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al-Mahdi is "the rightly-guided one" who, according to Islamic Hadiths (traditions), will come before the end of time to make the entire world Muslim.  Over the last 1400 years numerous claimants to the mantle of the Mahdi have arisen in both Shi`i and Sunni circles.  Modern belief in the coming of the Mahdi has manifested most famously in the 1979 al-`Utaybi uprising of Sa`udi Arabia, and more recently in the ongoing Mahdist movements (some violent) in Iraq, as well as in the frequently-expressed public prayers of former Iranian President Ahmadinezhad bidding the Mahdi to return and, in the larger Sunni Islamic world, by claims that Usamah bin Ladin might be the (occulted) Mahdi.  Now in 2014 Mahdism is active in Syria, as the jihadist opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra claims to be fighting to prepare the way for his coming; and in the new "Islamic State/caliphate" spanning Syrian and Iraqi territory, as its leadership promotes the upcoming apocalyptic battle with the West at Dabiq, Syria.  This site will track such Mahdi-related movements, aspirations, propaganda and beliefs in both Sunni and Shi`i milieus, as well as other  Muslim eschatological yearnings.
For a primer on Mahdism, see my 2005 article, "What's Worse than Violent Jihadists?," at the History News Network:; for more in-depth info, see the links here to my other writings, including my book on Mahdism.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

We Didn't Start the Fire(s)--in Libya or Egypt or Pakistan....

Below is a piece I wrote for my hometown newspaper, "The Gallatin County News" (of Warsaw, Kentucky), which will run--hard-copy only--on Wednesday, September 19.  I thus take the liberty of posting it here: 

Wars, rumors of wars and burning American embassies seem a regular occurrence in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, even with a US President whose father was Muslim and who has labored mightily to heal the breach between the world's two largest religions (Christianity, 2.2 billion; Islam, 1.6 billion) and their civilizations.   Are the embassy attacks in Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan and even Iraq, as well as the killing of American diplomats in Libya, due solely to the comical anti-Muhammad video-as the Obama Administration claims?  Or are they because of US foreign policy in the Islamic world, as administration critics allege? 

Islam began six centuries after Christ with Arabia's Muhammad,  who claimed  Allah told him to correct the mistakes of the  Jews (that they were the "Chosen People," for example) and Christians (among others, that Jesus was the crucified and resurrected Son of God).   After Muhammad's death the Qur'an (Koran) was written down and is revered by most Muslims as the literal word of Allah-to be followed in every detail, even today.  While much in the Qur'an  is admirable, even more is not: Sura al-Nisa'[IV]: 33 says a man can beat his wives (yes, plural) for misbehaving; Sura al-Anfal [VIII]:36 mandates war until Islam "reigns supreme;" Sura al-Tawbah [IX]:5 orders Muslims to "fight, besiege, ambush, slay the unbelievers wherever you find them."  There are countless other examples-all quite different from "love your neighbor as yourself" and "when someone strikes you, turn the other cheek." And unlike the Old Testament, which limits violence in time and scope, the Qur'an mandates Muslims wage jihad until the entire world "submits" ("Islam" means "submission," not "peace").   Also, Muslims adhere to "Hadiths," alleged sayings and actions of Muhammad, which portray him as militaristic, intolerant and downright lecherous-quite unlike Jesus or even, say, Buddha.

Fervent belief in Muhammad's revelation, especially jihad, propelled the Arabs, and other Islamic converts (such as the Turks), to conquer in Allah's name from Arabia eastwards to India and westward across North Africa and Spain.  Thus the Crusades, which started in 1096, were actually failed attempts to fight back.   But by the 18th century Western Christian powers (Britain, France, Russia and, later, the US) were militarily more powerful than even the greatest Islamic one, the Ottoman Empire, and in the 19th and 20th centuries much Islamic territory was ruled by "infidels."  For 200 years Muslims have tried two major ideologies to catch up-imitating the West,  and "reforming" Islam by incorporating ideas like democracy or socialism, but neither has worked:  Muslim countries, particularly Arab ones, are still mired in high unemployment and illiteracy, lack of scientific expertise and rampant violence.  Since 1979, when Iran's Islamic Revolution re-legitimized religious rule and terrorism, a third route-total rejection of Western concepts, and  "returning" to Islam-is all the rage.      

This ideology has borne fruit:  today 31 of the 51 groups on the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations are Islamic;  in 2011 over 12,000 people were killed by Islamic terrorist attacks (compared to 77 by "Neo-Nazis/White Supremacists," about whom Homeland Security obsesses);  and since 9/11, 82% of the people convicted of terrorism in the US have been Muslim.  The minority of Muslims who decry violence get lost in the militant mob.  US foreign policy has been adduced by Ron Paul's followers to explain 9/11 and Nidal Malik Hasan's shooting rampage at Ft. Hood-and no doubt, now, Ambassador Stevens' murder.  But the US didn't even exist when  Muhammad started jihad,  Rome was sacked by Arab Muslims in 846 AD, and the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople or besieged Vienna three times.  And the fledgling US had no presence in the Islamic world in the early 1800s at all when the Barbary pirates seized US ships and enslaved American "infidels"-as is legal under Islamic law.   Obama's UN Ambassador Susan Rice is closer to the truth when she blames the violence on that infamous video.  But thereby the administration tacitly accepts that  Muslims are justified in having violent tantrums whenever Muhammad is "insulted"-agreeing with Sura al-Ma'ida[V]:33 that "those who war, or make mischief against, Muhammad should be murdered, crucified or have their hands and feet amputated."  Neither Obama, Rice nor Secretary of State Clinton can bring themselves to acknowledge that Muslim "extremists" are only able to  gin up murderous mobs because they push legitimate buttons, drawing upon Islam's own history of violence.  Perhaps some day, before it's too late, we'll get an administration that can handle the truth.  

Although this may greatly resemble what's being done to American embassies by Muslim mobs right now, it's actually a 15th c. Persian MUSLIM artist's rendering of evil women--i.e., with long, uncovered hair--burning in Hell while the approving "prophet of Islam" looks on (astride his supernatural steed al-Buraq).  As an aside, note Muhammad's clearly-depicted visage--yet another example refuting the Salafi/Wahhabi claim, repeated endlessly and brainlessly by the Western media, that it's "forbidden in Islam to ever show 'The Prophet.'"  

6:04 pm edt          Comments

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Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)

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