Archive for March, 2008

Moqtada on relation of Jaysh to Mahdi

March 31, 2008

In an interview on Al-Jazeera, March 29, 2008, Moqtada al-Sadr said:

This will be the army of the Reformer [the Mahdi], Allah willing. At the end of time, the Mahdi will appear, and if by that time, we are still around, and if we are capable mentally, physically, militarily, and in terms of faith, we will all be his soldiers, Allah willing. Hence, the Al-Mahdi Army is a matter of faith, and it cannot be disbanded.

Source: Memri



March 20, 2008

As Uri Avnery pointed out in an article entitled Kill A Hundred Turks And Rest earlier this month, a retired Israeli general recently committed a gaffe by saying the Palestinians would face a Shoah if they didn’t stop their attacks on Israel:

A warning by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i to the Palestinians that they face a bigger “Shoah” if they increase rocket attacks from Gaza set off a diplomatic and public relations maelstrom, Israeli officials said Sunday. … “As the rocket fire grows, and the range increases… they are bringing upon themselves a greater ‘Shoah’ because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate,” Vilna’i told Army Radio. … Vilna’i’s spokesman, Eitan Ginzburg, subsequently clarified that the deputy defense minister had used the Hebrew word only to mean “disaster, ruin or destruction.” … “It could be that he should have picked another word,” Vilna’i’s spokesman conceded Sunday.

‘Shoah’ remark sparks uproar, Jerusalem Post, March 2, 2008

It’s clumsy phrasing, to be sure, and highly reminiscent of GW Bush’s remark about fighting a crusade against al Qaida in the early days after 9-11:

On Sunday, Bush warned Americans that “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.” … His use of the word “crusade,” said Soheib Bensheikh, Grand Mufti of the mosque in Marseille, France, “was most unfortunate”, “It recalled the barbarous and unjust military operations against the Muslim world,” by Christian knights, who launched repeated attempts to capture Jerusalem over the course of several hundred years.

Europe cringes at Bush ‘crusade’ against terrorists, Christian Science Monitor, September 19, 2001

You know, I googled the word “crusade” shortly after Bush used it, because I suspect he wasn’t intending to fan the flames of interfaith hatred any higher just at that moment, and the first use of “crusade” that Google offered me was something along the lines of a crusade for dental hygiene. So Bush used a word that has, shall we say, less inflammatory meanings, but which was liable to be highly inflammatory in Arab or Muslim ears.

I believe the same is true of Vilna’i. I think he intended “Shoah” in a milder sense, but should have been sensitive enough to avoid the term, given its close association with the Nazi Holocaust.


But then neither Bush nor Vilna’i was mistaking Shi’ite for Sunni — as McCain did more than once this week…

Tim Furnish posts significant Q&A on Iraqi Mahdism

March 16, 2008

My blog-friend Dr. Timothy Furnish, who wrote the book on Mahdism, has been in recent contact with representatives of Sayyid al-Yamani, the head of the Ansar al-Mahdi group which was involved in violent altercations (they were accused of instigating them) in Basra and Nasiriya around the commemoration of Muharram in late January of this year.

Mahdism tends to be “under the radar” but already plays a significant role in the region, which could become very significant indeed very quickly if a major Mahdist movement caught on.

His MahdiWatch blog article carries significant information not easily available elsewhere:

Background can be found at the sites of Reidar Visser and at the Jamestown Foundation:


I have a minor quibble with Tim Furnish’s post — he quotes his Ansar informant as writing, “Imam al Mahdi and Sayid al Yamani expect followers from all sects and religions. They’re for all and from all.” and comments:

This is a sort of universalism not normally seen in Mahdist thought.

It is found in the writings of the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr, though. I’ve been fascinated by this passage since I first encountered it:

The Mahdi is not an embodiment of the Islamic belief but he is also the symbol of an aspiration cherished by mankind irrespective of its divergent religious doctrines. He is also the crystallization of an instructive inspiration through which all people, regardless of their religious affiliations, have learnt to await a day when heavenly missions, with all their implications, will achieve their final goal and the tiring march of humanity across history will culminate satisfactory in peace and tranquility. This consciousness of the expected future has not been confined to those who believe in the supernatural phenomenon but has also been reflected in the ideologies and cult which totally deny the existence of what is imperceptible. For example, the dialectical materialism which interprets history on the basis of contradiction believes that a day will come when all contradictions will disappear and complete peace and tranquility will prevail.


Furnish has already posted a couple of other important notices, one about a Mahdist claim from Sunni Palestine, this month.