A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

the Jesuit of Gaza

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 17, 2009

Argh. Metaphors always break down at some point, but this article from Ha’aretz online is misleading from the get-go. Its the report of a Saudi militant who was killed in Gaza recently. I agree that the presence of a Saudi national fighting in Gaza with Hamas is less-than-good news. But “fighter-priest” is not only a bad translation – it is wildly inaccurate:

The unusual report of a Saudi jihadist, who was killed while fighting Israel alongside Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, appears to indicate that Hamas may be gaining greater acceptance among even more fundamentalist Muslim groups.

As a rule, Hamas does not release details about its casualties – neither in number nor identity. But a Web site identified with a radical Islamic organization that preaches jihad and features the logo of Hamas’ military wing, reported that Abu Muhammed Mari, a Saudi sheikh mujahid (“fighter-priest”), who previously fought in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, was killed in the fighting in Gaza.

Fighter isn’t the worst translation for “mujahid”, and unlike “jihadi”, which isn’t used in Arabic, “mujahid” is actually a word. But a “sheikh” is not a priest, and a priest is not a sheikh. Islam does not have priests, just like Judaism does not.

Ha’aretz knows better. Its not bad to be ignorant, but it is bad to spread ignorance when you know better.

2 Responses to “the Jesuit of Gaza”

  1. praha5 said

    Diamond I always enjoy reading your blog. I have never commented before, but I just wanted to ask why a Saudi national fighting along side Hamas is ‘bad news’?

  2. Praha5, thank you for reading – and for your question! This is just my opinion, and its probably based primarily on my experiences in Lebanon: Fath al-Islam, which took over the Nahr al-Bared camp in Tripoli in 2007, was composed almost exclusively of foreigners.

    Foreign fighters have a different relationship to the issue at hand than national citizens/local residents do. Gazans fighting Israelis are at least fighting over a fairly concrete issue: who has the right – and the might – to determine the political and cultural orientation of the territory. Their views are more grounded, because they and their families are rooted in the land and still plan to live there when the fighting is over.

    Foreigners don’t have the same rootedness, so I fear that this Saudi came to Gaza to fight a more ideological battle. He, and others like him, would have no incentive to reach a workable settlement, because he does not think about the land as his home and the home of his family.

    Also, I don’t see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one that is at heart a religious one. Its about control of land and resources, and religion is simply the most powerful vehicle for mobilizing support on either side. This particular Saudi seems to have been animated by the idea that it is a religious conflict, in which all Muslims should fight all Jews; a very dangerous (and untrue) idea.

    What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.

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