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

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security