Bare-bones Jihad: Three Remarks on Islamic Terrorism

1-There are at least two good reasons to disqualify jihad – including “the Islamic resistance” – from being a freedom fight (against colonialism/Zionism):

(a) in recent history jihad has been an instrument of these very forces; and

(b) Islam is in essence a religion of conquest.

Global wars were waged by early Muslims, not against them, with little or no regard for the spiritual dimension of the faith or even the nominal dictates of Sharia. To avoid giving them equal rights, for example, Al Hajjaj massacred non-Muslim subjects once they declared their conversion to Islam.

2-Neither difficult living conditions/lack of education nor political oppression can account for jihad.

Jihadis often hail from the upper echelons of society and receive the best (western) education. Jihadis have shown the same propensity for violence, intellectual unreason and ethical duplicity regardless of their social/political position.

Islamists and jihadi-sympathisers have enjoyed the patronage of oil-rich Wahhabis or their western allies not because of their being better representatives of their peoples or nations than military-based or dictatorial regimes but because of their conservatism, sectarianism and a-nationalism. They have adopted the pose of the victim even while in power.

3- While the provincial fifty percent can be induced to “vote for Islam”, no version of Sharia is compatible with the values of modern republican democracy, which have their basis in the Enlightenment and secularism.

In a Muslim-majority country more or less economically dependent on non-constitutional Wahhabi monarchies, to suggest that any political project based on Islam can be integrated into a pluralistic system where power is circulated is to lie through your teeth.

The true purpose of such propaganda is blackmail: “include” the moderates and they will spare you the wrath of the radicals.

In reality the distinction that the Quran makes in the context of political conflict is not between moderates and radicals but between hypocrites who will not fight in the way of Allah and believers who will (Surat at-Tawbah, 167).

Members of the bin Laden family vacation in Sweden in 1971. Source:
Members of the bin Laden family vacation in Sweden in 1971. Source:

My Unwritten Spoof

I had planned to write a spoof. I was to be a committed Islamist reviewing the first two years after 30 June. I would extoll the virtues of Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood. I would glorify their puppet president Mohamed Morsi (aka the Mandela of the Arabs). Remembering the Rabaa massacre and the number of death sentences issued in its wake, I would underline the extra- and quasi-legal excesses of the fascist junta currently in charge. I would decry xenophobia, leader worship and the coup d’etat status quo. I would cite concepts of revolution and human rights in which I do not actually believe (cf, freedom of belief). I would appeal to shar’iyah – democratic legitimacy and shari’ah – divine law in the same breath. I would accuse the Copts, the infidels and the deep state of such evils as sectarianism, violence and unfreedom, absolving all manner of jihadis, fanatics and fundamentalist lunatics of exploiting the potential for positive change, working with the same deep state and army when it suited them… the moral of the story being that, had there been no military intervention to cut short Egypt’s democratic transformation, we would have been living in prime Garden of Eden real estate.

Continue Reading

رسالة صيف، ٢٠١٥

EGYPT. Cairo. January 29, 2013. Protestors during clashes with Egyptian police along the Corniche in central Cairo. By Moises Saman, 2013. Source:

EGYPT. Cairo. January 29, 2013. Protestors during clashes with Egyptian police along the Corniche in central Cairo. By Moises Saman, 2013. Source:

أن تحل ذكرى ميلادي في الأسبوع نفسه الذي يبلغ فيه ملحق النهار عيده الخمسين ربما أكثر من مصادفة. (أنا أحذرك من الآن يا قارئي، يا صديقي: ستكون رسالتي هذه القصيرة جداً، المدفوعة بقيظ القاهرة شخصية.) ثمة من يذهب إلى أنّ كل صدفة عنوان، إذا ما قصدتَه وصلتَ إلى بيت أو وطن. والحزن الذي يعصرني الآن على عنف ألاقيه متشرداً في الفضاء الافتراضي لا رباط بينه وبين مطبوعة نشأتْ قبل مولدي بأحد عشر عاماً. للأماني خزينة أضيف إليها. صحيح أنه، رغم إحساسي الأعمق بالانتماء إلى الملحق، لا يمكنني ادعاء الصلة بتاريخه أو فهم مكانه من النزاعات. لكن ليس مع الحزن يوم ميلادي إلا الحدس باقترابه من أحزان القائمين على خزينة الأماني. (ألم أقل لك إنها رسالة شخصية؟) ثمة مشكلات تترتب على الولع باللغة والحيد عن قطعان الولاء، النظر إلى الدنيا بعين السؤال. وأنا حيثما استرحت في مدينة أصغر وأوسع من الإسكندرية، وجدت من يشاركني هذه المشكلات. بيروت سحرتني وأفزعتني قبل عشرة أعوام مع أولى بشائر الربيع العربي، واليوم أظنني أكرهها كقطعة حلوة مُرّة مني إثر انفجار الربيع ذاته قنبلةً بدائية الصنع كما تسميها الصحافة المصرية. لا تقتل إلا أبرياء. زهرة في حجم الدنيا والدنيا تحترق. لكن الملحق لدي، وما بقي من ذكريات الأمل والخوف. الأجدى غيابهما. أجلس وسط الرماد أستحضر فرحة الكتابة وخبل الغرام. أتأمل عمري. وأتذكر مقولة روبرتو بولانيو قبل أن يموت في الخمسين: الكتابة بديل عن الانتظار. في أعداد سابقة للملحق ثمة سجل للانتظارات التي هزمناها. وثمة أفراح مؤجلة أيضاً رغم كل شيء. أنا وأنت يا قارئي، على الأقل مازلنا هنا. والأيام التي ألقتنا على قارعة التاريخ نتسول قوتنا ونفرح بالفتات أو نبصق عليه… مازالت تخضّ جسدينا. غداً أو بعد غد – ربما في أمانينا فقط – تتحقق المعجزة ولا نعود نقعي في ظل الحواجز بلا مسدسات. ربما ليس سوى أمانينا فعلاً، إلا أننا ندخر زهداً يا صديقي. وبينما الكذبات تتكالب على الكاذبين وهم عليها – بينما الانفجارات تذكرنا بخيبة أمل الإنسانية سواء أفي القاهرة أو في بيروت، في عرض المتوسط وعلى شواطئ لازوردية سيغرقون بامتدادها وهم بعدُ فقراء – أنا أكتب لك.


Prize and Prejudice: When an Egyptian Novelist Wins Qatara


“Those who don’t like Katara can start a prize like it in Egypt.”

Thus the Egyptian novelist Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid, one of five finalists to receive US $60,000 each in the first round of the Katara Prize for the Arabic Novel, speaking to the television anchor Gaber Al-Qarmouti live last week.

A glib remark, for oil-rich Qatar’s foray into supporting literature is worth US $750,000 in total. A mere pittance this may be in the grander scheme of Qatari spending. But were it available to grant-making institutions in Egypt, the sum would be enough for 100 financially viable awards.

Continue Reading

It seems I have disrupted your version of things: Jennifer Coard addresses her train conductor

On (a small group of) men (who are very unhappy), on (the) racism, misogyny (which they visit daily upon women in their sights), in which I shouldn’t have to say that I am a woman of colour

I should, no one should, have to dress, act, or speak in a manner which pleases ‘You’ in order to be treated equitably by you as you perform your job.

Those that are anti-respectability politics need not be against respectful. That is what I am. For respect. I was raised to be so. And time and time again it seems to be perceived by others as soft, until it’s not. I’m not supposed to disagree with you. Ever. Time and again it is perceived as disrespecting your desire to project a very monolithic angry persona of ‘all black people.’

Continue Reading

Who the F*** Is Charlie

The mere idea of contributing to the Charlie Hebdo colloquy is a problem. It’s a problem because, whether as a public tragedy or a defense of creative freedom, the incident was blown out of all proportion. It’s a problem because it’s been a moralistic free-for-all: to express solidarity is to omit context, to forego the meaning of your relation to the “slain” object of consensus, to become a hashtag. It’s a problem above all because it turns a small-scale crime of little significance outside France into a cultural trope.

Charlie Hebdo is not about the senseless (or else the political) killing of one party by another. It’s about a Platonic evil called Islam encroaching on the  peaceful, beneficent world order created and maintained by the post-Christian west. Defending the latter against the former, commentators not only presume what will sooner or later reduce to the racial superiority of the victim. They also misrepresent the perpetrator as an alien force independent of that order.

Continue Reading

The Barbarians Within Our Minds

Reading the senior journalist Hisham Melhem’s recent obituary of Arab civilization, one is compelled to ask when it was ever alive. Al-Ahram Weekly, 25 September

(c) Youssef Rakha

The Nowhere, Cairo 2014. By Youssef Rakha

“No one paradigm or one theory can explain” the jihadi barbarians, not at, but within the Arabs’ gates. So says Hisham Melhem, an older writer, in Politico magazine this week, summing up the failure of modern “Arab civilization” with admirable level-headedness. His point would be too obvious if it wasn’t so uniformly lost on neoliberal analysts and apologists for religious identity: the Islamic State did not fall from the sky. It grew out of the “rotting, empty hulk” of societies routed no less by the “stagnant, repressive and patriarchal” authoritarianism of military regimes than the politicized religiosity seeking to replace them. Like its ideological archenemy, namely political Islam, Arab nationalism too expresses “atavistic impulses and a regressive outlook on life that is grounded in a mostly mythologized past”.

But who’s to say these two ideologies do not accurately reflect all that the Arab masses hold dear, i.e., what world community leaders would call “the Arab peoples’ legitimate aspirations”? As a younger observer, I cannot help seeing that, since the end of Ottoman times, only a negative sense of collective identity has mobilized a given Arab people at a given point in history. Embodied in revolutionary leaders like Nasser or resistance movements like Hezbollah, such rallying cries rarely pointed to a positive or constructive cause that did not turn out to be part of a propaganda campaign (Hamas’s August “victory” over Israel is a case in point). What Melhem does not say is that, in as much as it exists at all, post-Ottoman Arabic-speaking civilization has only ever operated against others, if not the occupier then non-Muslim or non-Sunni citizens of its own states, if not “Zionists and imperial Crusaders” then infidels at large.

Continue Reading

No more posts.