Donate

Lessons from a Critic of Jihadist Poetry

Aug. 30 2017

After dedicating two decades to studying avant-garde Egyptian poetry, Elisabeth Kendall yearned to apply her skills to something more relevant. She focused her attention on jihadist poetry—a robust and ever-growing genre on which she is now the leading Western expert. Both Osama bin Laden and his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote their share of poems; while Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi does not, he did devote his doctoral dissertation to the subject. Alex Marshall writes:

Kendall started looking into poems by going online and getting hold of three years’ worth of magazines produced by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s arm in Yemen. . . . She quickly discovered that poems were featured on almost a fifth of the pages. . . .

The poems Kendall found weren’t simply propaganda. Yes, there were a lot calling for attacks and ones urging people to join the group (“Where are you as Muhammad’s community burns in flames?”), but there were others lamenting dead friends (“I know you’re with Allah . . . but, if I’m honest with myself, I am going to miss you”) and even ones trying to instill conservative values in women. . . .

She discovered that over half were plagiarized from the classical tradition [of Arabic poetry]. Nearly 10 percent turned out, ironically, to be from the pre-Islamic era. . . .

She also surveyed Yemeni tribespeople on poetry (among many other topics), to [see if] it was important to their daily lives—some 84 percent of men and 69 percent of women said it was—and while traveling around she sometimes played her minders jihadist songs from her phone just to gauge their reactions. . . .

Could poetry help turn such people away from jihad? “I think it could,” she says. “I’m not suggesting counter-terrorism experts start writing poetry.” . . . But countries could help fund publications that do promote anti-jihadist poetry written by locals. Kendall insists you can find such poems if you look closely and give people the opportunity to speak. Pseudonyms would be essential, unfortunately.

Read more at BBC

More about: Al Qaeda, Arabic literature, Arts & Culture, Jihadism, Osama bin Laden, War on Terror, Yemen

The Movement to Return Jewish Worship to the Temple Mount Has Gone Mainstream

Sept. 25 2017

During the eruption of violence against Israelis in Jerusalem this summer, and the subsequent struggle over metal detectors, the Islamic authorities briefly boycotted the Temple Mount. As a result, Jewish visitors, normally prohibited from praying there, immediately began to do so. Meir Soloveichik puts the episode in context and describes its meaning:

The Temple Mount is fast becoming a pilgrimage site for religious Jews. In the past, most abstained from visiting out of concern that they might enter a sacred area in a state of ritual impurity, but many now believe that, with a knowledge of the layout, history, and religious laws pertaining to the location, it is permissible to visit certain parts of the Temple Mount plaza. They thus visit the site under religious guidance—immersing first in a ritual bath, or mikveh—and tread only in specific areas. What was once a trickle of pilgrims has become a stream, and this year they numbered in the many thousands. . . .

[Indeed, a] sea change has taken place in the past fifteen years: . . . the segment of Jews visiting the Temple Mount is becoming more and more mainstream, supported by rabbis noted for their liberalism in social or religious affairs. . . .

Visiting Jews were, for a brief and brilliant moment [this summer], able to utter several words of prayer without interference. The Israeli media published photos of a diverse group of Jews standing on the Temple Mount reciting the kaddish, so close to where their ancestors, on Yom Kippur, had once stood listening to the high priest pronounce the Name of God. Soon after this kaddish, the [status quo ante] returned; Jews again were no longer free to pray at the site toward which all Jewish prayer has been directed for thousands of years. But images of that one unimpeded kaddish remain; to study them is to look back on the miraculous and heartbreaking past half-century in Jerusalem, to celebrate what has been achieved, and to mourn what might have been.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Palestinian terror, Religion & Holidays, Temple Mount