Sunday, Bloody Palm Sunday

Note: This is an unreleased article about the terrorist attacks on Palm Sunday 2017 in Egypt. It was meant for newspapers.

Sunday, April 9th 2017. Palm Sunday. A bomb explodes in Mar Guirguis (Saint-George in Arabic) church in Tanta, a few kilometers away from Cairo, while another terrorist blows himself up as two police officers, a male and a female, deny him entry into Saint-Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria. Same old story, business as usual, but what went on social media was a bit different. Why are these bombings somewhat usual and what is different? What are the terrorists’ motivations?

egyptian_christian_muslim_unity
An example of images shared on social media after the attack. It reads “Do not say ‘I am a Muslim and you are a Christian’ but ‘You are my brother, my blood and my friend’ “. Unknown author

Since 2010, Islamic terrorists bomb churches during the three biggest Christian feasts in Egypt: Christmas, Palm Sunday, and the biggest one of all, Easter. Only major incidents are reported because the minor ones have become so common that they have become routine. The reasons for attacking Saint-Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria are quite clear.

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What do Neo-Nazis and Muslim Extremists Have in Common?

In her Ted Talks Video, Erin Marie Saltman compares neo-Nazi groups and Muslim extremists, and explains how social media can be used to combat them. Yes, that’s right: people join neo-Nazi and Muslim extremists groups for similar reasons! Their members are angry at the world for various reasons, long for utopia, and think the world rejects them for it.

Read moreWhat do Neo-Nazis and Muslim Extremists Have in Common?

ISIS and Anger Marketing

Anger: it’s one of the most powerful emotional triggers. Marketers know it and so do ISIS’s recruiters. Anger is truly powerful: it makes people act without thought, buy without thought, accept without thought. That is exactly what ISIS needs to get people to join their ranks.

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Copts and Muslims of Egypt: What ISIS can’t Divide

On the first day of Ramadan 2017, ISIS attacked three buses carrying Coptic (native Egyptian Christians) children on a field trip to Saint-Samuel’s monastery near Minya.

ISIS killed children on a field trip. How tough and manly of you, ISIS. God is surely impressed with your devotion and bravery. Your mothers must be so proud of you. Here, you deserve a (poisoned) biscuit.

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The Syrian Chessboard

Note: This article was originally published on January 11th, 2013 on the blog The Lighthouse.

The Syrian civil war is often presented as being about rebels attempting to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and skirmishes between these rebels and the Syrian army. Upon taking a closer look, we can see that that Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Islamists factions such as the mujahedeen and the Muslim brotherhood are also involved. Why are these groups involved in the war and what do they hope to gain?

Iran has been predominately a Shiite Muslim country since the Safavid Dynasty. Middle-Eastern countries such as Bahrain that are near Iran and that oppress Shiite Muslims often fear that their Shiites citizens might turn to Iran for protection. However, oppressed Shiites are not the only ones who seek an alliance with Iran: Hafez Al-Assad, the father of current Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, formed an alliance with Iran during its war with Iraq. The Al-Assad family are Alawites, Muslims who follow a particular branch of Twelver Shiite Islam. Hafez Al-Assad was also a member of the Baath party, a secular party based on Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ideas of pan-Arabism, Arab nationalism and socialism. Because of these secular ideologies, the Baath party was fiercely opposed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The relationship between Iran and the Al-Assad family is a threat to the interests of the United-States, making Saudi Arabia inevitably involved in the Syrian civil war.

The modern Saudi state stems from two alliances: the one between Muhammad Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, and Muhammad ibn Abdel Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabi movement, and the alliance between Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud. According to Wahhabist doctrine, Shiite Islam is heretical, hence the reason why Shiite Muslims in Saudi Arabia are oppressed by the Saudi state. The Saudis also oppress Shiites for practical reasons: they mainly live in the east of the Arabian Peninsula which is rich oil and near Iran. Since its tensions with Iran are rising, the United-States thought that burning bridges between Iran and its ally Syria would be an excellent way to weaken the Iranians: if the Al-Assad family were to be overthrown, then its alliance with Iran can be broken. The United-States and Saudi Arabia plan to do this by sending the Mujahedeen and allies of the Muslim brotherhood into Syria. After all, Saudi Arabia was a refuge for some members of the Muslim Brotherhood during the mandates of Nasser and Sadat. Having Saudi Arabia send Mujahedeen abroad to fight its enemies is nothing new to the United-States. Saudi Arabia had trained and sent Mujahedeen to aid Afghans fighting the United-States’ worst enemy of the 1980s, the Soviet Union. To both Saudi and Afghan Mujahedeen, the war against the Soviets was holy because they saw the Soviets’ atheism as a threat to Islam.

The Syrian civil war started out as the Syrian people’s struggle to overthrow the Al-Assad regime to obtain a better tomorrow. It has now turned into a game of chess between the Al-Assad family and Iran on one side, Saudi Arabia and the United-States on the other, and the Syrian people is caught in the middle.

 

 

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