Events in Sudan continue to dominate the Arabic news media. After the last round of violence last week leaving hundreds dead, the military junta’s “supporters” the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arabic Emirates (UAE), and Egypt have backed away somewhat from their open support, and have freely reported on the live fire that the junta has employed on the protestors who call themselves “the Freedom and Change Forces.”
To understand the current problem with the Junta, we have to go back in history a little bit. The problem with the Junta is that it seems to be controlled by a former militia group called the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed began as a semi-nomadic, Arabic-speaking, tribal herdspeople of West Sudan. Their claim to fame stemmed from the role they played in the genocide of the sedentary black African agriculturalists of West Sudan in the Darfur region.
The disputes arose over water usage and property rights. The agriculturalists needed water and land for their crops. The herdspeople wanted to graze their flocks on the farmlands of the agriculturalists and water their flocks from the water sources the agriculturalists needed for their crops. This is an age old conflict that has been played out in the Middle East for thousands of years and is the source of the Cain and Able story in the Bible.
In the case of the people of Darfur, both sides are Muslims. However, the Khartoum-based government of Sudan, led at that time by Omar al-Basheer, activily supported the Janjaweed with weapons–and encouraged the acts of genocide. The result was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of black African Sudanese.
After peace was established under UN auspices, al-Basheer more openly embraced the Janjaweed and made them a “legitimate” part of his government. He renamed them the “Rapid Support Forces” and gave them snappy official-looking uniforms. They became essentially a parallel army/internal security force reminiscent of Iran’s Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hitler’s Nazi SS troops, or the parallel “civilian army just as powerful as the regular military” that Obama wanted to set up in the United States.
Lt. Gen. ‘Abd al-Fattah ‘Abd ar-Rahman Burhan, Inspector General of the Sudanese Army became the de facto head of state. However, the majority of the Sudanese protestors believe that the real brains, and the real power, behind the ruling Junta is the number two guy, and this is Lt. Gen. Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo.
The problem with Lt. Gen. Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo is that he is the leader of the Janjaweed, and the protestors are almost universally blaming the Janjaweed for the violence we’ve recently seen leveled against the Sudanese citizen protestors.
As a result, the “Freedom and Change Forces” refuse to sit down and negotiate with the Junta. They believe that the entire junta is tainted, and controlled by the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed has become the Sudanese equivalent of the “Deep State.”
It is in this context that the newly elected Prime Minister of Ethiopia Muhammad Abey was brought in to act as mediator. It remains to be seen what the results will be once the Military steps aside, if that is indeed what the future holds for Sudan.
On Saturday 08 June, the Dubai-based, Saudi owned al-arabiyya TV channel aired a special on the La Ghariba Synagogue of Tunisia. The Synagogue is located in the southern part of Tunisia’s Djerba island were 1,000 of Tunisia’s 1400 Jews live.
On the weekend of 22-23 May some 6,000-7,000 pilgrims from all over the world converged on the island of Djerba for one of Judaism’s most important pilgrimages. And, that was the subject of the al-arabiyya special.
The Tunisian Jewish community traces its origins back to the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s 6th century B.C. destruction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. According to the local legends the High Priest and assistants were able to make off with the door and a large stone of the temple. They fled to the Island of Djerba were these items were incorporated into the new Jewish temple there. This claim of having a piece of the original temple is the reason for the above-mentioned pilgrimage.
This raises the question of “why Djerba?” Why did Jews of the 6th century B.C. flee to what is now Tunisia? The island of Djerba, and what is now Tunisia, were, in ancient times, a part of the Carthaginian North African empire. Carthage was established in the 9th century B.C. originally as a colony of the Phoenician city of Tyre, and though it became more powerful and wealthy that its mother city, Carthage always maintained close ties with Tyre.
The Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah also maintained close ties with Tyre, as Hebrews and Phoenicians spoke mutually intelligible Northwest Semitic dialects. For those who remember their Biblical history, it was Hiram, king of Tyre, who lent his architects and craftsmen to Solomon in the tenth century B.C. for the building of the first temple. So, it was only fitting that those Jewish temple priests who were fleeing with portions of that temple to seek passage to safety from the sea-faring nation of Tyre, and only fitting that Tyre should take them to lands controlled by its colony.
Why would a Saudi-owned TV station be airing a program about Jews making a pilgrimage to an ancient Jewish site in Tunisia?
There are two reasons: One is that Tunisia is trying to clean up its reputation. In some ways Tunisia is the most forward-looking, and pro-western of all Arab nations, and they are the only Arab nation whose “Arab Spring” has not resulted in widespread violence and/or chaos. And, yet, Tunisia has contributed more terrorists to the ISIS campaign than any other nation (on a per capita basis).
In fact the island of Djerba and this very synagogue has been the victim of terrorism in recent years. Therefore, Tunisia wants to show the world that it has cleaned up its act, and that it promotes toleration for faiths other than Islam. The Saudis, of course, have motivation to spread the same message and were delighted to give Tunisia a hand in this.
The second reason is related to the first. Tunisia, like all the countries in the Middle East not currently fighting a full-scale war, is trying beef-up tourism activity. So, pulling off an event like this attracting thousands of visitors in a single weekend, and doing it without any incidents of violence was a huge step in that direction. And, al-arabiyya was only too happy to aid the Tunisians in propagandizing the success of this endeavor to show the world that Tunisia is once more a safe place to visit.
But, one word of warning about this happy affair. Little Tunisia is sandwiched in between Algeria to its west, which threatens at any moment to become another Sudan or Libya, and to its east is the real Libya where the military forces of General Haftar are engaged in a full-scale civil war with the “internationally recognized” government of Fayez Sirraaj whose “military” is made up of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Ansar ash-Shari’a, and Muslim Brotherhood elements.
When radicals are running freely just across the border, it is near impossible to keep Tunisian youth from being infected. In fact, some cross border activity has already been detected with the jihadis entering Libya to aid the “internationally recognized,” terrorist run, Sirraaj government of Tripoli.
Egyptian media is reporting that Qatar is using Tunisia to enflame all of North Africa, but most particularly Tunisia’s neighbors of Mali and Libya. Some of the groups in Mali that Qatar is aiding include: al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, Gema’at ansaar ad-deen (Supporters of Religion group), and harakat at-tawheed w-jihad (Tawheed and Jihad movement). The latter is described as having the ISIS ideology.
On 10 June 2019 the Saudi-owned al-arabiyya TV aired an interview with Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief. According to Turki al-Faisal, the Saudis did not support the Taliban in the 1990s, as has been suggested. For what it is worth he also said that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar was ready to hand bin Laden over to the U.S. (after the East Africa embassy bombings), but changed his mind when Clinton ordered the cruise missile attack against Afghanistan.
I don’t believe that Mullar Omar ever intended to hand bin Laden over. I believe that he was operating from the beginning from the standpoint of the tribal shame and honor system. Usama bin Laden was a guest in his home, so he was honor bound to defend him against any outside enemy, no matter how strong, and no matter what bin Laden did to earn that enemy’s wrath. To fail to do so would have incurred mountains of unbearable shame upon the Taliban.
President ‘Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi gave a speech this past week upon the conclusion of Ramadhan. In it he called for “correcting the understanding of religion (meaning Islam) without touching “certain fixed truths” regarding the people’s life and death issues, and that the modernization of the religious sermons is necessary.”
To me, this seems like a bit of a backtracking by President as-Sisi. Previously he has called for such things as desanctifying Shari’a, the ahadeeth, and Muhammad’s biography, reducing Islam to just the Qur’an. He has even called for allowing intellectual and academic critiquing of Islam, which would be a direct refutation of Qur’an 6:68 which forbids that sort of thing.
This is not the first time that President as-Sisi has backtracked on the “reformation” idea, after receiving pushback from the ‘ulema’ (the religious scholars).
Here is the problem, and this is the same problem that many so-called “reformers” in the West represent, just changing the “understanding” of the text without a radical
re-examination and reform of the texts themselves, will not solve the terrorism problem. Terrorism, jihadism, and the denigration of the other, and the Jew-hate coming out of Islam will always be with us until the texts and verses that support terrorism, jihadism, denigration of the other, and Jew-Hate are eliminated.