Israeli Government requested that the exhibit be removed. When it was not, Mazel protested by unplugging the spotlights that illuminated the exhibit, and placing one of the spotlights in the basin.

He has been summoned by the Israeli Government to explain his actions.

Lapping up the publicity, Dror Feiler, an Israeli residing in Sweden who created the exhibit with his Swedish wife Gunilla, described Mazel's protest as vandalism. The museum director also condemned the protest, saying "If you don't like what you see, you can leave the premises."

Such a 'liberated' approach may convince woolly liberals, but would it sound as plausible if the exhibit had been a large swastika flag, or a canister of Zyklon-b? Is there a significant difference?

(Via World Press Review)

Who will win in Serbia? 

After the dangerous increase in support for Serbia's Radical Party at the recent elections, it will be a difficult task for the forces of, well, "everyone else" to form a stable coalition.

Serbian media outlet B-92 is keeping track of the negotiations for us.

(Via World Press Review)

Saturday, January 17, 2004

The truth about the Coalition of the Willing 

In 2002 and early 2003, I was mildly opposed to the idea of an American-led invasion of Iraq. I had my reasons, but these reasons were progressively whittled down while points in favour of the war accumulated. By the time of the invasion, I was strongly in support, and I have spoken to a number of other people who describe the same trajectory in their thinking.

The most frustrating aspect of being nominally opposed to the invasion of Iraq was the sort of company in which I found myself. Many in the anti-war crowd were systematically dishonest, shamefully tasteless and/or willfully ignorant. Such people can be found clinging to the running-boards of many causes, but in this case they were in the driver's seat.

Most appalling of all was the systematic bias in alternative and mainstream media, which took every opportunity to deride the American-led effort as unilateral, bullying and opposed by the more 'civilised' Europeans. Dozens of articles and websites emerged, ridiculing the "Coalition of the Coerced" [PDF] or "Coalition of the Billing", or describing the opponents of dictatorship as "war criminals". This refusenik response was pre-scripted. The war effort was always going to be "dominated by a few large, wealthy countries" or "composed of insigificant countries that couldn't possibly contribute anything", or both. Every effort was made to present the members of the coalition as being half-hearted, resistant or bribed into participation. Britain was presented as isolated and opposed by 'Europe'.

Note: I included the picture here, but for some reason it doesn't show up. Perhaps blogspot doesn't allow pictures for free accounts. Please click here to see the map.
The Coalition of the Willing in Europe.
Blue: supported the invasion. Red: Opposed.

On closer inspection, all these arguments proved to be Pilgerisms or outright lies. My response was to produce a list of the countries involved, a colour-coded map of Europe demonstrating that France, Germany, Russia, Belgium and Greece were isolated, and a list of links refuting many of the common fallacies about the Coalition. In contrast to the anti-war webpages, I let the facts speak for themselves.

This page was the most popular on Perspectives on World History and Current Events for 2003, being referenced from discussion groups and weblogs around the world. It was vitally important that this debate took place, and was well informed. The truth about the Coalition of the Willing will fight against a wall of lies in our history books for decades to come.

I have provided this blog entry because PWHCE does not have a comments feature, and I would like to facilitate further discussion of the historical question of the composition and nature of the Coalition that invaded Iraq in March 2003. (Note that the Coalition of the Willing page concerns itself primarily with the Coalition at the time of the invasion.)

Friday, January 16, 2004

Technical problems 

A couple of days after I installed the comments feature, the hosting company, Blogspeak, folded, and is now being acquired by Haloscan.

Rather than wait for Haloscan to relaunch the Blogspeak system, I have installed Haloscan comments. I don't think anyone left any comments using Blogspeak before it folded, but I've left the scripting there temporarily. If you see two comment links, please use the Haloscan link.


Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Bjørn Stærk tracks Krekar case 

For more information on the Krekar case, click over to Bjørn Stærk's blog.

Bjørn is closely following the Norwegian press and court reports on the case.

Read these entries in particular:
Krekar arrested, released (also links to our previous entry on Krekar).
Depends on the meaning of "we" - translated excerpts from recent Krekar interviews, with interesting reader comments.
Krekar release overturned - the most recent post.

With further links to court records, news stories and other Norwegian blogs, it's well worth a look.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

DIY Jihad Training Camp 

Al-Qaeda has taken another aspect of its operations into cyberspace, creating what may be the world's first 'virtual' Jihad training camp, al-Battar.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has a report on the new publication which bills itself as "A Magazine Published by the Military Committee
of the Mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula".

The publication emphasises that al-Qaeda considers the 'Jihad' to be Fard Ayn (a compulsory responsibility for every individual). This publication is intended to bring military training into the Muslim's loungeroom, redressing what al-Qaeda apparently sees as a tragic shortage of military-trained young Muslims.

Some people may doubt they could fit such activities into their loungerooms...

Al-Qaeda follows through and closes the sale:

I know Peter Bergen described al-Qaeda as a franchised international business enterprise, but I never expected them to go in for telemarketing home fitness kits...

Sunday, January 04, 2004

More on Krekar 

Robert Spencer's Jihad Watch has an entry on Krekar's arrest with some more detail.

Spencer's main source is this Reuters/Haretz article.

In December, I posted a long reply (really an impromptu essay) in the comments of an article on Jihad Watch. Mr Spencer responded with an essay to which I have again replied in the comments field. The debate is over the place of violence in Islam, and the relationship between radical and traditionalist Islam and the religion's source texts.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Ansar al-Islam Leader Is Arrested in Norway 

Ansar al-Islam's Spiritual Leader has been Arrested

Norwegian intelligence has arrested 'Abu Sayyid Qutb', aka Sheikh Karikar.

This 'Sheikh' was interviewed by Nida'ul Islam[1] (al-Qaeda's da'wa/propaganda arm in Australia, run by a former Qantas baggage handler), back in 1997, just a year after Nida'ul had published its seminal Usama bin Laden interview.[2]

The first time I read Karikar's interview, I looked at one section and thought it was his list of favourite books. Actually it was the names of his four children:

1. Sayyid Qutb [The pivotal figure in the formation of deeply alienated and violent ideological jihadi organisations from the breakdown of the Muslim Brotherhood].
2. Ma'alim [Named after Qutb's famous political pamphlet "Ma'alim fi'l-Tariq" - Milestones on the Road. The poor kid is actually called 'milestones' or 'signposts']
3. Zhalil [Named after Qutb's famous 23-volume tafsir (commentary) on the Quran (so far only about 11 volumes are in English). In this book (full name "Zhalil al-Quran", In the Shadow of the Quran. In other words, the kid is called "In the Shadow"), Qutb twists the interpretations of the (already fairly radically deviationist) mediaeval scholar Ibn Taymiyyah to meet his objectives.]
4. Ibn Taymiyyah [Yes, when Karikar ran out of well-known Sayyid Qutb references, he switched to the most famous historical precursor to Qutb.]

Because he has named his first son 'Sayyid Qutb' Karikar can use the name "Abu Sayyid Qutb", the bearer/father of Sayyid Qutb.

In the interview, Karikar mainly complains about how all the Muslims in the Arab world, and even all the other Kurdish groups, hate Ansar al-Islam and expend an inordinate amount of resources attempting to destroy the hapless holy warriors. He explains that "Islam" came late to Kurdistan (mid to late 1980s). By Islam, of course he means the type of Islam he believes in; the only true Islam. The reason that came late to Kurdistan is because Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abdullah Azzam were still in the process of inventing it in the early 1980s.

Karikar heaps praise on Azzam, the man recognised as bin Laden's mentor.

Incidentally, Karikar's position is "Spiritual Leader of Ansar al-Islam. The name means 'the helpers of Islam', a typically Salafi reference to those citizens of Yathrib who assisted Muhammad in the early ideal Muslim community. One of bin Laden's first bases in Afghanistan was called Beit al-Ansar, "House of the Helpers". Usama bin Laden's title is also Spiritual Leader, of the al-Ansar umbrella organisation we call al-Qaeda.

Sheikh Karikar Abu Sayyid Qutb, Spiritual leader of Kurdish Ansar al-Islam was reportedly doing "good efforts in da'wa" (in this context propaganda) in Oslo as early as 1997.

Hopefully in 2004 his efforts will come to an end.

(Site links deliberately disabled - remove spaces to use)
[1] http :// www .islam.org.au /articles/20/kurds.htm
[2] http :// www .islam.org.au /articles/15/LADIN.HTM

(Via LGF).

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