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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mahdi, Mahdi, whose got the Mahdi?

In a speech on November 16th, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke of his belief in the return of the Twelfth Imam. One of the differences between Sunni and Shiite Islam is that the latter, who dominate Iran and form the majority in Iraq, believe that Allah shielded or hid Muhammad al-Mahdi as the Twelfth Imam until the end of time. Shiites expect the Twelfth Imam, which Jews and Christians would recognize as a messianic figure, to return to save the world when it had descended into chaos.

This then is the nature of the enemy we face. This is the basis of their belief system. The inevitable and apocalyptic Return of the Mahdi. This is the mindset of the world class leader whom our new liberal government expects to sit down and negotiate with. A soon-to-be nuclear armed nation waiting for the end of time and the promised reappearance of the Mahdi.
It is, however, important to remember that there have been several such divinely-inspired Mahdis throughout the violent history of Islam. Here are some of them.

Eighth century
Salih ibn Tarif
Ninth century
Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali
Tenth century
Said ibn Husayn
Twelfth century
Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart
Fifteenth century
Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri
Nineteenth century
1 Siyyid 'Alí-Muhammad (the Báb)
2 Muhammad Ahmad
3 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
Twentieth century
1 Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan
2 Juhayman ibn-Muhammad ibn-Sayf al-Otaibi

Till now, the most famous of these occulutions was perhaps Muhammad Ahmad, the "Khartoum Mahdi".

Muhammad Ahmad ibn (August 12, 1844 – June 22, 1885) was a religious leader, in Sudan, who proclaimed himself the Mahdi — the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will appear at end times. Under his religious authority the divided clans...into an alliance dedicated [surprise, surprise] to establishing an "Islamic" state as the first step in a universal Islamic state. In 1881, he declared a jihad against the British-backed Egyptian authority in Sudan. Ahmad raised an army and led a successful religious war to topple the Egyptian occupation of Sudan. His most successful and final battle was the siege of Khartoum in Sudan, an effort to totally obliterate Egyptian (and Sudanese) resistance. The only thing that stood in his way was the legendary British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon.

In 1873, General Charles Gordon had been appointed Governor of the Equatorial Provinces of Sudan. For the next three years, General Gordon fought against a native chieftain of Darfur, Zobeir, who had erected, on the basis of slave-traffic, a dangerous military power. Zobeir's organisation was eventually dismantled. Although unsuccessful at total pacification, Gordon was successful in limiting the power of the slave traders. Thus, he was made Governor-General of the Sudan in 1877. Soon after he arrived at his new post he started to end the slave trade, which at that point dominated the economy and was controlled by the tiny minority of Arabs. Before his arrival some 7 out of 8 blacks in the Sudan were enslaved by the tiny minority of Arabs; the native Africans formed well over 80% of the overall population. Gordon's policies were effective, but the effects on the economy were disastrous, and soon the Arab Social Ascendancy came to see this not a liberation from slavery, but a modern-day European Christian crusade and a threat to Muslim and Arab social dominance.

The Siege of Khartoum lasted from March 12, 1884 to January 26, 1885. Khartoum was besieged by the Mahdists and defended by a garrison of 7,000 Egyptian and loyal Sudanese troops. After a ten-month siege, the Mahdists finally broke into the city and the entire garrison was slaughtered.

What lessons can we learn from all this? What insight into our present circumstances can this look back in time afford us? Can we perhaps begin to understand the real nature of this so-called War on Terror we are presently engaged in?

What was the single biggest grievance that the Arab world had against the West in the Nineteenth Century? The West -- in the person of General Charles "Chinese" Gordon -- had the temerity, the arrogance, to interfere with, and eventually bring to an end, the lucrative slave trade in Sudanese blacks which had been the very foundation of their economy. This Christian Crusade against slavery was the unforgivable affront against the Arab world, the spark that lit the Jihadist flame.

Thus, long before the hegemony of oil, long before the birth of George W. Bush, long before the dark machinations of Dick Cheney's fearsome Blackwater crusaders, the stage was set for battle. The inevitable clash between the dark, backward-looking vision of Islam and the enlightened West began with the birth of the Prophet. This great battle is indeed a classic Clash of Civilizations, civilizations which are diametrically opposed to one another, which cannot, by their very nature, co-exist in peace. All of the calls from our newly-sanctified left for love not hate, all of the diplomatic missions, all of the ecumenical conferences in the world will not ameliorate the danger of the crisis we face. Today, just as it was in 1881, Islam is "dedicated to establishing an "Islamic" state as the first step in a universal Islamic state." To refuse to accept this historical truth, to attempt to avoid the moral implications of these fundamental and unchanging Islamic precepts, to somehow justify our political or military inaction by convincing ourselves that we are the cause of this monumental schism, that it is we who have to change, is to completely misunderstand the significance of this existential threat.

Today, January 20, 2009, the world is cheering, it is cheering because those who embrace this disastrous geopolitical misconception have legally assumed the reins of power. Where will their fatally flawed delusions take us? Will we be able to survive their willful ignorance?

God bless America. - rg