Thursday, October 23, 2014

Canada Attacked- Arab Opinion Divided

My thoughts today are with my Canadian friends, who yesterday saw a Jihadist gunman attack their Parliament, killing a soldier.

It’s clear from the reaction on Twitter that the debate we have in the West, whether Jihadism is the essence of Islam, or an aberration of a few extremists, is mirrored in the Arab world.

@ALE2756 clearly takes the latter view,

What happened in Canada has no justification in the tolerant Islamic religion...the religion which calls for the best in us. #Canada #1.

while @mazennino thinks Canada deserved what it got.

Canada pays the price of its war on Muslims..Attack on the Canadian Parliament, military killed inside, and Canada declares a state of emergency.

@NouredineHicham had a unique take, also unsympathetic to the Canadians:

ISIL struck Canada before it was bombed in Iraq and Syria. It reminded me of the American policy of preemptive strikes. Their teacher.

@MarcoDentoo seemed to be on the fence; perhaps that’s why he used the hashtag #Islamic_Schizophrenia

Sharia permits killing infidels..when they are dangerous. But the deadly attack against the Canadian Parliament does not represent Islam or the Muslims. Because #Islamic_Schizophrenia

@ElsayedWalid shares my own sympathy for the victim, and sadness at the effect this will have on the Canadian Nation.

 Two terrorist incidents in Canada in the same week..Peace to the victims and farewell to the gentle Canada that we know. #Canada changed.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Arab Tweet: What’s in Kerry’s Bag?

Photo Source:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was seen in Cairo last week carrying around a rather undignified white plastic shopping bag. Many in the Arab world had fun speculating what was in it, and soon “What’s in Kerry’s Bag?” was trending on Twitter.

Some guesses were stereotypically Middle Eastern:

What’s_in_Kerry’s_Bag A little hashish hahahahahaha

What’s_in_Kerry’s_Bag Shawarma meal hahahahahahaha

Others were more creative:

What’s_in_Kerry’s_Bag diapers

“Diapers” could alternately be translated “feminine hygiene products.”

Many tweets played on the similarity between Kerry’s name and a popular type of cheese:

What’s_in_Kerry’s_Bag Kiri cheese
Photo Source:

What’s_in_Kerry’s_Bag Kiri cheese

@Tallouza went straight to the source:

 Can you please ask your boss to tell us what he had in his white plastic bag?

So far there’s no response from the State Department.

(Thanks go out to D.K., K.H., and M.A. for helpful discussions.)

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Arab Tweet: Proud of Malala

Despite cartoon Muslims on Family Guy flying into a rage at the sight of a girl reading, Arabs responded with pride to Friday’s announcement that girls’ education activist Malala Yusuf will share the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Some typical tweets:

Malala Yusuf .. Congratulations on winning the Nobel Prize

That Malala was honored with the Nobel Prize this year amounts to an honor for all the children of the world struggling on the road to learning.

Happy that Malala got the Nobel prize .. Let this girl be an example to anyone with an atom of humanity in his heart, to reject the evil ideas of the enemies of life.

No Twitter conversation would be complete without the obligatory conspiracy theorist, albeit this one may be joking.

American spy Malala Yousuf won the Nobel Prize HAHAHAHAHAHA

And of course there’s always that one tiresome person who, regardless of the topic of conversation, must make it about something else.

Malala Yusuf was given the Nobel for Peace because she was shot inside a school bus. The award is political, for how many children were killed by America in their mothers’ arms?

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Arab Tweet: Girls on Motorcycles


#Youth_seen_with_girls_in_Jeddah is trending in Saudi Arabia in the wake of sightings of young women riding on the backs of motorcycles. reports,

Young women seen on motorcycles in Jeddah
October 9, 2014

A number of drivers were surprised at the South King Abdulazziz Road roundabout in the city of Jeddah at three o’clock Thursday morning by more than ten sports motorcycles going at high speed with young women riding on the back.

The reaction on Twitter has been generally negative. Some blame decaying values:

 The weakness of religious faith is the reason. #Youth_seen_with_girls_in_Jeddah

Others blame immigration:

Very natural because the proportion of foreigners to citizens in Jeddah is high and if you seek the origins of the reports in the news you will find the Hajj, which doesn’t count. #Youth_seen_with_girls_in_Jeddah

@mamdohmohamad finds the practice unhygienic,

#Youth_seen_with_girls_in_Jeddah  And the result is this: Jeddah is number one in AIDS

while @mohmd_5173 doesn’t believe they’re women at all:

#Youth_seen_with_girls_in_Jeddah Young transsexuals imitate women’s dress, and some of them wear wigs to stir up the opinions and the astonishment of the community.

@alqhtani_omar merely writes,

#Youth_seen_with_girls_in_Jeddah Ask God for forgiveness

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Monday, October 6, 2014

ISIS and Ghazali: the Smoking Gun

Abu Hamid Ghazali. Photo source: In a recent talk, The Islamic in Islamic State, I argued that to understand ISIS, you need to understand the 11th Century Muslim scholar Abu Hamid Ghazali. Ghazali is revered in the Muslim world; some have called him the greatest Muslim after Muhammad. During my talk, I cited examples of Ghazali’s disdain for science, and hatred of Jews and Christians. I then showed the resemblance to statements made by ISIS.

But it turns out the evidence for Ghazali’s influence on ISIS runs deeper than mere resemblance. Last week ISIS released a propaganda pamphlet in which it argued for the legitimacy of its leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s claim to rule the Muslim world as caliph. In the pamphlet, which was titled Extend your Hands and Pledge Loyalty to Baghdadi, I found the following quotation about the ascension of the first caliph, who not coincidentally was also named Abu Bakr:

The Imam Ghazali, the mercy of Allah upon him, said, “If Umar had been the only one who swore allegiance to [Abu Bakr] as caliph, and the rest of the world remained opposed, or were divided into equal factions, with no distinct majority among them, then [his bid for the caliphate] would have been defeated. For the primary prerequisite for the caliphate is unity: when it is unified, [the caliph’s] influence rises and hearts turn away from partisanship.

The quotation is from Ghazali’s book Exposing the Batinites. In an age when regime change was common, the question of the legitimacy of a ruler was of great interest to medieval Muslim intellectuals. Ghazali set out to demonstrate the legitimacy of the Sunni caliph of his time against the claims of the rival Shiite sect known to Muslims as the Batinites and in the West as the Assassins.

ISIS uses the quotation to argue that Abu Bakr Baghdadi, like his seventh century namesake, is qualified to be caliph because his people have overwhelmingly sworn allegiance to him. The argument is firmly in line with the medieval Muslim tradition, and demonstrates that the ISIS propagandists are familiar with even the minor works of Ghazali, and that they hold him in high enough regard to cite him as an authority for their own legitimacy.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Islamic in the Islamic State

Last week I gave a talk to the Holbrook, MA Tea Party. In it I addressed the comment Mr. Obama made in a recent speech that “ISIL is not Islamic.”

I said, “The approach to take to this question is to look in the history of Islam. What are the great currents? What are the great intellectual trends? What were the key, pivotal moments, and so on? And once you understand those, see how ISIS fits into that.”

Here’s how my talk started,

And here it is in its entirety,

Photo source: Amazon.comBTW, The book I'm holding is The Incoherence of the Philosophers, by the 11th Century scholar Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. Its publication was one of those key, pivotal moments; I talk about it in the video.

(Thank you TR for the videography!)

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on