I have written many times before on Jaysh al-Mujahideen, the Salafi, anti-Shi'a insurgent group in Iraq aspiring to overthrow the central government but also a noted rival of the Islamic State (IS), having issued a lengthy condemnation of IS in January 2014 (the mere preface of which I translated and analyzed) and clashed with IS for control of al-Karma in August culminating in Jaysh al-Mujahideen's withdrawal from the town. One of the focuses of Jaysh al-Mujahideen's criticisms of IS is that IS' leaders arose from the U.S.-run prison of Camp Bucca during the days of the Iraq War. Among those leaders is none other than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the current proclaimed caliph of IS.
The life of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is naturally attracting a good deal of media attention. Suffice to say that amid the rising media interest there is a good deal of nonsense. For example, there is considerable controversy as to when Baghdadi was released from U.S. custody: some sources have put it as late as 2009, others in the height of the Iraq War (2006-7). I can confirm via my own access to documentation (which I cannot disclose here) that all such claims are false. He was released in December 2004, and in this regard, Martin Chulov's recent report in The Guardian deserves credit for being one of the few to get this right.
It is difficult to describe my fondness for Anglo-Saxon, the language also known as Old English (and indeed, a more accurate designation, for the language itself was called by its speakers Englisc, with 'sc' pronounced as modern English spelling 'sh'). Spoken in the time prior to the Norman Conquest, the language reflects English's genetics in the Germanic family of Indo-European much more deeply than its modern descendant, both in terms of grammar and vocabulary. Many Old English words and forms that have since dropped out from the language can easily be matched with German cognates. To give a few cases-in-point:
We recall in these sorts of days a year ago how the government of oppression and tyranny directed all its might against the squares of pride/might and dignity, and instead of responding to the demands of the people and their legitimate rights, it responded to the voice of Satan and the advice of the tyrants and haters from their masters, doing away with the voice of reason and law. It instead unleashed the voice of bullets and the law of the jungle, choosing to attack the unarmed demonstrators with fire, humiliation and arrest. In the actual state of affairs in which there is no higher voice than that of the government and its masters, thus was the situation a year ago: dealings of violence, killing, arrests and eviction from which there was/has been no escape even for those participating/collaborating in the political process and bearing parliamentary immunity.* And every voice that had risen demanding rights, became wanted, condemned and one of a terrorist, because the wanted one is stripped of dignity and living in humiliation.
Message 71 (original here)
Inertia in thought or determination to go astray
Months have passed since the West's announcement- under the leadership of the American occupation- of their alliance against Islam in our region- especially Iraq- under the slogan of the war on terrorism, and the truth of our analysis has been illustrated in this long period. And the spurious nature of their claims have been exposed, for the difficulty has arisen in place for the enemy to persist for a long time in its lies, as the media with its multiple openings have become the best means to expose intentions and reveal truths. Thus indeed has the relation between media and wars these days come into a state of conflict, and the media have become a two-edged sword: on the one hand leading to the lifting of morale and terrorizing the enemy, and on the other being a tool for exposing the lies, so it is part of the psychological war [...]
The latest statements from the Islamic Army of Iraq's official spokesman- Dr. Ibrahim al-Shammary- concern two subjects. Firstly, the death sentence handed down to the former Sunni Arab MP Ahmed al-Alwani, who was a central figure behind the renewal of Iraq's wider Sunni insurgency. Alwani was the MP the security forces under then PM Nouri al-Maliki attempted to arrest in December 2013 as they were also ordered to dismantle the Ramadi protest site in Anbar. In the subsequent confrontation, Alwani's brother was killed, leading to widespread public anger. Aiming to restore calm, Maliki ordered the withdrawal of the army from Anbar's cities, allowing insurgents to move into Fallujah and Ramadi. The verdict would seem to reflect ongoing influence of Maliki supporters in the judiciary despite Maliki's relegation to the largely symbolic position of vice-president.
I have remarked elsewhere that IS' creation of Ajnad Media Foundation in summer 2013 with the production of a plethora of unique songs (e.g. 'Close ranks and pledge bay'ah [allegiance] to Baghdadi', 'My Ummah, Dawn Has Appeared/Loomed', and 'I am not content with a life of humiliation') helped to give the group a unique identity vis-a-vis other jihadi groups, particularly al-Qa'ida, from which, it was clear, what was then ISIS had de facto broken off following on from Baghdadi's refusal to disband ISIS. For example, the nasheed 'Close ranks and pledge bay'ah to Baghdadi', which emerged in September 2013, made reference to the forthcoming establishment of the Caliphate- something that was also emphasized in the emergence of the ISIS slogan 'The Promised Project of the Caliphate', in light of the group's takeover of Azaz in northern Syria bordering Turkey. Such have the Ajnad Media nasheeds become a marker of the group's distinct identity that ISIS' overtures to win over Somalia's al-Qa'ida affiliate ash-Shabaab were reportedly rebuffed with a sudden 180-degree turn-around by ash-Shabaab's leadership that even banned the broadcasting of ISIS nasheeds.
Though Ajnad Media productions can be readily identified as background music in IS videos, strengthening IS' claim to a unique identity, it turns out that in a recent video on media operations in 'Euphrates Province', IS has in fact appropriated without credit an old nasheed that has nothing to do with jihadism. The nasheed in question is called 'tamūju t-taḥāyā' ('the cheers surge') and first appeared in November 2009 in two versions by Saudi munshids: one of them 'Abu Zayad' Maher al-Wazab, and the other Muhammad al-Jabbari. The version used in the IS video is that of Muhammad al-Jabbari.
[Update: I suspect IS came to associate the nasheed with itself on account of IS fans posting the nasheed as a 'nasheed of the Dawla' on Youtube and other platforms: see e.g. here].
The following nasheed from the Islamic State was released at the beginning of June 2014 (i.e. when the group was still just the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham; unsurprising in light of explicit reference to Bilad al-Sham). There is also anticipation of subsequent propaganda themes like 'kasr al-hudud' ('breaking of the borders') that came with the group's rapid advances in Iraq that meant genuine contiguous territory spanning the Iraq-Syria border.
The nasheed has subsequently been featured in a propaganda video from Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Gaza (in reality likely no different from Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis), which participated in the fighting against Israel in the summer.
This nasheed from the Islamic State, with its benign tone, emphasizes the supposed peace, security and ideal nature of life under the group's rule. For example, it was featured in an Islamic State video from Rutba in Anbar province as part of a showcase of the Islamic State's offering of public services.
The statement translated by me below concerns the recent Islamic State [IS] suicide bombing conducted in the heart of Arbil, around 14 months after a previous assault by IS' predecessor the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham [ISIS]. Some points to note:
1. That IS would use a Kurdish member to carry out this attack comes as no surprise. Featuring Kurds within the group's ranks- to be directed at Kurdish rivals and counteract allegations of ethnic supremacism- has been a part of IS[IS] messaging for a year now, as can be seen in an installment of the al-'Itisam media video series entitled "Windows on the Land of Epic Battles." The section of interest is "message of the Kurdish mujahideen in the Islamic State", in Kurdish and with Arabic subtitles, with threats to the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG]:
The jihadi nasheed I have translated below is an old work of a Saudi munshid ('nasheed singer') by the name of Abu Abd al-Malik, real name Mohsen al-Dos(a)ri. Along with another Saudi munshid by the name of Abu Ali (of the famous 'Madin kas-Sayf', 'Bi Jihadina', 'Jaljalat' and other jihadi nasheeds), Abu Abd al-Malik was certainly a fan favourite of jihadi forums for the main part of the 2000s, but eventually fell out of favour as a personality even as compositions such as 'Ummah of Islam, Good Tidings' continued to be widely used. As a forum user on Muslim.orgremarked in 2009, "As for Abu Abd al-Malik, he has changed his direction [his direction has changed], turned against the mujahideen and shaved his beard." Indeed, Abu Abd al-Malik's transformation from a jihadi munshid to a more regular music artist (the art of ghana') was featured in an interview with him on al-Arabiya in April 2012, in which he characterized the shift as a "transfer in artistry and specialty from the good to the better." To coincide with the move to more conventional song was the release of an album by the name of 'Three Cards.'
However, Abu Abd al-Malik then did a 180-degree turn the following year in a publicised 'tawba' ('repentance') from ghana' and a return to nasheeds, with a focus on support for the cause of the Syrian revolution, with subsequently released songs featuring imagery from the Syrian civil war and focusing on religious matters, such as 'Evidence of Love from Our Lord' (Arabic: Daleel al-Hubb). More recently, Abu Abd al-Malik released a nasheed entitled 'Tyranny' in support of the Palestinians, with lyrics such as 'Our jihad is great.' The first claims of his 'tawba' had in fact emerged in July 2012 though the evidence seems dubious: it is rather 2013 where a clearer transition (or more accurately, 'reversion') can be noted.