struggle within Islam
Iraqi special forces are said to be closing in on the most senior member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle still on the run, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, head of the now-outlawed Ba'ath party. Al-Douri, who was the king of clubs in the US military's famous playing-card deck of wanted Iraqis, is said to be hiding near Saddam's home town of Tikrit. He is believed to be leading an armed unit called the "Men of the Army of the Naqshbandi Order," known by its Arabic acronym JRTN, drawn from followers of one of Iraq's oldest Sufi orders. In a January video, Douri, surrounded by men in uniform, urged resistance to Iraq's Shi'ite-led government. April was the bloodiest month since 2008 in Iraq, with sectarian violence claiming more than 700 lives. (PBS News Hour, May 2; The Guardian, April 18)
The American left's schizophrenic love-hate relationship with jihadism now manifests maddeningly regarding the Boston attacks—as exemplified in the cowardly commentaries of the grevious Glenn Greenwald. The last time we checked in on him, Glenn was condescending to the Malians that they have no right to any help from the outside world becuase it was Western intervention that got them into that mess in the first place by destabilizing Libya and setting off a domino effect. Of course, this actually means the Malians are more entitled to help in beating back the jihadists, but note the inherent double standard: the Libya intervention was bad because it unleashed jihadists, but when those jihadists seize northern Mali... it's not so bad. His screed objected to use of the inevitable "terrorist" label for the jihadist militias in Mali. What Greenwald didn't get is that by using the "terrorist" label, the media are actually giving these ultra-fundamentalist hoodlums a free ride. All the concern is for the purley hypothetical notion that Mali could be a staging ground for attacks on the West. The Malians getting stoned to death, or having their hands amputated, or the Fulani nomads who have been cleansed from their homeland? Who cares, except the guys on the West Africa desk at Amnesty International? Certainly not Glenn Greewald—who now applies similar intellectual contortions to the case of the Boston bombings...
Garment workers in Bangladesh walked off the job, blocked roads, attacked factories and smashed vehicles April 26, paralyzing at least three industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka. Some 1,500 workers, many armed with bamboo sticks, marched to the Dhaka headquarters of the main manufacturers association. The uprising began when police fired tear-gas and rubber bullets at anxious relatives as they massed at the site of a collapsed factory where resuce workers were attempting to dig out their loved ones trapped under rubble. About 3,000 people are thought to have been in the Rana Plaza complex in Savar industrial zone on the outskirts of Dhaka, when it collapsed on the morning of April 24 shortly after the workday started. Only some 60 have been found alive; some 1,000 are thought to have escaped unharmed. The complex housed factories that made clothes for retail chains Benetton, Primark, Matalan, Children's Place, Cato Fashions, Mango and others.
As the Friends of Syria summit opened in Istanbul April 20, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced plans to provide $100 million in new "non-lethal" aid to the Syrian opposition—and the Syrian National Coalition demanded actual weapons, threatening to break off talks with the international group if they are not forthcoming. The Coalition also called for drone strikes on the Syrian army's missile sites, and the imposition of no-fly zones. The "non-lethal" package is to include body armor, night-vision goggles, vehicles and other aid with military applications. Kerry nonetheless said the aid "underscores the United States' firm support for a political solution to the crisis in Syria and for the opposition's advancement of an inclusive, tolerant vision for a post-Assad Syria." The new package brings total US aid to the Syrian opposition to $250 million since the fighting began.
AP informs us, citing a post to an unnamed jihadist wesbite, that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, "emir" of the Islamic State in Iraq, formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, has announced a merger with Syria's Nusra Front to form a new organization, the "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham"—the latter term refering to Syria, or the whole Levant. "It is time to declare to al-Sham and to the world that Jabhat al-Nusra is simply a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq," the statement reads. Al-Baghdadi said the Iraqi group is providing half its budget to the Syrian counterpart, and that the Nusra Front will not have a separate leader but be led by the "people of Syria themselves"—implying that he will be in charge of both.
What are we to make of this? The Atlantic boasts photos of an April 4 international protest called by Ukrainian feminist group Femen in support of young Tunisian activist Amina Tyler, who received death threats after posting topless pictures of herself online in defiance of the growing hegemony of political Islam in her country. Femen's followers waged a "topless jihad," baring their breasts in cities across Europe—including in front of the Great Mosque in Paris. The Kiev protest was also in front of a mosque. Some of the targets were more appropriate, such as the Tunisian consulate in Milan and the embassy in Stockholm. The women scrawled slogans on their bared torsos, like "FREE AMINA." Somewhat disturbingly, some also appropriated the Islamic crescent in a sexualized way, using it to accentuate their breasts. This irreverent image actually appears on the logo of the Femen wesbite, which also touts its own movement as one of "Titslamism."
In some very inspiring news, opposition activists from Syrian President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect publicly broke ranks with the regime at a meeting in Cairo March 31, and urged their fellow Alawites in the army to rebel, Reuters reports. "We call on our brothers in the Syrian army, specifically members of our sect, not to take up arms against their people and to refuse to join the army," the delegates said in a statement. "[T]he Alawite sect was and is being held hostage by the regime," stated the communique, which was read out by Alawite activist Tawfiq Dunia. "One of the goals of the Syrian revolution is to restore the national identity and free the Alawite sect from the family of the ruling regime."
A car bomb exploded at the Jalozai displaced persons camp outside Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan on March 21, killing at least 15 and leaving some 50 injured. The dead included two women and two children. The camp, Pakistan's largest, is home to tens of thousands fleeing violence and persecution in the Taliban-dominated Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan. The blast took place at the gate of a FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) distribution point where camp residents had lined up to for rations. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. The outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) disassociated itself from the attack. (Dawn, BBC News, March 21)