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Andalusi: What's in a Name? By: Shelomo Alfassa
Israel Insider | Tuesday, July 11, 2006


This week the United States Office of Homeland Security released a statement saying that, "Working closely with the Intelligence / Information Directorate within the Internal Security Forces of Lebanon and with other foreign law enforcement and intelligence partners, we have disrupted a terrorist network that was in the planning stages of an attack against the transportation system in the New York-New Jersey area." The plot included a plan to attack a major underwater tunnel that would collapse and cause massive flooding throughout New York City. One FBI official described the plot as using "martyrdom and explosives." "It was very serious," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Richard Kolko in Washington, "These guys were going to do this."

The FBI reported that the name of the terrorist mastermind was Emir Andalusi, an unusual name, but one that immediately gives away his ideology to those who are students of history. 'Emir Andalusi' is a name which translates from the Arabic as 'Prince of Andalus.' It was not his real name, which was Assem Hammoud, but his pseudonym told something of his outlook on the world, it was a window into his political agenda. 'Andalusi' is reference to the once Islamic strong hold of Al Andalus, the Arabic language name given to the parts of Iberian Peninsula that were governed by Muslims from 711 to 1492. Utilization of a nom de guerre is quite common in the Arabic world, but those which are in reference to old Muslim Spain are being seen as increasing common among jihadists who have set themselves against the Western world.

Using 'Andalus' as a surname was already common in 2000 when Amer Azizi, an Al Qaeda member in Istanbul, re-named himself Othman Al Andalusi (Othman of Spain). Azizi was later directly linked to 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta. He was also connected to the Madrid train bombers that in March 2004 killed 191 people and wounded 1,741 in their desire to reclaim the land of Spain as an Islamic trophy. Upon the coalition bombing of Afghanistan in October of 2001, Osama Bin Laden released a video tape stating "Let the whole world know that we shall never accept that the tragedy of Andalusia would be repeated in Palestine..." Bin Laden's chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, later swore that "the tragedy of Al Andalus" must not be repeated.

Reference to the once Muslim empire of Al Andalus are common among Islamic terrorists because one of the goals of radical Islam is the stated desire to control the world, specifically and firstly with the lands they lost on the battlefield, this includes modern Spain. In the Islamic world, few symbols are as resonant as the downfall of Al Andalus in the 15th century. To many militants, its fall, because of internal strife among rival Muslim princes and tribes, marked the end of Islam's so-called 'golden age.'

Al Qaeda is not alone in their desire to reclaim a land they once administered. While it is true that many Islamic preachers regularly refer to Spain as occupied territory in their sermons and on their Websites, Hamas has also requested Spain surrender their country to them. Hamas itself has demanded the return of the city of Seville to Islam. On the Website 'Al Fateh,' Hamas demanded the return of Seville to the "lost paradise" of Al Andalus. "Dress me, for I am the bride of the land of Al Andalus" the online Children's magazine said, as it cheerfully detailed the lives and deaths of the Arab suicide bombers they like to refer to as "martyrs."

With the rise of anti-Jewish activities in Babylonia, the previous center of Jewish thought, Al Andalus would become the center of Jewish intellectual life. It was the home of great Jewish thinkers such as Alfassi, Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, Nahmanides, and other intellectuals because of its relative tolerance. In the time of Maimonides, during the 12th century, two radical Muslim groups skirmishing against once another (each over a stricter interpretation of Islam) helped destroy not only the Jewish communities throughout Spain, but also each other.

The Almoravids and the Almohads, both which would clearly be called Wahabbists by today's definitions, sought to instill the strictest regulations of Islamic orthodoxy amongst the non-Islamic world. When the Almoravids failed, the Almohads replaced them instilling their own brand of radical Islam. Yet, eventually, the Almohads themselves were defeated by the Christian armies of the Spanish kingdoms in the 13th century and lost all but one solitary piece of land which they eventually surrendered in 1492. Five hundred years later, reinvigorated and funded by wealthy Islamic states, the jihadists want to take their former land back and bring it under Islam.

The Lebanese terrorist with an Arabic-Spanish name arrested this week on plotting to blow up New York is no different than any other Islamic terrorist. He, like they, have declared war against the entire world. We need to remember that Islamic terrorists committing violence in Jerusalem, London, Madrid or New York see those cities as the centers of the lifestyle they despise. In their world?the world of Islam?there are only two concepts in which society exists, Dar Al-Islam and Dar Al-Harb. Dar al-Harb (the world of war) refers to the territory under the supremacy of unbelievers (non-Muslims), this includes Spain, Israel and other countries. Dar Al-Islam (world of Islam) refers to the lands and people under Islamic control?or that will soon be under Islamic control.

The stated purpose by modern jihadists is the same today, as it was 1,000 years ago, subjugation of the non-Muslims. We must remember the ultimate goals of these radical Islamic terrorists is not to simply destroy tunnels, trains or buildings, but to dominate the world. This starts with the execution of a plan of terror which instills fear and creates social chaos.

Only by standing strong, aggressively and offensively, and by asserting our military and police forces against those that come to harm us, will we survive the warfare being perpetrated against us by radical groups that are not only in 65 Islamic countries, but in our own backyards, whether they be Gaza, New York or Madrid.

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Shelomo Alfassa is executive director of the International Sephardic Leadership Council and publisher of the International Sephardic Journal.


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