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al-Mahdi is "the rightly-guided one" who, according to Islamic Hadiths (traditions), will come before the end of time to make the entire world Muslim.  Over the last 1400 years numerous claimants to the mantle of the Mahdi have arisen in both Shi`i and Sunni circles.  Modern belief in the coming of the Mahdi has manifested most famously in the 1979 al-`Utaybi uprising of Sa`udi Arabia, and more recently in the ongoing Mahdist movements (some violent) in Iraq, as well as in the frequently-expressed public prayers of former Iranian President Ahmadinezhad bidding the Mahdi to return and, in the larger Sunni Islamic world, by claims that Usamah bin Ladin might be the (occulted) Mahdi.  Now in 2014 Mahdism is active in Syria, as the jihadist opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra claims to be fighting to prepare the way for his coming; and in the new "Islamic State/caliphate" spanning Syrian and Iraqi territory, as its leadership promotes the upcoming apocalyptic battle with the West at Dabiq, Syria.  This site will track such Mahdi-related movements, aspirations, propaganda and beliefs in both Sunni and Shi`i milieus, as well as other  Muslim eschatological yearnings.
For a primer on Mahdism, see my 2005 article, "What's Worse than Violent Jihadists?," at the History News Network:; for more in-depth info, see the links here to my other writings, including my book on Mahdism.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Jeremiah Johnson, Islam and CT Analysis.
One of my favorites movies of all time is the 1972 atypical Western "Jeremiah Johnson," starring Robert Redford.  Johnson is a mountain man somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of the western US in the mid-19th century, fighting the elements, bears, wolves and of course Indians (no they aren't' "Native Americans," because they too came to the Western hemisphere from elsewhere--they just did so some millennia before the Europeans). 
At one point Johnson is asked to guide a US Cavalry unit and a Protestant minister through a sacred Crow Indian burial ground, in order to relieve a band of trapped American settlers.  Johnson replies that doing so could be dangerous because the area is "big medicine."  Reverend Lindquist sneers "you don't believe that!" To which the mountain man retorts "it doesn't matter; THEY do!"
After being reminded of this insightful scene by my good friend Reverend Chuck Treadwell, it occurred to me that most modern American counter-intelligence, intelligence and area studies analysts could learn something from Jeremiah Johnson.  I can't even recall how many times I've read, or been told in person--by members of the Intelligence Community, State Department, media, chaplains or even our military--that "jihadists aren't REALLY motivated by Islam" or "no Muslims REALLY believe in the Mahdi" or (perhaps my favorite) "I don't have to read the Qur'an to know that it's a 'peaceful' book." 
US CT policy would be better off heeding this guy than the Mark Sagemans of the world.

This was the point I was making in an interview I did with the "Jerusalem Post" (during my trip to Israel in November 2012), regarding analysis of the Islamic world: "We have to look at the culture, economics, politics and psychology in addition to religion—but it cannot be ignored. In intelligence analysis, much like historical analysis, you put yourself in the others' position. It is very important to understand the others—even when we do not agree with them.”
That way, maybe, the Muslim equivalents of Paints-His-Shirt-Red will eventually call off their jihad against us and raise their hands in peace--as that Crow chief did toward Johnson at the end of the movie.  But that only occurred after the bearded and heavily armed white Christian had defeated all the braves sent to kill him. 
4:54 pm est          Comments

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Jamkaran Mosque near Qom, Iran (during my trip there Aug. 2008)

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