struggle within Islam
Late last year, when the evacuation of Aleppo began as the city fell to Assad regime forces backed by Russian air-strikes, we noted that residents were being sent to Idlib governorate, which is both under control of jihadist factions and also targeted for air-strikes and eventual conquest by the regime and its Russian patrons. So secularists fleeing Aleppo were likely to find no refuge from either regime or opposition forces in Idlib. Now comes the news that Radio Fresh, voice of the embattled secularist civil resistance in the Idlib town of Kafranbel, is being censored by the jihadists—and finding a creative way to resist. The FM station's manager Raed Fares told BBC News that they've been broadcasting hours of barnyard sounds each day to protest and mock censorious orders from local militants of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (the former Nusra Front). "They tried to force us to stop playing music on air," said Fares. "So we started to play animals in the background as a kind of sarcastic gesture against them."
A blast at a Sufi shrine in the Pakistani region of Balochistan killed at least 60 and injured more than 100 on Nov. 12. The Shah Noorani Shrine in the mountain town of Hub, straddling Lasbela and Khuzdar districts, was packed with worshippers when the bomb exploded. Devotees were gathered for a traditional dhamal dance ritual at the shrine to the saint Shah Bilal Noorani. The shrine's remote location has impeded rescue efforts. The shrine attracts devotees from all over Pakistan, as well as neighboring Iran. The local franchise of ISIS issued a statement taking responsibility for the attack through its Amaq News Agency, saying it was carried out by a suicide "martyr," and sought to target "Shi'ites." The shrine is venerated by Sunnis and Shi'ites alike.
The Iraq Parliament approved a law "Forbidding the import, manufacture and sale of all kinds of alcohol drinks." Until this time, alcohol has been made readily available in shops, bars, restaurant and hotels in Baghdad and some of the provinces; it was not unusual for young people in Baghdad to be observed drinking. Lawmaker and head of the parliament's legal panel, Mahmoud al-Hassan, stated that the law was necessary to preserve Iraq's identity as a Muslim country. Al-Hassan belongs to the Shi'ite majority, a conservative section of Iraq's population, which has dominated the parliament since the US invasion of the country in 2003.
Well, here's some good news. Free Syrian Army forces, backed by Turkey, this week took the town of Dabiq from ISIS. The small town in northern Aleppo governorate is of little strategic significance but great symbolic import. ISIS had promised a final apocalyptic battle between the Muslims and unbelievers would take place there. Instead, faced with Turkish warplanes, the jihadists ignominiously withdrew. Conveniently reinterpreting a prophetic hadith, ISIS promptly changed the name of its magazine from Dabiq to Roumiya. That means Rome—taken to signify Europe and the West. According to the hadith of Abu Hurayrah, a companion of the Prophet, Muhammad said: "The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A'maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best of the people of the Earth at that time will come from Medina [to defeat them]." (ARA News, Oct. 17; RFE/RL, Oct. 9)
Shops and homes belonging to Shi'ite Muslims in Nigeria's Kaduna state were destroyed by rampaging mobs in a wave of attacks that spread across several towns Oct. 15. The attacks, which came as Shi'ites were celebrating their Ashura religious festival, were reported from the towns of Tudun Wada, Ungwan Muazu and Kabala West. A Shi'ite religious school was also destroyed in Tudun Wada earlier in the week. Human Rights Watch blamed Kaduna state authorities for enflaming an atmosphere of intolerance by persecuting Shi'ites in appeasement of local Sunni fundamentalist sentiment. HRW stated that "the move to ban the Shia umbrella body, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), by the Kaduna State government appears to have triggered a wave of discrimination and violence against Shia elsewhere in the country." (ABNA, Information Nigeria, Premium Times, Nigeria, Oct. 15)
Afghanistan's government signed a peace agreement Sept. 22 with Hezb-e-Islami, the militant group of Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Representatives of the movement and Afghan officials signed the accord in a ceremony broadcast on live TV. The deal of course grants impunity to Hekmatyar, who is accused of countless atrocities. Hekmatyar was not present at the signing, which is intended to pave the way for him to return from hiding to Kabul. He must still personally sign the accord with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for it to come into force. Mohammad Amin Karim, head of the insurgent delegation, was present at the ceremony. He said: "This is not just a peace deal between Hezb-e-Islami and the government of Afghanistan, it is a beginning of a new era of peace all around the country." Another Hezb-e-Islami leader, Qarib-ur-Rehman Syed, assured the US State Department's Voice of America Afghanistan service: "Hezb-e-Islami considers itself a...party of the people... we apologize from those who were hurt." (Khaama Press, BBC News, Sept. 22)
Last month, some 30,000 followers of the Ahmadiyya Muslim movement gathered in London for their annual conference, dubbed the Jalsa Salana, and held a march repudiating ISIS and extemism. It is telling that the supposed paucity of media coverage is what is getting play in the "alternative" media, in gloating manner. AntiMedia's headline is "30,000 Muslims Just Slammed Terrorism — Media Silent." But of course the story links to an account from... the (mainstream) media! (In this case the Daily Mail.) Similarly Mic.com headlines: "Over 30,000 Muslims in the UK Marched Against ISIS — Of Course You Didn't Hear About It." Yet they apparenrly "heard about it" from their source, The Independent.
An appeals court in the Algerian city of Setif on Sept. 6 upheld the conviction of Slimane Bouhafs, a man the court says slandered Islam and the Prophet Muhammed. Bouhaf's lawyer claims his client, a Christian convert, only criticized political Islam in a Facebook discussion with non-Algerian Christians. On Aug. 7, the trial court found otherwise, ruling that those Facebook posts were offensive to the prophet, and the appeals court agreed. Now, international human rights groups are calling for Bouhafs' "immediate and unconditional release." Bouhafs faces a five-year prison term.