Saturday, 5 November 2016

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 700 2 November 16 THE ASSASSINS


An extreme, secretive Islamic cult of terrorists, murderers who targeted Crusaders and Muslim chiefs alike - such were the dreaded Assassins, attested by medieval travellers like Marco Polo. Are they back? Alive and kicking in Turkey, powerful enough to have staged the failed July 15 coup? Is that possible?

Fans of President Erdogan compare charismatic preacher Fethullah Gulen and his movement to Hassan i-Sabbah, a.k.a. the enigmatic Old Man of the Mountain, the Assassins’ supreme sheikh.  At whose orders a network of fanatical young men embarked on missions of death. Like the ancient Assassins’ boss, Gulen would teach lies, deception, infiltration, terrorism, Fuhrerprinzip (absolute authority of the leader), disregard of moral rules, libertinism…and so on.

Hhmmm…Really? The Assassins’ organisation and methods were formidably effective. Rulers like Conrad of Monferrat, Crusader king of Jerusalem, and Nizam al-Mulk, Vizier of the Seljuq Turks, fell under their dagger. Along with countless other enemies, high and low. By contrast, the 15 July coup was a pathetically botched-up affair. So much that a smart Turkish friend of mine opined it was a pretence, a make-believe, a pseudo-coup. Set-up by foxy President Erdogan, a pretext to destroy rival Gulen. As indeed he has cunningly done.

The ancient Assassins were a splinter of a branch of Shia Islam called Ismailis. (Today the mildest and reassuring of all Islamic heresies, led by that pillar of the capitalist Establishment, the Agha Khan.) Ismaili beliefs were and are saturated with abstruse philosophy and esoteric mysteries. The Qur’an they understand not literally but spiritually and allegorically. Paradoxically, it is the descendants of the Assassins who are often victims of internecine violence. Last year 45 Ismailis died as their bus was attacked by Sunni jihadis in Pakistan. The Old Man of the Mountain would have retaliated in kind. Not so the modern Ismailis, who are as meek as lambs.

True, the old Assassins later went weird and embraced antinomianism. Meaning release from the most sacrosanct obligations of religion and morality. Bernard Lewis describes how during Ramadan in the Ismaili fortress of Alamut a successor of Hasan i-Sabbah, also named Hasan, proclaimed that the Day of Resurrection had dawned. Sharia’, the holy law of Islam, was thus declared abrogated. Accordingly, the worshippers at noon turned their backs towards Mecca, drank wine and made merry. Salat, the five daily prayers, were abolished, as believers dwelled in the direct presence of Allah – Paradise on earth!

I have attended, I confess, two Gulen-sponsored events in London. The stress was on education, dialogue, non-violence and ethics. A slightly dull film was shown. I sat next to a former Labour government minister, an undersized and irritating creature. We agreed how edifying it all was. Ok, maybe all a cover for dark plots but still far removed from the wild extravagances of Hasan i-Sabbah. Erdogan’s propaganda calls him a hypocrite and narcissist but I saw no wine drunk and no pork eaten. The eager young chaps and women about gave no signs of being drugged or of homicidal frenzy.

I am a former chaplain at British Embassy, Ankara. By my time Turkey boasted four Army coups since 1945. (A fifth happened later.) Emanating from the top Army echelons. The Generals were professional putschists. Everything went like clockwork. By contrast the last pseudo-coup was laughably amateurish. A small group within the military closed some bridges and road. Neglected to arrest Erdogan. Forgot to take control of the satellite communications command. Even an Italian Army golpe would have proved less ludicrous than that!

The Turkish Army is no joke. Its Generals considers themselves custodians of Kemal Ataturk’s heritage. That means secularism, the separation of Mosque and State. That is why they have always intervened to stop any Islamist takeover. How clever is Erdogan –  having managed to castrate the only force in Turkey that could have halted his creeping Islamisation. He is now unstoppable. The repression has been systematic, ferocious and bloody. Thousands, military and civilians, have been arrested and jailed in disgusting conditions. Judges and civil servants dismissed from their jobs. Two Trade Unions shut down. Check out the horrific details online. Frightening.

The irony is that Gulen and Erdogan had previously been allies. Both keen on promoting the Islamist agenda. But now the wolves are devouring each other. Remember Hitler’s night of the long knives? How he claimed Rohm and his Brown Shirts wanting to stage a coup and so he was forced to exterminate them? Does it ring a bell?

I saw a recent LSE conference to plug Erdogan’s line being disrupted and closed by Kurdish demonstrators. Interesting because the Kurds are too big a mouthful even for Sultan Erdogan to swallow. His eventual nemesis, perhaps?

Erdogan screams that the CIA was behind the coup. Surely the Yanks are a bit more efficacious than that? But of course modern Assassins exist in droves. Not as mystical fraternities – they are just called secret services. Mossad, MIT (Turkish spooks), CIA, the French DGSE, the Chinese MSS, the Indian RAW, the Russian GRU…and so on. Strip away the sanctimonious rhetoric – what are they if not killing outfits? Even the hideously self-righteous Brits, with their MI5 and MI6 - forget ogre Putin – should anyone be perceived to be a threat to the Royal Family…Are you thinking what I am thinking?

Watch out: the Assassins have never gone away and may be stalking you!

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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