Monday, February 19, 2007
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Australian Muslims began patrolling the beach at Cronulla in Sydney that was the scene of a riot between native Australians and Muslims of Lebanese descent in 2005. The Muslim lifeguards wear special bathing suits to comply with Islamic requirements for modest dress. In the case of women lifeguards, that means covering up in a head to toe "burqini."
When the suicide skyjackers of September 11 struck, Saudi Arabia denied for months that fifteen of the nineteen Islamic terrorists were Saudis. Abdullah Thabit knew better. He recognized one of the skyjackers in the paper, Ahmed Alnami, as a familiar face from his home town in Saudi Arabia. He had been subject to the same extremist religious indoctrination. He could well have been in Alnami's place had he not escaped.
Says Thabit, "I felt like someone who'd gotten off a boat just in time and then watched it capsize with him and the others onboard. I love Nami, but I hate what he did. And it terrifies me that that could have been me." Thabit hails from Abha, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, where many of the skyjackers came from.
That near escape is the subject of Abdullah Thabit's book, written in Arabic and published in Syria, "The 20th Terrorist," which recounts his years as a religious extremist. Faiza Saleh Ambah writes of his story in the Washington Post article "The Would-Be Terrorist's Explosive Tell-All Tale."
Thabit was a lonely fifteen-year old kid with an unhappy home life who spent his spare time herding goats and hitting the books. His good grades attracted the notice of the extremist Wahhabi teachers who dispatched a classmate with an invitation to play soccer with the "cool" kids. In Saudi Arabia, cool means Wahhabi.
He writes in his book, "There was unconditional love and brotherhood and friendship and sacrifice, and spirituality. All obstacles were melted and we lived a spiritual existential as one. We lived . . . the pleasure of those building a new nation." While satisfying the emotional needs neglected at home, the group also indoctrinated him in the Wahhabi ways. He could not play soccer the way the infidels did. Rather than clap or whistle like infidels, he could only shout "Allah Akbar!" Slowly, the Wahhabis inducted him into their cult of takfiri ideology, where all those who don't share their religious beliefs are infidels to be hated. Says Thabit, "We were taught that our Islam was correct and everyone else, including our families, was going to hell, a hell that resembled a slaughterhouse. And I wanted to be one of the select few who made it into heaven."
Yahya, one of his Wahhabi mentors, would take him to the cemetery every week to lie for hours in open graves after midnight to listen to radicals preach on a cassette player. The fate of infidels was hideous in these sermons, consigned to hell where their skin was peeled off and they were hung on hooks amidst snakes and fire. It scared the hell out of young Abdullah: "When we left from there, I wanted Yahya to tell me anything I could do to be saved from hellfire and from that terror."
The Wahhabis provided what teenaged boys want most: an identity. "If your parents or your community or your country don't provide you with one, and most Arab countries don't, you will look for it elsewhere. And these groups provide you with one. Your identity becomes that of a devout Muslim and that then transcends everything else about you."
The Wahhabis would take hundreds of boys out on overnight camping trips where they would play big war games, mujaheddin versus infidels. When he turned seventeen, the Wahhabis recommended he go to Afghanistan to train for jihad. Fear of fighting in Afghanistan outweighed his fear of being an infidel and going to hell. He told them he wasn't ready yet.
The bickering within the group put him off along with the way they put down people who committed trivial violations of their rules. He started reading moderate literature on the sly and slowly weaned himself away from the extremists by the time he was 20. "I was disillusioned by them, and questions were born in my mind about God, about myself, about everything, and I began looking for answers." He feels sad for the takfiris, "I wish they could live a life full of love and art and music. I wish they could regain their humanity. But their lives have been stolen from them and they don't even know it."
Thabit's book exposing the Wahhabi indoctrination has gotten a mixed reception in Saudi Arabia. Casual reading for enjoyment is not a feature of Arab Muslim culture as it is in Western culture. Thabit was the target of hundreds of nasty emails calling him an infidel and a traitor. Then came death threats. "They are like a mafia, a gang, and I am revealing their secrets. They want to silence me," says Thabit. It was the threatening phone calls that convinced Thabit to pack his wife and two daughters into his Ford Grand Marquis one night and drive four hundred miles to a new life in Jiddah.
Thabit's advice: "Live, love, listen to music, enjoy art. When you go through what I've been through, you realize you were kidnapped, and you have to learn to live and taste and feel, all over again."
Saudi executioner Abdullah Al-Bishi discusses his career in this video captured by MEMRI as broadcast on Lebanese LBO-TV. Al-Bishi inherited the job from his father, has cut off more than a hundred heads since, and is now training his son to be an executioner.
Al-Bishi remembers the first execution he ever saw:
"I was at school, and an execution was set for my father in Mecca. It was to take place in front of the King Abd Al-'Aziz Gate. Before all that happened at the Al-Haram Mosque, the executions were held there. We showed up. I was a little boy. The first thing that came to my mind when people talked about executions was the digestive system. I wanted to see it. At that time, we had an exam at school on the digestive system, and we had to explain about the digestive system and whatever... So I came along, and the moment my father executed the man, I ran to see the digestive system, but all I could see was the man's head flying, and where the neck used to be, there was a kind of well. It went down. That's it. I couldn't take it anymore. I woke up in the car on the way home. At night, I tried to go to sleep, but couldn't. I had nightmares, but only once. Then I got used to it, Allah be praised."
Al-Bishi doesn't do just beheadings.
First TV host: "Do you cut off hands, or do you just do beheadings?"
Abdallah Al-Bishi: "Yes, yes. I carry out the punishment of cutting off thieves' hands, as well as the cutting off of a hand and a leg on alternate sides, as is written in the Koran."
Al-Bishi remembers being nervous his first day at work, though presumably not as nervous as his first customer:
"Every person is a bit worried when he starts a new job, and is afraid he will fail."
When asked if he has executed anyone he knew:
"Yes, I have beheaded many people who were my friends, but whoever commits an offense brings it on himself."
While men are beheaded by sword, women are dispatched with a pistol shot. Al-Bishi, in another interview, explains:
"I use a sword to kill male criminals... and firearms, specifically pistols, to kill female criminals. I think firearms are used to spare the woman, as to be executed by sword would mean uncovering her head and exposing her neck and some of her back."
"She only asked me to think carefully before committing myself. But I don’t think she’s afraid of me. ... I deal with my family with kindness and love. They aren’t afraid when I come back from an execution. Sometimes they help me clean my sword.”Saudis execute at least a couple people each week for such expected offenses as murder, rape, and drug dealing but also for robbery, fatal car accidents, adultery, apostasy (leaving Islam for another religion), and witchcraft. They are typically condemned to death after secret summary hearings without appeal. Very often, they are tortured into making false confessions. The condemned usually do not know of their death sentence until they are brought from their cell in handcuffs on a Friday, when executions are done. They are taken to a public square, nicknamed "chop-chop" square, forced to kneel, and beheaded.
Abdul-Karim al-Naqshabandi, a Syrian, was arrested and charged with witchcraft after he refused to provide false testimony in a dodgy business deal pursued by his employer, an influential Saudi. He had no lawyer to defend himself, nor was the court interested in the considerable evidence he presented which threw doubt on the charge. In a letter to the court, al-Naqshabandi wrote:
"They did not give me a chance to defend myself... The investigation was carried out with me by one person only but they all... ratified what he had to say even though they had not heard what I said to him... He threatened me with beating. They tied me up like an animal... I had no option but to accept and sign in order to protect myself. I signed in the hope that I would find someone in the police who would want to listen to the truth, but I was surprised with a more severe treatment... The officer put his shoe in my mouth, beat me up, put me in a cell, and did not allow any visits. He threatened me with worse treatment if I refused to agree to the confession in court. Under these circumstances I ratified my confession in the hope that someone would listen to me in court."
Ali Ibn Hadi ‘Ateef was executed in March 1995, convicted of practising "black magic". A Saudi Interior Ministry statement reported his activities "based on bewitchment and jugglery... caused harm to many families and created chaos and confusion in many houses." Casting the evil eye is cause enough to lose your head in Saudi Arabia.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Goal Number 104
Monday, February 05, 2007
JP: "Does the Iranian regime believe that a military attack on its nuclear sites would strengthen it? Do they think that it can be avoided - that they can manage to keep the West from attacking them?"
Lewis: "My guess is that they do not expect to be attacked. Remember, they have no experience of the functioning of a free society. The sort of self-criticism and mutual criticism that we see as normal is beyond their understanding and totally outside their experience. What we see as free debate, they see as weakness and division and fear.
Therefore I think they have a very low estimate of the forces that oppose them, whether in the US or Israel or elsewhere. They expect to have it their way, whatever way they choose.
I have no doubt at all, and my Iranian friends and informants are unanimous on this, that Ahmadinejad means what he says, and that this is not, as some people have suggested, a trick or device. He really means it, he really believes it and that makes him all the more dangerous.
MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the Cold War. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that they do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again.
In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights, the divine brothel in the skies. I find all that very alarming."
Professor Lewis sees some hopeful signs in the Middle East:
"The other encouraging sign, very faint and very distant, is of a genuine change of mood among people in some Arab countries. Talking to people in Arab countries in the last few years, some of those people express attitudes which I have never met before. I do not know how deep this goes and how strong it is, but it is there and it never was before. That is a good sign. ...
In Jordan, Israel television is widely watched and they get the message of how a free society works. I have heard that the same thing happens elsewhere but for technical reasons it is more difficult. As one fellow put it, it is amazing to watch these great and famous people banging the table and screaming at each other. They are used to people banging the table and screaming, but not at each other. They can get different points of view, but they have to tune in to different stations. The sort of free debate on Israel television and, even more striking, the fact that Arabs can denounce the Israeli government on Israeli television, that has an impact. I have heard people mention this again and again. It doesn't go unnoticed."
JP: "In your writings you have spoken of the feelings of humiliation and rage in the Muslim world. When will their rage subside, if at all?"
Lewis: "One way [for them] to alleviate their rage is to win some large victories. Which could happen. They seem to be about to take over Europe."
JP: ""About to take over Europe?" Do you have a time frame for that? It sounds pretty dramatic."
Lewis: "No, I can't give you the time frame, but I can give you the stages of the process: Immigration and democracy on their side, and a mood of what I can only call self-abasement on the European side - in the name of political correctness and multiculturalism, to surrender on any and every issue.
I was talking only the other day at the Herzliya conference with a German journalist. We were chatting informally over a cup of coffee. He was expressing his profound alarm at the mood of what he called self-abasement among the Germans at the present time. "We mustn't do anything to offend them. We must be nice to them. We must let them do things their way," and so on and so on and so on."
JP: "What does that mean for the Jewish communities of Europe, even in the short term?"
Lewis: "The outlook for the Jewish communities of Europe is dim."