Researching arts and social practices in militant Islamist groups
The eminent Romain Caillet alerted me to this tweet containing a rather interesting video. It shows Abu Iyad al-Tunisi, the leader of Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AST), at the vigil of Muhammad al-Zahawi, the late leader of Ansar al-Shari’a in Libya (ASL). The video is politically significant because it confirms that AST has close links to ASL, and that by extension, AST has close links with al-Qaida, something that AST has been loathe to officially recognize.
From a cultural point of view, the video also is interesting because it shows an aspect of Islamist funerary practices that is not captured very often on camera.
The BBC did a story yesterday about one of the most famous Arab spring protest songs, Sawfa nabqa huna (We will stay here). The song originated in Libya, where it basically became the anthem of the anti-Qadhafi protests in 2011. Here’s a full version with English subtitles for those interested.
According to the BBC, the song was written back in 2005 by the Libyan singer and activist Adil al-Mshiti. However, it turns out that it is actually a complete rip-off from an older jihadi nashid.
It was the British activist Moazzam Begg who pointed this out earlier today on Twitter:
This “Arabic revolution song that went viral” is actually plagiarised from 1990s Caravans of Martyrs jihadi nasheed https://t.co/FCkW44hzpR
Begg would know, because he was active in jihadi circles in the 1990s, fighting in Bosnia and training in Afghanistan among other things.
Listening to the original, there is no question that Begg is right. Not only is the melody is the same, but almost the entire text is lifted straight from the jihadi original, including the refrain with the title phrase sawfa nabqa huna. Other phrases are mere adaptations, such as the swapping of “ummati” (my umma) for the more secular-sounding “mawtani” (my homeland). You can hear for yourselves here:
The point of the BBC story is that the “protest song” is currently experiencing a revival in Germany, with a choir in Dresden – consisting of refugees and locals – performing the song as part of an effort to fight xenophobia. It’s a great project, but I can’t help thinking: ouch.
Scenes from inside the Mujahidin Shura Council in Derna, Libya