Danish Cartoons Focus the Jihadi Lens on History

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 3 Issue: 10

As the furor in the Islamic world over the Danish cartoon crisis recedes, commentaries are turning more reflective and are proving to be a fascinating window onto the conceptual currents in the jihadi mindset. The theme of these more pensive essays is “analyzing” the Western mindset, conceived in the jihadi shorthand of “Crusado-Zionism.” For one participant writing on February 19 in the al-Ghorabaa forum, the phenomenon of insults against Islam and its symbols is nothing new, but rather “the tip of an iceberg” and part of “a campaign that has not ceased for centuries” (https://www.alghorabaa.net/forums, February 19). It is nothing less than “a passion, at once ancient and modern, of enmity and hatred for Islam,” an attitude that has powered both the medieval Crusades and the more recent colonial period (https://www.alghorabaa.net/forums, February 19). An analysis of more scholarly scope, appearing on March 6 on the forum https://www.almoslim.net, actually provided the reader with reference numbers for medieval manuscripts in French and British libraries that feature derogatory illustrations of the Prophet “too disgusting to describe,” arguing by these examples the essential cultural continuity of what appeared in January in the Danish Jyllands Posten newspaper (https://www.almoslim.net, March 6).

The common feature of these analyses is to banish the idea that this is an isolated incident. Western readers will occasionally find themselves bemused by the vocabulary of “Crusade” in the discourses on jihad from individuals such as Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, feeling perhaps that such usage is allegorical in purpose. For the jihadist ideologues, however, the interpretation is more hard-edged and pertinent than that. For instance, the radical Kuwaiti Sheikh Hamid al-Ali provides some intriguing, apocalyptic detail on the nature of the “eternal conflict,” one that under new names is simply the constant reprise of Islam’s war against the Fars and the Rum, the Persians and the Byzantines, whether in the eighth or twenty-first centuries.

Opening an article on his website, located at https://www.h-alali.net, with the words “Prepare for a change that is nigh,” Sheikh al-Ali muses: “I know not whether it was some prayer that has been answered…for America to enter Iraq to drown in its mire, or for Denmark also to fall into an evil trap. But sure enough, God has answered the prayer!” He argues that only good can come of these two manifestations of “Crusader stupidity” and goes on to list the order of events that will herald this coming victory—the “release of a spirit of change in Islam, and the filling of the Nation’s masses with this [spirit],” followed by “the founding on top of this of a political organization,” after which will occur a “change in the balance of the present international order, setting apart the Islamic nation, which will withdraw from grouping itself under others or alongside others under any jahili [i.e. primitive, non-Islamic] umbrella.” For al-Ali, the world is moving swiftly toward a momentous civilizational change, a turning point in history and “one that will turn Islam into a world power.”

The sheikh then puts forward his analysis of history, explaining how the groundwork is being prepared for a war that similarly mirrors the early campaigns of the followers of the Prophet, as if time and history is a constant, perennial rehearsal of the same struggle: between good and evil, between Islam and ignorance. To do this, al-Ali explains why it is important to look at the roots of a culture since “the historical manifestations of any civilization go back to the steps taken at its first emanation.” This is the pattern of the rise of Islam from a small, weak group surrounded by the overwhelming threat of its enemies, morally stiffened through the preaching of the message of Islam, and one which armed itself for jihad in a clash of cultures and “gained mastery through the force of iron” in the international arena. The mujahideen, al-Ali states, “are advancing along these very same steps today” (https://www.h-alali.net).

“The ground for the new war is prepared,” he explains. “The Persians and the Byzantines will be ground down by it in the struggle for the hegemony of Iraq and the Gulf.” In this repeat of history, “there are only three plans: the Safavid [Iranian] plan, the Crusado-Zionist plan and the plan of the global Islamic Jihad.” Then, in conformity with the stage detailed in Abu Bakr al-Naji’s analysis of world change in the Management of Barbarism (Terrorism Focus, March 17, 2005), as world Crusado-Zionism becomes embroiled in further skirmishes, the region will be in chaos for a period of time “in preparation for the international change, one which will yield beneficial results for the Jihad plan that will spread like fire on brushwood throughout the Islamic world.”

For Sheikh al-Ali, all current indications point to the progressive weakening of the Crusado-Zionist front under U.S. leadership. He writes, “The global Islamic jihad, on the other hand, will go from strength to strength, from success to success.” All the Muslims have to do is to concentrate on exhausting the enemy for the long-term, and pass on their achievements to the next generation. “Prepare, O Nation of Islam, for an imminent worldwide transformation” (https://www.h-alali.net).