Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Maybe they just don't like you

As reported by Wednesday's Toronto Globe & Mail, an audiotape has surfaced supposedly made by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in which Muslim scholars are harshly criticized for having "quit supporting the mujahedeen."
"You have let us down in the darkest circumstances and handed us over to the enemy... You made peace with the tyranny and handed over the countries and the people to the Jews and Crusaders. ... when you resort to silence on their crimes, when you refused to hold the banners of Jihad and Tawhid, and when you prevented youth from heading to the battlefields in order to defend the religion," he said. ...

It was unclear whether his message was intended as a direct threat against religious scholars.
I beg to differ: If the tape is genuine, I think that's exactly what it was intended as. You're with us or you're against us. Either you supported Jihad and Tawhid (both earlier names of Zarqawi's group, which he now calls al-Qaeda in Iraq) or you handed over the people to the enemy and "preferred your money and sons" to God's word - a word which Zarqawi, evidently, gets to define.

Well maybe, Mr. Zarqawi, it wasn't their "money and sons" those ulema (religious Muslim scholars) preferred, maybe it was avoiding an endorsement of butchery, beheadings, and bigotry. Maybe, since many have indeed spoken against the occupation, maybe it's not the resistance they dislike. Maybe, Muslims know the difference between opposition and indiscriminate murder and they are not willing to tolerate the latter to advance the former. Maybe it's not that they endorse the occupation but that they reject you. Yeah, that sounds about right.

At the same time, I want to repeat what I just said: If the tape in genuine. Considering the timing and the language, it has the feel of a statement made by someone, if you will, on the run, a cry of desperation or at least of pained frustration, saying, again, that the scholars
"let us down in the darkest circumstances. ...

"You left the mujahadeen facing the strongest power in the world," he said. "Are not your hearts shaken by the scenes of your brothers being surrounded and hurt by your enemy?"
You let us down! Where were you when we needed you? How could you do this to us? The sentiments of someone losing a fight, who knows they're losing, and who feels abandoned by those who should be friends.

I guess I find it just a little too perfect, a little too fitting in the wake of Fallujah, a little too in PR synch with the administration claims that "we've got him on the run!" So yes, I have my doubts as to its authenticity.

But assuming it's real, do I think it's a threat? Well, so far Zarqawi has shown no compunction of which I'm aware about killing anyone whose death he thought might serve a political purpose. I don't imagine that Muslim scholars who were insufficiently enthusiastic about his version of what God wants would be immune.

Footnote: The undercurrents of murder are not limited to Sunni radicals and the ethnic strife so thinly papered over in the interim government continue to fester.
This week, two Sunni clerics who were part of an influential Sunni group that openly called for a boycott of Jan. 30 national elections because of the U.S. offensive against Fallujah were assassinated by gunmen.

On Tuesday, Sheik Ghalib Ali al-Zuhairi, was killed as he left a mosque after dawn prayers in the town of Muqdadiyah, 100 kilometres north of Baghdad, police said.

His assassination occurred a day after another prominent Sunni cleric was killed in the northern city of Mosul - Sheik Faidh Mohamed Amin al-Faidhi, who was the brother of the association's spokesman. It was unclear whether those two attacks were related.
Perhaps they weren't - but if so, I think it's one hell of a coincidence.

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