Tag Archives: Daesh

Coming together as One!

Social media connects people so easily, and divides them even more easily.

Friday night people around the world sat stunned as they watched the horrific violence unfold in Paris. I sat on my bed in Cairo and learned the details on Facebook. Others were tweeting. I imagine there were millions of us with our attention and cosmic energy focused on Paris. I finally fell asleep about 3 AM local time, but many did not sleep at all Friday.

Now we want to do something, our anger and grief over the violence demands action. Professor Nagler has some good ideas about what we can do. Read his article here. But as quickly as we came together, we seem to be dividing and I feel more grief.

Some Facebook friends changed their profile pictures to show the colors of the French flag in solidarity with . . . a nation-state? Some were clever and designed new flags to display on Facebook.

Lebanon and French flags together

Lebanon and French flags together

Many of my friends on both sides of the pond were offended. They asked “where was the display of solidarity when innocent lives were lost in Beirut to acts of terrorism just a day earlier? When a Russian plane was blown up over the Sinai and all 224 passengers were killed? When more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s offensive in the summer of 2014? When innocent civilians are stabbed to death in Israel? When the death toll in Syria has climbed over 160,000 in the past 3 years? When innocent Afghanis, Iraqis and many others are killed in Operation Enduring Freedom?” (Oh, I despise giving names to our privileged forms of violence.)  The list of victims of terror goes on indefinitely.

Not only do these flag displays send the message that some victims are more precious than other victims and worthy of our sympathy, but they tell us (perhaps unintended) that we are divided by our allegiance to nation-states which are, when truth be told, only a fiction of our imagination. Nation-states come and go. People are creations of God/Allah/Yahweh and deserve our love and support.

This became crystal clear for me when I read a FB post from Israel today which I copy verbatim.

Sorry people!
I know it’s sensitive but I can’t hold back anymore!
The terror attack this evening in Paris was horrible! Families have been destroyed and the devastation is horrific! I know how they feel, anyone who lives in Israel knows what it feels like to live through terror attacks.


The French government has been condemning Israel at every chance they had! While we are sending our condolences and support to France, they didn’t even bother to cover the attack on Friday when a Jewish father and son were gunned down by Muslim terrorists! France took Hamas off the terrorist list and instead started marking goods produced by Jews in Judea and Samaria!

With all due respect, I will not post a French flag on my profile and quite frankly I don’t understand why anyone would! It is the French government who has been condemning Israel for fighting the same radical Islamic organizations that attacked Paris!
Some may call me insensitive, I agree! it is exactly this insensitivity that is the reason I am NOT posting a French flag on my feed!

what do you call the reactions (or the lack of) from the French government when Israel has been under attack day in and day out?! Should I call for restraint? Should I give credit to the claims ISIS is using to justify this terror attack?

So instead of putting a French flag up, I will raise the Israeli one. Why? Because Israel warned France and the rest of the world of the effect of radical Islam! We tried to explain who and what we are fighting but they would not listen!

We told them this was not about land or occupation but they didn’t listen! They pressured us to make deals with those who shoot us, blow us up and stab us and when we refuse to do so, they condemn us!
We warned them that this is about a radical culture that has no respect for life, but they ignored us and shook their finger at us for fighting the same radical Islamic ideology that attacked Paris. Only we fight it every day!

So here is the Israeli flag!
The one that is fighting radical Islamic terror every day!
The flag that is condemned and yelled at from every international podium for fighting the same evil that murdered over 130 of French innocent civilians.

In short, what this Israeli is announcing is that “a friend of my enemy must be my enemy too.” Sadly, he cannot see the terror his nation-state (Israel) perpetuates daily on the Palestinians. But I don’t condemn him for his blindness because most Americans cannot see the terror our nation-state commits.

Our allegiance to our privileged forms of violence — whether by military occupation, drones or economic enslavement — and our willful denial of the suffering and terror we perpetuate on others will only blowback on us all. There is no immunity from violence.

I wish we could come together as one — see the beauty and flaws we each carry — and forget our nation-states. There truly is evil in the world that needs to be defeated, but we won’t succeed if we continue to wear blinders and deny our own responsibility for the great injustices and suffering in the world.

In Bethlehem, Nov. 14, 2015

In Bethlehem, Nov. 14, 2015


Filed under Peaceful, People

War is a pathology

War is a pathology, no doubt about it.

Author Karen Armstrong calls war a  “psychosis caused by an inability to see relationships” and she urges a universal religion of compassion.

Shujaya 5

So maybe we need a Department of Psychoanalysis rather than a Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  The Republicans in Congress seem hellbent on defunding DHS.  I say “call their bluff and do it.  Please!”

My new Department of Psychoanalysis would be staffed with professional shrinks who have a minor in cultural sensitivity.  They would be charged with examining global security threats from the humanistic perspective – whether environmental threats, economic threats, military threats, and even political threats. If we were only smart enough to see that these are all connected.

shujaya 1

Today, in advance of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next week, they might analyze reports coming in from the Holy Land about the rising predictions of another assault on Gaza.  Although the Israeli public seems oblivious, Gideon Levy writes that Israel is galloping to the next war in Gaza.

Israel will again pretend to be surprised and offended – the cruel Arabs are attacking it with rockets again, for no reason.

The vast majority in Israel probably suffer from dissociative amnesia and carry on their lives as though all is fine in the world, but there are some in Gaza (just a few miles away) who believe Judgement Day is near.  That’s what is motivating Daesh (aka ISIS) and it’s not difficult to see why some people in Gaza who have lived their entire adult lives under Israel’s brutal occupation and the genocidal assault last summer, would fall prey to such apocalyptic thinking.


The Secretary of the Department of Psychoanalysis would be able to communicate such threats to the President and Congress.  Her recommendations might include:

  1. Take whatever steps are necessary to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
  2. Send the Sixth Fleet into the port of Gaza, break the 8+ year siege, and bring the humanitarian supplies (medicine, housing and food) that are desperately needed in Gaza.
  3. Invite Netanyahu to the Pentagon for a briefing when he is in town next week, tell him the facts, give him an ultimatum, follow through on the ultimatum if he fails to deliver.

We really could shift the direction of world affairs by simply shifting the trim tab on the ship of state. It doesn’t take much, just a pair of balls.


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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Occupation, People

A message to my friend

When a friend in Gaza recently told me he supports ISIS, I stopped dead in my tracks.  WTF?

My friend is not a half-crazed, ignorant nut-job —- what I thought were the prerequisites for pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) otherwise known as Daesh, the acronym for the group’s full Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham.

My friend is a university graduate with a great command of foreign languages and cultures, and a bright future ahead of him — if he lived anywhere but Gaza.  Just like thousands of other young, disaffected men in Gaza, he’s lived his entire adult life under Israel’s brutal 8 year siege, lost opportunities to travel abroad for graduate studies, and given up looking for non-existent jobs.

Wall mural in gaza

Wall mural in gaza

On a side note, I’ve decided I’m going to jettison ISIS from my vocabulary and refer to the group as Daesh.  Why? Because the term apparently really pisses off the group’s leaders who have threatened to cut out the tongue of anyone who uses the term. So there! Daesh! Daesh! Daesh!

I asked my friend “Why?”  “Why do you support Daesh?”

Paraphrasing, I think his answer was: “Because it’s a strong group that stands up against the corrupt Arab leaders in the Middle East. Eventually, a strong caliphate will redeem our struggle and free us from Israel’s occupation of our lands.”

I tried to understand how he reconciled the atrocities committed by Daesh with the teachings of Islam as a religion of peace.  I reminded him of this passage from the Qu’ran 5:32

Whoever kills an innocent human being,

it shall be as if he has killed all mankind,

and whosoever saves the life of one,

it shall be as if he saved the life of all mankind.

My friend acknowledged this passage but then spouted another from the Qu’ran that he argued provides exceptions.

That’s when I decided I can’t argue in terms of a religious text and a religious tradition that I know very little about.  So I have to learn as much as I can about Daesh. Where did it come from? What are its intentions?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Graeme Wood‘s article in the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic was a real eye opener. I highly recommend it. Although it’s long and requires a thoughtful couple of hours to digest, I have a better understanding of Daesh as well as why my friend might be swayed to support it.

Here are the take-away points from Graeme Wood’s article:

  • Daesh is most definitely Islamic despite the fact that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide disavow it, and want to distance themselves and their religion from the actions of Daesh.
  • Daesh members follow a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment guide their actions.
  • Daesh has declared a caliphate and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom.
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been the self-declared leader of Daesh since May 2010, but his power really took off in July 2014 when he delivered a Ramadan sermon from Mosul. Recruiting efforts for Daesh went into full gear.
  • Daesh evolved from al-Qaeda but is very, very different and Western leaders are making a big mistake when they fail to grasp the differences.
  • Daesh is committed to returning civilization back to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.  Daesh leaders see their role as central to this plot.
  • Any Muslim who doesn’t follow Daesh’s interpretation of the Qu’ran must be killed, which means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. Daesh is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. However, Christians who do not resist the caliphate and pay a special tax (jizya) may be spared.
  • The Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and other Islamist groups have participated in the political process and thus, in the eyes of Daesh, are apostates and must be condemned (killed?)
  • Leaders of Daesh have taken emulation of the Prophet Muhammad as a strict duty and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. The closest thing to Daesh was probably the Wahhabis of 18th-century Arabia, but the Wahhabis did not practice such wanton violence.
  • The last caliphate was the Ottoman Empire which peaked in the 16th-century and then declined for many years until Ataturk replaced the caliphate with a secular government in Turkey.
  • The caliphate is not just a political entity but also a means to salvation. Daesh propaganda (the group has its own YouTube channel, Twitter account, and magazine) says that a “Muslim who acknowledges one omnipotent god and prays, but who dies without pledging himself to a valid caliph and incurring the obligations of that oath, has failed to live a fully Islamic life.”
  • If Daesh succeeds, all of my legal education will fly out the window. A more robust version of Sharia law than is found anywhere in the Muslim world today will be the law of the land.
  • What sets Daesh apart from other jihadists?  The group’s focus on the End of Days, the apocalypse.
  • The apocalypse will happen when Daesh slays an enemy army at Dabiq, a Syrian city near Aleppo. Until that time comes, the duty of the caliph is to wage war to expand the caliphate.
  • Daesh and Al-Qaeda are very different and, in fact, they are completely at odds with each other.  Al-Qaeda is like an underground political movement, while Daesh requires territorial authority. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements. Western intelligence services haven’t figured that out yet.
  • We can thank George W. Bush and his cronies for the invasion and occupation of Iraq as the catalyst for the rise of Daesh. What a legacy he has left!
  • Graeme Wood surmises that “properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.”
  • Graeme Wood believes that denouncing Daesh as un-Islamic is counterproductive, “especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them.”
  • “There is another strand of Islam that offers a hard-line alternative to the Islamic State — just as uncompromising, but with opposite conclusions.” They are known as the “quietist Salafis.” They agree with Daesh about not engaging in voting and political parties, but quietist Salafis are strictly forbidden from dividing Muslims from one another.


The key (miftah) to open the door to return.

The key (miftah) to open the door to return.

After reading Graeme Wood’s article, I watched this video about a young Egyptian named Islam Yaken who grew up in the nice Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, attended a private school and became a strong body builder with six pack abs.  He had friends, dreams and goals but, without saying ‘goodbye’, he left his family and joined Daesh. His story is one that probably mirrors many young men in the Middle East.

So what would I tell my friend in Gaza if I could sit down with him over tea?

I wouldn’t talk religion because I’m not a Muslim and can’t begin to tell a Muslim how he should live his life.

I wouldn’t talk about dreams because I don’t have a clue what it’s like to be a young ’20-something’ living in a community which is worse than a prison, with no jobs, no movement, and no opportunities.

I wouldn’t talk about politics because no politicians ANYWHERE have shown themselves capable of lifting Israel’s interminable occupation.

I wouldn’t talk about hope because I can’t promise anything will change.

I will listen. And I will tell him I love him. I hope I get to see him again when I return to Gaza. Until then, I’m going to do my best to educate Americans and U.S. leaders about my country’s complicity in this immoral and unholy occupation.



Filed under Gaza, Islam, People, Politics