IS and its media: Calling all suicide bombers

The media is playing its part in today’s horror as “Islamic State” showcases its terrorists in magazines, videos and on the Internet to recruit new members. Joseph Croitoru examines how IS strategy has developed and evolved

The radio station operated by the terrorist militia “Islamic State”, which has been broadcasting regularly for the past few months in English, French, Russian, Turkish and Kurdish, is called “Al-Bayan”. The Arabic term succinctly reveals the group’s agenda, conjoining modernity and tradition to connote both an “announcement” and also spreading the word of the Koran.

The daily Arabic news programme, around seven minutes long and consisting mostly of war reporting, has followed the same pattern for months. A brief rendition of a jihadist song (nasheed), which praises the Islamic Umma (world community) and continues in the background as the news is read, is followed by reports of “successful” suicide attacks by IS members.

The radical Sunni station refers to them by the term “amaliya istishhadiya” (martyrdom operations), originally popularised by the Shia arch-enemies who are today at war with the IS: the pro-Iranian Hezbollah introduced the term in the 1980s.

The IS terrorist militia lets it be known that its suicide martyrs – “Istishhadiyin” – are deployed both offensively and defensively. Sometimes their bombs clear the way for combat troops to follow, or the bombers detonate armoured vehicles laden with explosives to slow down the advancing enemy.

To make sure daily messages from “Al-Bayan” like these do not get lost in the constant stream of information, the IS website periodically features a special report on its suicide bombings – a diagram for example shows 65 such attacks during October in Iraq and Syria.

Twenty-minute “martyr” farewells

Checking the veracity of such information is not easy, not least because the Arab media use various names for the suicide operations of the IS, which are in fact very numerous. What is striking is that the term “suicide” is always included, in pointed emphasis of the fact that this form of terrorism violates Islam′s prohibition of suicide, something Islamists like to gloss over.

For the media staging of its suicide bombers, the IS likes to make use of a genre already established three decades ago, perpetuating their deeds individually on video or at least in an extended photo sequence. But the competition is watching: rival terrorist militias, in particular the Syrian “Nusra Front”, which is linked to al-Qaida, is also very productive in this respect.

Farewell image of an IS suicide bomber (source:donotgothere.org)

The macabre and the mundane: “suicide attackers should raise their right hand with a pointing index finger at some point during the farewell video – signalling the number one, a symbol for the unity of Islamic faith and the unity of the jihadists. The Palestinian Hamas popularised this gesture years ago, but not wanting to be linked with the IS under any circumstances, they have now reverted to the traditional victory sign,” writes Croitoru

Such rivalry has occasionally prompted farewell videos to swell to lengths of up to twenty minutes. Usually, the reading of the “will”, which often segues into a hate sermon, is followed by a farewell scene as the perpetrator climbs into the vehicle and drives off to launch the attack.  The final chord is then struck with the explosion scene, which is often shown repeatedly.

The pointing index finger is mandatory

Lately, however, the videos bidding farewell to IS suicide bombers have become noticeably shorter, probably due to their great proliferation. The bombers are still permitted to appear before the camera as individuals wearing their own, very diverse, clothing. But they are clearly asked to play it up a bit.

An underage Arab, for example, holding a small Koran in his hand on his way to blowing himself up with belt full of explosives, acts the role of the devout and contemplative believer before uttering a torrent of jihadist slogans and threats. For a Tajik car bomber, by contrast, two sentences in broken Arabic must suffice, muttered out of the window of his prepared tank car, before he proceeds to his death.

Recently it has apparently been decided that suicide attackers should raise their right hand with a pointing index finger at some point during the farewell video – signalling the number one, a symbol for the unity of Islamic faith and the unity of the jihadists. The Palestinian Hamas popularised this gesture years ago, but not wanting to be linked with the IS under any circumstances, they have now reverted to the traditional victory sign.

Welcome to the “caliphate”

The IS also glorifies its death terrorists in four non-Arabic magazines. Probably the best known among them is the English “Dabiq”, named for a town in northern Syria where the doomsday battle will ostensibly take place against the “infidels”. The magazine evokes apocalyptic themes and a supposed global war of civilisations, which the IS claims to be spearheading on the Muslim side.

Again and again, the suicide attack is highlighted as the preferred weapon, as it also is in the French counterpart “Dar Al-Islam” (House or Dominion of Islam), a magazine designed to teach Francophone Muslims where they supposedly truly belong. They are especially welcome to take part in the IS “caliphate” as suicide soldiers: by the third of six issues of “Dar al-Islam” currently published, a death driver from France was already being extolled, sitting at the wheel of his vehicle and smiling.

Similar to “Dar Al-Islam”, the latest, third issue of the Turkish IS magazine, “Konstantinyye”, features on its cover a massive explosion, under the heading “Martyrdom operations are allowed and legitimate”.

Cover of the IS Turkish magazine "Konstantiniyye"

Dead end: IS also glorifies the role played by its suicide bombers in four non-Arabic publications. “Konstantiniyyee”, published for the Turkish market, emphasises that “martyrdom operations are allowed and legitimate”

Ataturk denigrated as an idol

The magazine’s title was chosen cleverly, because “Konstantiniyye” is the Ottoman name for Istanbul, thus recalling the Islamic conquest of Byzantine Constantinople and its conversion into the capital of the Ottoman Caliphate. The publishers thus echo the way Erdogan’s AKP has glorified this victory over the East Roman Christian Byzantine Empire in its neo-Ottoman discourse for the past several years. Ataturk is however consistently vilified in “Konstantiniyye” as a “kafir” (infidel) and “tagut” (idol).

This division between good and evil also colours the rhetoric of the Russian IS periodical, “Istok” (source, origin), in which suicide attacks are likewise a featured theme. The decision by Russian, Caucasian and Central Asian sympathisers to carry out an “Istishhad Operacja” is not only exalted here as the culmination of an almost mystical enlightenment – to dispel any last doubts, it is interwoven with the narrative of an intimate camaraderie, which these non-Arab mujahedeen then believe to be typical of IS.

Joseph Croitoru

© Qantara.de 2015

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

Birmingham mosque teachers jailed for Koran boy beating

Two Islamic school teachers who beat a 10-year-old boy with a stick for reciting the Koran incorrectly have been jailed for a year. Mohammed Siddique, 60, and his son Mohammed Waqar, 24, admitted willful cruelty to a child under 16. The four attacks took place at the Jamia Mosque in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, between May and June 2014, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

The pair, from the Tyseley area of the city, also face a teaching ban.

Sam Forsyth, prosecuting, said the victim was beaten with a plastic stick and given back-of-the-hand slaps by each of his tutors for “talking in the classroom” at a Birmingham Islamic centre. The boy was hit during four separate incidents, with photographs of his injuries showing “extensive” bruising to the back of his legs.

Judge Mark Wall QC told them: “These were not assaults committed in ignorance of how inappropriate it was to use corporal punishment such as this.” He added: “Acts of brutality of this sort which you each indulged in, with a stick, will not be tolerated.”

Football fans who ripped up the Koran ‘like confetti’ convicted of public order offence

Two football fans who ripped up pages of the Koran, the Islamic holy book, “like confetti” at a game have been found guilty of a religiously-aggravated public order offence.

Middlesbrough supporters Julie Phillips, 50, and Gemma Parkin, 18, denied knowing the book was a copy of the Koran. Parkin told Birmingham Magistrates’ Court she was given the book at a Birmingham market and did not know what it was. Philips claimed she was simply trying to make “confetti” to throw during the game.

 

Passing sentence, court chairman Gordon Sayers said: “This was a very unpleasant offence and there was a degree of pre-planning involved.”

Mars One encourages Muslims to join red planet mission despite ‘Fatwa’

February 21, 2014

 

A fatwa issued by Gulf imams has ruled it is un-Islamic to promote or be involved in a one-way trip to the Red Planet. According to reports in the Khaleej Times, a fatwa committee under the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the UAE prohibits Muslims from being involved in such a journey as it would pose “a real risk to life” and is tantamount to suicide.

The Mars One mission aims to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet. Crews of four will depart every two years from 2024 following an initial unmanned mission in 2018. The mission would use a worldwide reality television show to raise the estimated $6bn required to send the team to Mars and give them a chance of survival. The company behind the Mars One mission has said that Muslims should sign up for a trip to the red planet, following reports of a Fatwa against it being issued.

“Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Koran: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful,” the committee, chaired by Professor Dr Farooq Hamada, said.

Volunteers were invited to apply for a ticket to Mars last year at a price of less than £30. The Mars One website states: “In a 1000 years, everyone on Earth will still remember who the first humans on Mars were. More than 200,000 men and women from around the world responded to the first call for astronauts.”

However, Mars One, a non-profit organisation that proposes to send four people to the red planet in 2022, has responded to the reports stating that the “Muslim world has for centuries had a rich tradition of exploration”. In a statement to the Telegraph, Mars One claimed the Koran “encourages Muslims to go out and see the signs of God’s creation in the ‘heavens and the earth’. The most influential example of this was the Moroccan Muslim traveller, Ibn Battuta, who from 1325 to 1355 travelled 73,000 miles, visiting the equivalent of 44 modern countries,” Mars One stated. “The mission to Mars is a road that has never been walked before, even though the first settlers will be walking in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, Neil Armstrong, or any of the other great explorers in history.”

 

The Independent:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/gulf-imams-issue-fatwa-warning-muslims-not-to-live-on-mars-as-it-would-pose-a-real-risk-to-life-9141631.html 

The Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/unitedarabemirates/10649939/Muslims-warned-in-Fatwa-not-to-live-on-Mars.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/unitedarabemirates/10654014/Mars-One-encourages-Muslims-to-join-red-planet-mission-despite-Fatwa.html

Second British pensioner faces blasphemy charges in Pakistan for reading from Koran in public

January 31, 2014

 

The family of a second British man facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan said yesterday that he is entirely innocent and called for more to be done to allow him to return to the UK. Masud Ahmad, 72, is currently on bail in Lahore after he was allegedly tricked into publicly reading from the Koran – an act which is forbidden for members of the minority Ahmadi sect to which he belongs. He now faces three years in jail. Mr Ahmad had been released from prison on bail and was now in secure accommodation pending trial although it was not known when the case would be heard and he faced a long and uncertain wait.

Following his arrest in November more than 600 people protested outside the police station. Under Pakistan law it is an offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim. Each year dozens of members of the sect are charged with breaching religious laws whilst they and other minorities are also at risk of outbreaks of sectarian violence in the country if they are deemed to have committed blasphemy.

The quietly-spoken widower was arrested after he was recorded on a mobile phone reading from the Koran by two men posing as patients. Amnesty International said he was maliciously targeted because of his religion.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We will continue to provide consular assistance to both Mr Ahmad and his family.”

 

The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/second-british-pensioner-faces-blasphemy-charges-in-pakistan-for-reading-from-koran-in-public-9099929.html

Mastermind of 9/11 says Koran ‘forbids’ violence to spread Islam

January 10, 2014

 

The self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has released a manifesto claiming that the Koran forbids the use of violence to spread Islam. The document, published Tuesday by The Huffington Post and Britain’s Channel 4 News, marks Mohammed’s first public communication since 2009, when the US government officially accused him of terrorism.

In a major departure from his previous position, Mohammed said that “the Holy Koran forbids us to use force as a means of converting!” He also tried in the 36-page document to convince his American captors, prosecutors, lawyers and members of his military tribunal to convert to Islam.

“It is my religious duty in dealing with any non-Muslims such as the people in the court (the judge, the prosecution, attorneys, etc.) to invite them to embrace Islam,” Mohammed wrote.

“I realise very well that you have heard about Islam and know much about it. But it is my own belief that Allah will ask me on the Day of Judgment why I did not invite these people to Islam?”

Mohammed said he was “very happy” in his cell, adding: “My spirit is free even while my body is being held captive.”

Mohammed said he has been “neither sad nor distressed” in his confinement “because I have been with the Only One True God.”

The document was declassified last month by military judge James Pohl.

Defence lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10574052/Mastermind-of-911-says-Koran-forbids-violence-to-spread-Islam.html

Catalan children travel to Gambia to study the Qur’an

January 22, 2014

 

Hundreds of Catalan children travel each year to Gambia to study the Koran and Arabic. These children between 7 and 17 years old may be between six months to five years in madrasas (Islamic schools). The goal is for their children to maintain the traditions and religious and cultural ties to the home community.

 

e-noticies: http://sociedad.e-noticies.es/-ninos-catalanes-viajan-a-paises-musulmanes-para-estudiar-el-coran-82331.html

Islam scholar in Münster under pressure

January 10, 2014

 

Prof.Dr. Mouhanad Khorchide, a scholar at the Centre for Islamic Theology (ZIT) at the University of Münster has been under recent public pressure. In an open statement, students of the centre raised their concerns about these issues, which would negatively effect the reputation and image of the ZIT.

Prof. Khorchide has been accused of plagiarism having used content and ideas of the Syrian Koran interpreter Muhammad Shahrour, inappropriately for his book “mercifulness”. The central council of Muslims in Germany spread the news as well as the daily news paper in Vienna “Standard”.

The central council of Muslims does not recognize Prof. Khorchide as a theologist. Yet, the accusations against Prof. Khorchide have not been verified. In his book, Khorchide is said to demand the modernization of Islam, which has been criticized by Muslim associations such as the coordination council of Muslims. In 2010, the coordination council permitted Khorchide to teach as a certified religious scholar. The same council is aiming to dispose Prof. Khorchide.

 

Die Zeit: http://www.zeit.de/studium/hochschule/2014-01/khorchide-muenster-islamische-theologie-kritik

Students’ statement (In German): http://fachschaftzit.blogspot.de/?m=0

Distribution of Halal Sandwiches

December 12, 2013

 

TREVISO – Starting soon, vending machine lunch break snacks will also include sandwiches that are certified “halal” for Muslim workers. The products come from Novagest, a small company in Treviso. The “halal” sandwich will be made with turkey meat from turkeys that will be slaughtered according to customs in the Koran.

 

ANSA: http://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/regioni/veneto/2013/12/12/Islam-distributore-tramezzini-halal-_9769195.html

La Stampa: http://www.lastampa.it/2013/12/12/italia/cronache/treviso-distributori-automatici-con-tramezzini-per-musulmani-RMt8oRQyB9Lu7WsaHqX6MK/pagina.html