South Asian Sunni jihadis are marking the 12th anniversary of the July 3-11, 2007 siege of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad by Pakistani government forces, which were responding to increasing violent activism by male and female students at the mosque’s two schools including its now famous women’s madrasa, Jami’a Hafsa. These groups include pro-Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants as well as Pakistan and Kashmir-centered groups including the sectarian Lashkar-e Jhangvi.
The mosque’s deputy imam, ‘Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed during the siege, became a central “martyr” figure in Sunni jihadi visual and literary cultures, particularly but not only to South Asian groups. Different factions of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Islamic Jihad Union have named military attacks or campaigns and special units after him or in memory of the scores of students and others killed during the siege by government forces. Ghazi and the other martyrs were eulogized by Al-Qaeda Central (AQC) and other major jihadi groups and figures, with Ayman al-Zawahiri and the late AQC leader Abu Yahya al-Libi placing him in the pantheon of the “mujahid ‘ulama” who, they said, are exemplary figures for the Umma.
The 189th issue of Islamic State’s weekly Al-Naba newsletter included an interesting and detailed profile highlighting the importance of individuals with formal religious studies expertise. They are particularly important for the militant organization and its regional affiliates and branches due to their often lack of many credentialed, highly educated religious scholars.
The article highlights one of Wilayat Khurasan’s “shining” religious scholars (‘ulama) & late wali (governor), Abu ‘Umayr ‘Abd al-Hasib al-Logari, who ascended to the top of Wilayat Khurasan after the July 2016 drone killing of Hafiz Sa’id Khan, heralding the former’s leadership during “one of the most difficult periods” for the “Province.” Wilayat Khurasan is the Afghanistan branch/affiliate of IS’ core organization. It maintains connections with the core while also having its own set of local and regional dynamics and interests. ‘Abd al-Hasib is referred to as a hadith scholar (muhaddith).
Born in Kurram agency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, ‘Abd al-Hasib studied extensively Arabic, Persian, & English in addition to his native fluency in Pashto and Urdu. He formally studied Islamic law & fiqh with a hadith specialization for 8 years at the Jami’a Imam Bukhari & then studied the Six Books (canonical Sunni collections: Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawud, Jami’ al-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Nasa’i) at the Ganj Madrasa in Peshawar for 4 years.
After completing his studies, he decided to travel to Afghanistan to join the battle against “polytheism” (shirk) & “Sufism” (tasawwuf), spreading the “true” message of absolute monotheism (Tawhid).
He taught shari’a & fiqh for two years as member of the Afghan Taliban before leaving with defectors & TTP commanders who accused their rivals of being linked to the “apostate” Pakistani government, serving as a deputy to founding wali, Hafiz Sa’id Khan.
As Khurasan wali, ‘Abd al-Hasib he participated in fighting the “Crusaders” on the frontlines of Nangarhar in ribat & established the proto-state governing offices (dawawin, diwans) of the Wilayat.
Despite his leadership duties, he also continued his role of religious teaching & preaching, spreading “Tawhid” & the “loyalty & disavowal” (al-wala min al-mu’minin wa-l-bara ‘an al-kafirin) among locals. He died in battle against U.S. forces on April 27, 2017.
A selection of visual materials produced independently by Sunni jihadis and their supporters drawing upon American military and pop culture themes including the U.S. Marines’ slogan, the iconic posed Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph from the Second World War, and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (which is when those two posters were produced).
The images in these posters include the late Shaykh ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam, the late Saudi foreign fighter commander in Chechnya and the North Caucasus Abu al-Walid al-Ghamdi, Al-Shabab spokesman and official ‘Ali Mohamud Rage (‘Ali Dheere), and the then-Al-Shabaab officials Mukhtar “Abu Mansur” Robow and Hasan Dahir Aweys.
Professional website and academic blog of Christopher Anzalone, Ph.D.
I am Research Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies covering the Middle East and East Africa at the Krulak Center, Marine Corps University and an affiliate scholar at George Mason University’s Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. Formerly I was both a postdoctoral and predoctoral research fellow with the International Security Program at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs from 2016-2019. My research areas include political Islam, political violence and terrorism, Shi’i Islam, and Islamic visual cultures and narratives of martyrdom and self-sacrifice. I completed a Ph.D. in Islamic, Middle Eastern, and African studies at McGill University, an M.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a B.A. double major in history and religious studies from George Mason University. Methodologically my research is grounded in history and political sociology.
My first book project, Islamizing Rebel Governance: Jihadi Insurgencies and Symbolic Power, examines the symbolic, framing, and narrative dimensions of territorial proto-state governing projects of Islamist rebel groups including Al-Shabab in Somalia, Islamic State and its branches, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the Afghan Taliban. This multidisciplinary project, drawing from history and political sociology, examines the strategies and experiences of Islamist insurgent organizations that have actively attempted to set up civil governing systems through which to interact with local civilian populations. It situates the study of Islamist insurgent groups with governance ambitions within the growing literature on rebel governance.
My research draws upon scores of thousands of primary sources – print texts, videos, radio broadcasts and audio recordings, posters and billboards, and photography – produced and released by non-state Islamist groups.
On this site I will post about my research on Islamic social movements and organizations, Shi’i Islam, political Islam (Islamism), and Islamic visual cultures with a specific focus on militant Islamist (jihadi) visual culture. One of the main goals of the site is to serve as a digital platform for the sharing and discussion of textual (print, visual, and aural) primary sources as key digital historical artifacts.
What’s in a Name?
The site’s name, which translates to “son of the Sicilian” (ابن الصقلي), is taken from my first blog (a Blogger project unfortunately now defunct due to Google) that I started as an undergraduate many years ago when I wrote anonymously under a pen name. My father’s family is of central Italian and Sicilian background, which is why I chose “Siqilli” as a pen name at the time.
Disclaimer:This should be clear but needs to be explicitly said: This is an academic website and blog for analysis and scholarly discussion. I do not endorse or in any way support violence or terrorism. In order to understand political violence and its use by a variety of states and non-state organizations, academics, government and other professional career practitioners, and the public must be able to analyze and publicly discuss it and related topics and issues. The analysis and other views expressed here are mine alone.