Blackwater in Pakistan

A growing number of news reports from Pakistan are voicing concern over the alleged presence of the controversial security contractor Blackwater (or Xe) in Pakistan. The latest online edition of banned Urdu newspaper Zarb-e-Momin (linked to the outlawed al-Rasheed Trust) also issued an article on this topic. After briefly outlining Blackwater’s history, columnist Aurya Maqbool Jan argues that the most shocking aspect of the firm is that it operates under the cover of NGOs and charity organizations in areas where Americans wish to carry military operations: “It asks a few educated individuals to engage in welfare activities in the area; while this facade is being maintained guerrilla-like soldiers sneak their way in.” In Pakistan, Jan claims, Blackwater headquarters are situated in the University Town area of Peshawar, and the NGO cover used by the firm is that of “Creative Associates,” an organization involved in development work in the tribal areas.

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Zawahiri, France and Napoleon

Allow me to briefly go back to the last Zawahiri interview, put on-line through Sahab media on 5 August 2009. To my knowledge, this is the first time Bin Laden’s deputy has expressed such articulate hatred for France: “France claims secularism, while her heart pours grudge towards Islam. Napoleon Bonaparte announced his famous statement to the Jews in 1799 in Akka, in which he promised to support the Jews in stealing Palestine. France is the one whose soldiers went with their horses into al-Azhar University and stood on its Qur’anic Books, and they took it as a stable to their horses. France is the one who fought Islam and Arabs in Algeria, and France is the one who supplied Israel with a nuclear reactor, and France fights Muslims in Afghanistan, and France fights hijab, and France will pay for all her crimes”. Zawahiri has long be known for his French-bashing.

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Apologies and Introductions

I have some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news is that I will have to stop blogging for a while, due to a combination of personal and professional reasons. From the end of this month till some time next spring, I will be posting very infrequently, although I will be working behind the scenes as editor. The good news is that I have recruited a very exciting team of guest bloggers who will be writing for Jihadica a month or two at the time throughout this coming academic year.  I won’t reveal the whole list, but I can say that they are all established and brilliant academics who have been working on jihadism and Islamism for many years. I chose them because I admire their work. The first one out is Jean-Pierre Filiu (see also here) a professor at Sciences-Po Paris and a leading French

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Libyan Jihad Revisions

There is a very significant development taking place in the so-called war of ideas. Senior leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), who recently laid down their arms, are publishing a Dr. Fadl-like treatise revising their previous understanding of jihad. The text, entitled “the Book of Correctional Studies” (kitab al-dirasat al-tashihiyya), is being published as a nine-part series on the website www.oealibya.com. You can find the first three chapters here, here and here. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to look at it in detail, but Jarret Brachman will be covering the story. He already has some interesting background info and analysis. The text in itself is probably not a landmark work of Islamic jurisprudence, but it is important because it adds to what may now be called a corpus of treatises by former militants challenging al-Qaida on theological grounds. The trend started with al-Gamaa al-Islamiya in Egypt, continued

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New Articles on al-Maqdisi and Bin Nayif

Just a quick note to say that there is a new article on the idelogy of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi in the latest issue of the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. The author is of course Joas Wagemakers, the world’s leading Maqdisi expert and an occasional Jihadica commentator. While I am at it, I should mention that Wagemakers published two other excellent articles on related topics last year, one on al-Maqdisi’s Qur’an interpretation and another on al-wala wa’l-bara in Salafi discourse. For more relevant academic articles, see the indispensible overview of current contents of periodicals on the Middle East by the GLORIA Center in Herzlia, Israel. On the current affairs side of things, there are two new articles on the Bin Nayif operation. Greg Johnsen of Waq al-Waq has an excellent piece in the National which gives you the big picture of the operation. Then there is a great analysis

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Poser Salafi-Jihadis in Gaza?

The “Followers of Monotheism and Jihad” in Palestine released a statement on 31 August 2009 that lambasted Hamas for its narrow interests and the killing of Salafis (Part 1 and Part 2). They claimed that Hamas continues to arrest and harass members of the Salafi movement in Gaza and that “a long beard and Sunni clothes have become an accusation to be arrested for.” They stated that they carry weapons and train only to “fight the apes and pigs.” They maintained that if Hamas were to implement Sharia law, if only gradually, they would serve Hamas, but Hamas “fights anyone who threatens its position.” They continued, “[Hamas] is forcing us to use our weapons to defend ourselves after [they] severed every method of settling differences.” Therefore, they announced that on 29 August 2009, they had attacked a Hamas governmental compound, the Security and Protection HQ, and the Internal Security HQ

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Conference Bonanza

Conference season has begun, and there is an unusually high number of jihad-related academic meetings taking place this autumn. To give you an idea of what people in our field are working on at the moment, I figured I should give you an overview of the main ones that have come to my attention. 3-6 September: The American Political Science Association Annual Meeting began yesterday in Toronto and will go on all weekend. There are a number of panels and papers on jihadism and Islamism; just search for jihad or Islam in the online program. 4-6 September: This weekend there is also a three-day conference on “Islamic Resurgence in the Age of Globalization:Myth, Memory, Emotion” in Trondheim, Norway. The conference is co-sponsored by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Haifa University (Israel), and Aarhus University (Denmark). I was supposed to be there, but I had to cancel in the

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Jaysh-e-Mohammed on Madrasas

In the latest edition of al-Qalam, the weekly online magazine of the Pakistani militant group Jaysh-e-Mohammed, columnist Naveed Masood Hashmi lashes out at Hillary Clinton for linking madrassas, or religious seminaries, to suicide bombings. In an article entitled “Hillary, Madaris and Hanging/Execution,” Hashmi asks: “… who is she [Hillary Clinton] to accuse Pakistani madrassas of sponsoring suicide attacks?” and wonders if the US ambassador to Pakistan, N. W. Peterson, will offer an apology to the Pakistani people for this immensely “provoking” statement made by their Secretary of State. The author delves into a lengthy praise of madrassas, their popularity and social benefits, and goes on to emphasize that at no point during the long and glorious history of madrassas did they produce terrorists or encourage suicide strikes. Instead, he argues, it is the U.S. that is to blame for the ongoing suicide missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan: “After 9/11 when

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