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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 1, 2012.
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Dutch police arrest three men who planned to fight in Syria

From Dutch News

Three radical Muslims who planned to travel to Syria to take part in ‘armed jihad’ have been arrested in Rotterdam, the public prosecution department said on Friday.

Raids on the men's homes in Rotterdam uncovered a quantity of weapons, including a crossbow and sword as well as a farewell letters, packed rucksacks and jihadist texts. Homes lived in by families of the men in Utrecht and Dordrecht were also searched.

The investigation into the three, aged 22, 23 and 33, began last month after a security service alert, the public prosecutor said.

one of the men had last week married a Muslim woman he had only recently met online. He posed on a photograph for her holding an AK-47 machine gun and had told her ‘I hope we will die together and go to paradise’.
Posted on 12/01/2012 5:28 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Shropshire paedophile jailed for seven years

This is the first conviction in a series of trials of the Muslim child rape gang that operated in and around Telford. It is expected to be about a year before the whole group are completely dealt with.

From the Shropshire Star

Jailed paedophile Mohammed Ali Sultan had sex with a 13-year-old girl in his car after taking her to a lay-by and slapping her, a court was told. Sultan, of Victoria Avenue in Wellington, was yesterday jailed for seven years after the court was told of a string of sex-related offences with children and youngsters.

He was told he would have to serve an extended period on licence and banned from working with children for life.

Sultan admitted having illegal sex with two teenage girls - including the 13-year-old. He was also sentenced for taking a third teenager from Telford to have sex with workers at a fish and chip shop.

Ali Sultan had pleaded guilty to being involved in sexually activity with the 13-year-old girl more than four years ago. He also admitted sexual activity with a second girl in 2009, in the weeks leading up to her 16th birthday, and a charge of controlling the prostitution of a child.

Miss Deborah Gould, prosecuting, said the youngest victim met Ali Sultan when she was just 12 when he had asked her to perform a sex act. She refused but later, when she was 13, the defendant took her in his car to a lay-by where he had slapped her and had sex with her.

Miss Gould said the 16-year-old victim had been groomed and exploited as a prostitute by two other men who were friends of the defendant. He had twice been involved in taking her to a fish and chip shop in Hadley where she was sold for sex to several of the workers. The third victim was taken into a house in Victoria Avenue, two doors from Ali Sultan’s home. He knew she was still 15 and gave her vodka, cider and cannabis before he had sex with her.

Judge Michael Challinor told Ali Sultan “The harm this sort of sexual activity causes is incalculable. I have seen with my own eyes what has happened to these girls,”

Posted on 12/01/2012 5:57 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Putin’s Crucifix

by G. Murphy Donovan (December 2012)

Everywhere a man will be sure to meet at least once in his life something that is unlike anything he had happened to see before. – Nikolai Gogol

A photo of a bare-chested Vladimir Putin strolling along a rustic stream, fishing rod in hand was one of the more amazing images of the early 21st Century. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, but he was wearing a crucifix. Consider here that Russia’s first citizen was a former member of a godless Communist Party in the former Soviet Union; indeed, the station chief for the KGB in East Germany.  more>>>

Posted on 12/01/2012 7:55 AM by NER
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Al Qaeda suicide operatives set to (go on) strike!

Reports have spread on the Interweb concerning an imminent strike by British Al Qaeda operatives, albeit one not related to the common earthly fiscal issues that the Western infidel faces for the foreseeable future, praise be.

Muslim suicide bombers in Britain are set to begin a three-day strike on Monday in a dispute over the number of virgins they are entitled to in the afterlife. Emergency talks with Al Qaeda have so far failed to produce an agreement. The unrest began last Tuesday when Al Qaeda announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber would receive after his death will be cut by 25% this February from 72 to only 60. The rationale for the cut was the increase in recent years of the number of suicide bombings and a subsequent shortage of virgins in the afterlife.

The suicide bombers' union, the British Organization of Occupational Martyrs ( or B.O.O.M. ) responded with a statement that this was unacceptable to its members and immediately balloted for strike action. General Secretary Abdullah Amir told the press, "Our members are literally working themselves to death in the cause of Jihad. We don't ask for much in return; but to be treated like this is like a kick in the teeth".

Speaking from his shed in Tipton in the West Midlands, an Al Qaeda Spokesman explained, "We sympathize with our workers concerns; but, Al Qaeda is simply not in a position to meet their demands. They are simply not accepting the realities of modern-day Jihad in a competitive marketplace.

Thanks to Western depravity, there is now a chronic shortage of virgins in the afterlife. It's a straight choice between reducing expenditure and laying people off. I don't like cutting wages but I'd hate to have to tell 3000 of my staff that they won't be able to blow themselves up."

Spokespersons for the union in the North East of England, Ireland, Wales, and the entire Australian continent stated that the strike would not affect their operations, as "There are no virgins in their areas anyway."

Whilst I am sure most will sympathise that a reduction from 72 to 60 virgins is a hardship difficult for any true Jihadist to bear, Al Qaeda is quite correct in pointing out that terrorist attacks since September 11th have been prolific to say the very least.

Posted on 12/01/2012 2:09 PM by Robert Harris
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Deciphering Muslim Taqiyyah

Dr. Harold Reisman, holds a PhD  from Columbia. In his retirement  he has become an auto didact on Qur’anic doctrine. He also numbers in his wide circle of acquaintances Dr. David Bukay, a noted Israeli academic and expert in the subject .

David Bukay (Ph.D.) teaches in the School of Political Sciences, at the University of Haifa. His research/academic courses fields are: Arab-Islamic Political Culture; World Jihad and al-Qaeda; Contemporary Political Islam; International Terrorism and Islamic fanaticism; Inter-Arab relations and the Palestinian issue; and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Among his publications are: Total Terrorism in the name of Allah, Ariel Center for Policy Research, 2002; Arab-Islamic Political Culture, Ariel Center for Policy Research, 2003; Muhammad’s Monsters, Balfour Press, 2004; Arafat: the Politics of Paranoia, Edwin Mellen Press, 2005; From Muhammad to Bin Laden, Transaction Publishers, 2007; Crossovers (With Shlomo Sharan), Transaction Publishers, 2010. In Preparation: Islamic Myths and Palestinian Myths.

Dr. Bukay has a principle: never engage in Jewish Muslim dialog as he noted  to Dr. Reisman and others, including Rabbi Jonathan Hausman, one of the few American rabbis trained in Arabic and knowledgeable about Qur’anic doctrine:

. . . never ever participate in so-called “Abrahamic interfaith dialogues,” as the Muslims will always win over, just by claiming great words, like: “we, the representative of the three monotheist religions have a great mission: to stop violence in the world…” “let’s act together to show the world it is possible to live in a peaceful world…”.

Moreover, immediately they will begin with a long list as to exhibit how Islam has contributed to the world all the best and great inventions from science to politics; that Islam is indeed so liberal and open minded; that Islam means peace, and has always brought only peace and harmony.

There is an organization called Shoulder to Shoulder composed of benighted  mainstream and liberal evangelical Christians,  representatives of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, leaders of both the Reform and Conservative  movements’ Jewish seminaries and leaders of American Muslim Brotherhood front groups like ISNA and CAIR. Shoulder to Shoulder is an archetypical Abrahamic religions dialog group whose mission is:

 . . . an interfaith organization dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment by strengthening the voice of freedom and peace. Founded in November 2010 by over 20 national religious groups, Shoulder-to-Shoulder works not only on a national level, but offers strategies and support to local and regional efforts to address anti-Muslim sentiment and seeks to spread the word abroad.

Its raison d’etre was the opposition to construction of mega-mosques in lower Manhattan, Murfreesboro, Tennessee and other locales where these ‘victory’ mosques sprouted.  On its website the group noted this background:

By the summer of 2010, prejudice against Muslims had reached unprecedented intensity. Controversy raged over the decision to build a Muslim community center a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York City and threats to burn the Book of Qur’an in Florida continued to fill the stories of major media outlets.

In effect Shoulder to Shoulder is a proponent of what Dr. Bukay called in a Political Islam article, “The Esposito School : Islamic Apologists in Action, or Who is the Near Enemy?” That is a reference to Prof. John Esposito of the Prince Alaweed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. In the article, Dr. Bukay noted:

John Esposito is one of the foremost apologists of radical Islam in academia. The term apologist means denying or even justifying events and activities, while blaming others. It is characterized by whitewashing reality and omitting facts unintentionally (selective perception and cognitive biases) or intentionally (for political, economic or other objectives).

What follows is an example of The Esposito School of apologetics from Dr. Reisman.

Dr. Reisman had attended a lecture on Iranian History earlier this week given by a nominal Shiite Muslim of Iranian heritage who is a faculty member at a UCAL system  college.   He wrote the lecturer:

It is a wondrous feat to discuss centuries of Iranian history without once mentioning the words Qur'an, jihad or Sunna. I am aware of the word and definition of Da’wa did not understand that the concept meant total editing. Just for your edification (although I have as strong feeling that you well understand what I have selected) I am sending you a one page attachment concerning Islamic doctrine. The foundational text of Islam is a key part of Islamic history as you well know. You did not mention the concept of "impurity" as espoused by the clerics of Iran; sadly, I am one of the impure ones.

The lecturer in reply said:

Well let me respond to your first email since I have had the response to it in my head for a while, but never the time to sit down and write it.

That material in the attachment is a Hadith which is a saying, opposed to coming directly from the Quran. Hadith aren't supposed to be binding, and Shi'a and Sunnis reject certain Hadith, and adopt certain other Hadith.

The Hadith in the attachment is a Sunni one; Iranian Shia's would reject it.  Now historically speaking, even that Hadith needs to be contextualized.  That Hadith was said ( remember Hadith are hearsay, almost like the gospels in that it is what people thought Jesus or Muhammad said) was dealing with battle of Khaybar.  During the battle there were Jewish tribes aligned with Muhammad and Jewish tribes allied against him.  That statement is supposedly directed against the Jewish tribe allied against him.

After the battle Muhammad took a Jewish wife, Safiya.  In other words, Muhammad didn't have a problem with the tribe because they are Jewish - it was about politics. If he had a problem with Judaism as a faith, he would not have had Jewish allies or a Jewish wife.

The Quran as the core Muslim holy book does not  have any scripture that condones violence against Jews. Anti-Semitic statements by Iranian scholars are used because the scholars are anti-Semitic themselves, not because the scripture instructs them to do so.  My grandfather was also an Iranian ayatollah and never uttered an anti-Semitic comment in his life.

In other words it is not the Islamic faith as a set of ideas the produces anti-Semitism. It is simply prejudice held among individuals, whether it is Ahmadinejad or a cleric.

Reisman in turn sent the lecturer two pages from the Qur'an regarding Jews and also the opening sura of the Qur'an that calls for Allah's curse on Jews and Christians noting;

Aside from the fact that Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are the most celebrated and "highest level" (i.e., most believable) Hadiths, I am sending you a mere two pages of selections that should prove of interest. Most are from the Qur'an.

If I am correct, the required prayer at each daily prayer session is from Q 1:6,7. In interpreting the last verse, Muslim scholars are in total agreement that "those against whom there is wrath" are the Jews (who received the Scriptures and altered them) and "those who are astray" are Christians who continue the great sin of shirk. Calling on Allah to punish and curse these two transgressors does not seem neutral.  I have no idea if you want to go into greater detail, but I suggest Andrew Bostom who edited The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism. There are hundreds if not thousands of citations from the religious literature which should prove of interest to you.

The lecturer responded:

I know the Bostom book, and I could also say that for every document that they produce I can produce a document that demonstrates Jewish-Muslim co-existence.  I would recommend the book,  The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism, [Paperback] Tarek Fatah (Author)

If we are talking about Shia Islam, then no, Bukhari and Muslim are completely rejected.  No Iranian Shia cleric would cite them. If Iranian clerics are anti-Semitic, it is because of Iranian geo-politics, not because of anything anti-Semitic inherent in Islam.

As for verse 1:6,7 this daily prayer was about the pagans in Mecca.  In my lifetime I have never heard a Muslim or Muslim cleric suggest that that verse refers to  Jews and Christians.   

Dr. Bukay then weighed in with these observations:

This Muslim, like the many thousands of Muslims in the world, knows exactly the truth. But he is a propagator, a Da`I, using Da`wa as diplomacy to deceive, to mislead, and to trick the ignorant infidels (and Jews and Christians are 100% infidels, unless they are Zimmi under Islamic rule).

You know, even among Muslims there are debates concerning interpretation of Qur’an verses. But here, concerning 1:5,7, there is a total consensus among all exegetes, the best and most honored, from al-Tabari, through al-Jalalayn, Ibn Kathir, and many others, including our contemporary Sayyid Qutb, that al-Maghduub `Alayhim are the Jews (5:61), and al-Daaliyyin are the Christians (5:77).  

All Muslim propagators exactly know this. But they are busy deceiving ignorant infidels.  They have elaborated the Mechanism of Taqiyyah to a pure art. Every device you employ to expose that they are lying is useless.

Their strategy of debating is fantastic. You cannot get away from them. You open one direction, and they will pave the second; you try to relate to the second, they will open a third. And so on and so forth. You cannot, ever, “prove” to them your point. They have always one answer or one explanation beyond and above all your assertions. This is exactly the Arab culture that was infused through the religion to the Muslims wherever they are.

I quote from the second paragraph of his email,  “As for verse 1:6,7 this daily prayer was about the pagans in Mecca.  In my lifetime I have never heard a Muslim or Muslim cleric suggest that that verse refer to the Jews and Christians.”  Pay attention to the style. In his lifetime he “never heard a Muslim or a Muslim cleric…” does this mean he asked the question who are those mentioned in 1:5-7? Does he tell us he has participated in many debates concerning this? He doesn’t tell anything at all. But what do we understand from his sentence? It is not a refutation of the interpretations, but that he never heard. You see, this is one strategy among the many to confuse and mislead. And he uses his title as a professor to impress us with his knowledge. If you understand the culture,  you may start to know them.  

Dr. Reisman responded to Bukay commentary, “Bukay has a point. Lying and befuddlement will win most if not all arguments. Once a person can state anything as the "truth", how does one counter?”

Rabbi Hausman wrote back, “ I never engage in any kind of interfaith dialogue or trialogue with these people...waste of time.” 

To which Dr. Bukay responded:

That’s the only sane strategy.  Jews and Christians who love religious dialogues should be consulted.  We just play in the Islamic playground, and dance according to their whims.

Posted on 12/01/2012 8:01 PM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Why Would Shi'a-Ruled Iraq Stop Shi'a Iran From Airlifting Weapons To Sunni-Threatened Syria?

From The New York Times:

Dec. 1, 2012

Flow of Arms to Syria Through Iraq Persists, to U.S. Dismay

WASHINGTON — The American effort to stem the flow of Iranian arms to Syria has faltered because of Iraq’s reluctance to inspect aircraft carrying the weapons through its airspace, American officials say.

The shipments have persisted at a critical time for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has come under increasing military pressure from rebel fighters. The air corridor over Iraq has emerged as a main supply route for weapons, including rockets, antitank missiles, rocket-propelled grenade and mortars.

Iran has an enormous stake in Syria, which is its staunchest Arab ally and has also provided a channel for Iran’s support to the Lebanese Islamist movement Hezbollah.

To the disappointment of the Obama administration, American efforts to persuade the Iraqis to randomly inspect the flights have been largely unsuccessful.

Adding to American concerns, Western intelligence officials say they are picking up new signs of activity at sites in Syria that are used to store chemical weapons. The officials are uncertain whether Syrian forces might be preparing to use the weapons in a last-ditch effort to save the government, or simply sending a warning to the West about the implications of providing more help to the Syrian rebels.

“It’s in some ways similar to what they’ve done before,” a senior American official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “But they’re doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons. It’s not just moving stuff around. These are different kind of activities.”

The official said, however, that the Syrians had not carried out the most blatant steps toward using the chemical weapons, such as preparing them to be fired by artillery batteries or loaded in bombs to be dropped from warplanes.  

Regarding the arms shipments, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton secured a commitment from Iraq’s foreign minister in September that Iraq would inspect flights from Iran to Syria. But the Iraqis have inspected only two, most recently on Oct. 27. No weapons were found, but one of the two planes that landed in Iraq for inspection was on its way back to Iran after delivering its cargo in Syria.

Adding to the United States’ frustrations, Iran appears to have been tipped off by Iraqi officials as to when inspections would be conducted, American officials say, citing classified reports by American intelligence analysts.

Iran’s continued efforts to aid the Syrian government were described in interviews with a dozen American administration, military and Congressional officials, most of whom requested anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

“The abuse of Iraqi airspace by Iran continues to be a concern,” an American official said. “We urge Iraq to be diligent and consistent in fulfilling its international obligations and commitments, either by continuing to require flights over Iraqi territory en route to Syria from Iran to land for inspection or by denying overflight requests for Iranian aircraft going to Syria.”

Iraqi officials insist that they oppose the ferrying of arms through Iraq’s airspace. They also cite claims by Iran that it is merely delivering humanitarian aid, and they call the American charges unfounded.

“We wouldn’t be able to convince them, even if we searched all the airplanes, because they have prejudged the situation,” Ali al-Musawi, the spokesman for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq, said of the American concerns. “Our policy is that we will not allow the transfer of arms to Syria.”

Mr. Musawi acknowledged that one of the planes was not inspected until it was returning from Damascus, but said it was a simple error, not a deliberate effort to help the Iranians. “Mistakes sometimes occur,” he said.

But one former Iraqi official, who asked not to be identified because he feared retaliation by the Iraqi government, said that some officials in Baghdad had been doing the bare minimum to placate the United States and were in fact sympathetic to the Iranian efforts in Syria.

The Iranian flights present challenges for the Obama administration, which has been reluctant to provide arms to the Syrian rebels or to establish a no-fly zone over Syria for fear of becoming entangled in the conflict. They also illustrate the limits of the administration’s influence with the Maliki government and point to divergent foreign-policy calculations in Washington and in Baghdad.

While Iraq’s actions clearly benefit Iran, a Shiite country with close ties to many Iraqi officials, Mr. Maliki may have his own reasons to tolerate the flights.

Mr. Maliki, American officials say, is worried that if Mr. Assad falls from power it may embolden Sunni and Kurdish forces in the region, including in Iraq, which could present challenges to his Shiite-dominated government.

Iran’s support for Syria is vital to the Assad government, American officials said. In addition to flying arms and ammunition to Syria, Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force is sending trainers and advisers, sometimes disguised as religious pilgrims, tourists and businessmen, the officials say.

Iran’s flights of arms to Syria drew the concern of American officials soon after the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq last December. Iraq lacks an air force and is unable to enforce control of its own airspace, and Iran took advantage by ferrying arms to Syria.

Under American pressure, Iraqi officials persuaded the Iranians to hold off on the flights as Iraq prepared to host the Arab summit in Baghdad in March. Soon after the meeting, President Obama, in an April 3 call to Mr. Maliki, underscored that the flights should not continue.

But after a bombing in Damascus in July that killed ranking members of Mr. Assad’s government, the Iranian flights resumed. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. raised American concerns over the flights in an Aug. 17 phone call with Mr. Maliki. So did Denis McDonough, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, who met with Mr. Maliki in Baghdad in October.

When Mr. McDonough raised concerns over the inspection of the plane that was on its way back to Iran, Mr. Maliki responded that he was not aware that the inspection had been carried out that way, according to one account of the meeting by an American official. A spokeswoman for the National Security Council declined to comment.

There is evidence of collusion between Iranian and Iraqi officials on the inspections, according to American intelligence assessments. In one instance, according to an American intelligence report, Qassim Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, ordered that a flight to Syria carry only humanitarian goods. An Iraqi inspection occurred soon after, when the plane was asked to land in Iraq on Oct. 27.

Much of the American intelligence community’s concerns about possible collusion has focused on Hadi al-Amiri, Iraq’s minister of transportation, who is believed to be close to the Iranians and was among the Iraqi traveling party when Mr. Maliki visited Washington last year.

Nasir Bender, the head of civil aviation in Iraq, said there was no indication that Iraqi officials had tipped off the Iranians. “We have orders to search any plane that we feel is suspicious, but the ones we have searched were only carrying medical supplies and clothing,” he said, adding that the Iraqis had inspected only two Iranian flights because of the cost of fuel. “We can’t search every plane because there are so many heading to Syria,” he said. “It would be a big waste of money. Each plane we take down we must refill with fuel.”

In one instance in late October, however, an Iranian flight ignored an Iraqi request that it land, according to American intelligence assessments, presumably because the Iranians did not want its cargo to be inspected.

Iraq’s attitude toward the Iranian flights has drawn the concern of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who has been mentioned as a possible secretary of state in Mr. Obama’s second term.

“If so many people have entreated the government to stop and that doesn’t seem to be having an impact,” Mr. Kerry said in September, “that sort of alarms me a little bit and seems to send a signal to me maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response.”

The activity at the Syrian chemical weapons sites, described by American, European and Israeli officials, poses an additional challenge for the West. The senior American official confirmed on Saturday that in the past two or three days, United States and allied intelligence have detected that the Syrian military was carrying out some kind of activities with some of its chemical stockpiles.

Since the crisis began in Syria, the United States and its allies have stepped up electronic eavesdropping and other surveillance activities of the sites.
Posted on 12/01/2012 9:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Rebels Who Want Syria To Be An Islamic State

Rebel leader says Syria on path to becoming Islamic state

Opinions differ on origins of growing number of Jihadist fighters participating in uprising

November 30, 2012
Syrian rebels in the streets of Harem (photo credit: Mustafa Karali/AP)
Syrian rebels in the streets of Harem (photo credit: Mustafa Karali/AP)

RAS AL-AYN, Syria (AP) — A leader of an al-Qaida-inspired militant group fighting the regime in Syria said his men do not fear death and they are determined to form an Islamic state.

Jabhat al-Nusra — Arabic for “the Support Front” — has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings and other attacks on regime targets across the country. The group has raised fears of a growing Islamic militant element among the forces seeking to topple President Bashar Assad.

“Thanks to our strong faith we do not fear death, because we think that if you are killed by the hands of this regime, then we will be martyrs and we will go to paradise,” said Sheik Abu Ahmed, 41, a regional military commander for al-Nusra in the northern Hasaka region.

We want Sharia (Islamic law) to be applied because it’s the right path for all humanity,” he added. “All these constitutional laws couldn’t realize the people’s happiness.”

Abu Ahmed did not give his real name in an interview this week with The Associated Press or explain why he was using a nom de guerre. He and his fighters were reluctant to reveal much personal information or say what they did before the civil war.

Syria’s conflict started 20 months ago as an uprising against Assad, whose family has ruled the country for four decades. It quickly morphed into a civil war, with rebels taking up arms to fight back against a bloody crackdown by the government. According to activists, at least 40,000 people have been killed since March 2011.

Assad blames the revolt on a conspiracy to destroy Syria, saying the uprising is being driven by foreign terrorists, not Syrians seeking change.

Analysts say most of those fighting Assad’s regime are ordinary Syrians and soldiers who have defected, disenchanted with the authoritarian government. But increasingly, foreign fighters and those adhering to an extremist Islamist ideology are turning up on the front lines. The rebels try to play down the Islamists’ influence for fear of alienating Western support.

It’s difficult to gauge how much power Jabhat al-Nusra has in the uprising. Although Abu Ahmed says only a tiny fraction of the group’s fighters are foreign, others have estimated that its fighters come from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Balkans and elsewhere. Many are veterans of previous wars who came to Syria for what they consider a new “jihad,” or holy war, against Assad.

Jabhat al-Nusra has become notorious for numerous suicide bombings targeting regime and military facilities. Syria’s rebels have tried to disassociate themselves from the bombings for fear their uprising will be tainted with the al-Qaida brand.

The fear of Islamic extremism resonates deeply in Syria, a country with many ethnic and religious minorities. The Assad dynasty has long tried to promote a secular identity in Syria, largely because it has relied heavily on its own Alawite base in the military and security forces in an overwhelmingly Sunni country.

But Abu Ahmed said he believes Syrians want an Islamic state.

“We think more and more people will follow us,” he said. “We think we are on the right path.”

Posted on 12/01/2012 9:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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