North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Violent jihad strikes hard in the new year

While the world was justifiably immersed in the violent and tragic events in France this past week, the Boko Haram jihadists in Africa have surpassed the France toll and even their own bloody history, with new large scale killings and mayhem in northern Nigeria. Some observers are starting to characterize Boko Haram as having established a defacto African Islamic caliphate - a mini-ISIS state if you will - across those arid lands.

This graphic was developed for a September 2014 story. In the last three months of 2014, and indeed this past week, Boko Haram has expanded its control of territory and its ability to raid in the face of the Nigerian military. Graphic from

Boko Haram is accused of returning and killing up to 2000 within the last few days, in the town of Baga on Nigeria's eastern border with Chad. A deed that follows their overrunning of a military base in the same town the week before.

Baga, the scene of a Boko Haram raid on a Nigerian military base in the first week of January 2015, has since borne the savagery of a massacre of its residents by the same jihadists the following week.

The list grows and grows

Boko Haram - up to 2000 civilians killed last week, military base overrun the previous week. The group has also abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in multiple events over the past year, with the apparent best response that the West can muster (not to mention Nigeria's authorities) is a #Bring Back our Girls media campaign.

While social media was stirred by the "bring back our girls" campaign, complete with Hollywood celebrities (to wit, Anne Hathaway and husband) and politicians holding posters, it is clear that more than posters is needed to change the trend in Nigeria ... Photo from

While Boko Haram has killed up to 10,000 civilians in 2014, that is Syria's civilian death toll in just the past two months alone, according to a report in the New York Times.

Pakistan's Tehrik-e-Taliban which killed over 130 students in Peshawar as 2014 drew to a close, is now issuing new threats to kill more.

Al Shabab's attack in a Kenyan mall last year ended with 67 dead; a bus attack this past November ended with 28 non-Muslim passengers separated out and shot; and again in December, another 36 non-Muslim quarry workers were separated out and executed.

And now in the past few days, the radical Islamic violence has hit France, where a "mere" 20 deaths, including three jihadists and three police, have captured the world's attention.

French security forces storm Jewish grocery in the second and related attack in Paris. Here 4 hostages were killed by a jihadist, and one policewoman the previous day, before the French police moved in killing the attacker holding hostages inside. Previously, as well, well covered, two jihadists stormed a newspaper building, executing 9 citizens, mainly journalists, along with two policemen attempting to stop the attackers.

Time to sharpen our vocabulary, even as a backlash forms

This is quickly becoming the issue for 2015 - how do we talk more clearly about jihadists, terrorists, extremists, and probe more seriously as to why the majority of the brutal and unrelenting string of atrocities stem from individuals referring to the Koran as their guide. It is important because this stream of violence is beginning to fuel a backlash across the Western world that can easily spill over into a variety of xenophobic themes, and hostility to numerous minorities.

In Germany, for example, a movement called Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) is swelling - with immigrants or at least lenient immigration policies the target, and anti-Muslim immigration in particular. Far broader and less extreme than the vitriol of Nazi-skinheads, the Pegida movement nonetheless provides shelter for these Nazi remnants, as well as other far-right groups espousing various strains of ethnic purity and hostility towards minorities.

In France, the National Front Party headed by Jean-Marie Le Pen,long been considered extreme with its emphasis on tight immigration controls, is suddenly becoming more appealing. In a recent New Yorker article, Jean Marie states, “It was to be expected. This attack is probably the beginning of the beginning. It’s an episode in the war that is being waged against us by Islamism. The blindness and deafness of our leaders, for years, is in part responsible for these kinds of attacks.”

Jean-Marie Le Pen, head of France's National Front party. Photo from the New Yorker, in an article written by Philip Gourevitch, a journalist who wrote extensively about the Rwanda massacre in 1994.

All across Europe, parties promoting narrow brands of nationalism and ethnic boundaries are challenging the underlying sentiments that have guided the European Union's growth. The latest French attacks deal a double blow - against civil society directly, and against tolerance and solidarity across borders indirectly.

A German anti-Islam rally attended by 15,000 in Dresden in mid-December, though authorities and counter demonstrators all are challenging the group's premise. Photo by Jens Meyer/AP Photo in Bloomberg News article.

It is late, but there is still time

A little mentioned detail regarding the police officer, Ahmed Merabet, killed point-blank by one of the jihadists attacking the Charlie Hebdo news building was that he was a Muslim. The slain officer's brother Malek, lamented "He was killed by people who pretend to be Muslims. They are terrorists, that's it."

And another young Muslim from Mali distinguished himself during the second jihadist attack on a Jewish grocery.

Lassana Bathily, an employee at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Vincennes,and a "practicing Muslim," helped guide a group of hostages into a downstairs walk-in freezer while gunman Amedy Coulibaly was preparing to kill them. According to reports, he escaped the building via a freight elevator and ran outside, where he assisted police by describing the location of the freezer where hostages were hiding. Photo from

Still, there seems to be a shrill and repeated insistence among some leaders after every jihadist attack that "Islam is a religion of peace." It is to the point when that statement is repeated, that one can assume there must have just been another attack in the name of defending the Prophet, even if the details have not yet emerged.

And while it is understandable to refer to individuals killing in the name of Allah as "lone wolfs" "deranged", etc, one can't ignore that after 9/11, hundreds of Muslims were dancing in the streets in East Jerusalem. As one Israeli opinion piece noted after this past week's events, that was not limited to a reaction against US foreign policy. "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims," wrote Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the former general manager of the Al-Arabiya television news channel in the important Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. This is, in brief, Europe's big dilemma. Millions of Muslims have nothing to do with terror but, according to surveys, hundreds of thousands support jihad, suicide bombings and even the Islamic State." (noted in Ynet News, Ben-Dror Yemini 1-8-15)

Mr Al-Rashed believes there is an opening in the Arab media to tell both sides (and an opening then that must surely be seized). Photo from the New York Times,

Even Egypt's new President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi remarked, "I am referring here to the religious clerics. We have to think hard about what we are facing — and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before. It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma (Islamic world) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!

"That thinking — I am not saying 'religion' but 'thinking' — that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It's antagonizing the entire world!

"Is it possible that 1.6 billion people (Muslims) should want to kill the rest of the world's inhabitants — that is 7 billion — so that they themselves may live? Impossible! ... I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move … because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost — and it is being lost by our own hands."

Egyptian President al-Sisi heads the largest Arab nation in terms of population. Egypt is also burdened with a history of hosting extremist groups as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, and al-Qaeda which at the moment is headed up by a former Egyptian doctor, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Photo from

France's President Hollande has declared war on "radical Islam." Teatree isn't sure what that will look like - perhaps it will be a coordinated effort to marginalize or even arrest inflammatory Imams - the same situation in Pakistan that seems to be avoided. This seems a good place to start.

Transitioning from what we're against to include what we're for, France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared, “It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity ...”

Similarly, UK's Prime Minister Cameron was quoted months ago in a Daily Mail article,"Muslim clerics in the UK who inflame terrorism by denouncing free speech, equality and democracy will be opposed in a ‘muscular’ new defence of ‘British values’, David Cameron has pledged.

The North London Central Mosque has gained a reputation in the U.K as a center of radical preaching. Photo from

In a powerful intervention clearly aimed mainly at ‘preachers of hate’, the Prime Minister says the failure to stand up to such firebrands has ‘allowed extremism – both the violent and non-violent kind – to flourish’. It is time to stop being ‘squeamish about Britishness’ and tell everyone who lives here that refusing to accept British laws and the British way of life is ‘not an option’, Mr Cameron argues."

There is another issue of concern - symbolism and dress. While this concern seems somewhat foreign in the US, Germany has long banned the use of any Nazi symbolism in its de-nazification efforts, and the burqa has already been banned in France.

Burqa and full body robes were banned in France in 2010, though Teatree is not sure of how it is enforced or current status. Photo by Alexandre Renahy / JerryCom / Pix Palace

To take the other side, many felt the lash of Charlie Hebdo's irreverent cartoons and consider them unnecessarily provocative. And freedom of speech and expression finds limits with the example of falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater.

Today's marches across France to stand up against extremism, but more importantly for tolerance and liberty was inspiring, and important as the crowds were said to have totaled more than 3.7 million. From today's events, Teatree believes citizens everywhere need to be more active in pushing for the values we hold dear, if for no other reason than a lack of forceful response will lead to more violence and an even more chaotic backlash.

Estimates of over 3.7 million people gathered across France in solidarity against violent jihadism, 1.6 million in Paris alone. Now the hard work begins. Photo from

For Teatree, "jihadism" will be his term for describing the nihilistic, violent mayhem wrought by extremists in the name of Islam. Teatree, will nonetheless, consider cynically any studied attempt to ignore inflammatory language and preaching (preachers of hate)of violence in mosques. Bland statements such as "Islam is a religion of peace" are already, to this blogger, considered mere bromides that at times seem deliberate in order to sidestep more serious consideration.

If world leaders do not step up with proactive, serious (yes, and hopefully thoughtful) efforts to degrade and reject this growing stream of deadly jihadist teaching, there will likely be much less constructive backlash in the years to come.


Teatree said...

Who knows, this article from the Christian Science Monitor speaks about a battle between Cameroonian forces and Boko Haram. Casualty claims are 1 Cameroon & 143 Boko Haram dead. Teatree wonders.

The article also notes Nigeria downplaying Boko Haram civilian deaths in Baga - 150 rather than 2000. Teatree wonders.

Teatree said...

This article is from the Boston Globe, home to a fair concentration of Nigerians, sickened by what is happening in their country, and the contrast of relative silence about Boko Haram and the inspiring outpouring of solidarity in France.

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