Friday, November 21, 2008

House Slaves and Hidden Imams

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the #2 of al-Qaeda, has issued a tape denouncing Obama. The headlines have screamed "racial slur!" and the "official" translation had him describing Obama as a "house negro." The actual term was "abd al-bayt," which literally means, "house slave," not flattering, but not a racial slur, and also inaccurate, given that he is about to become the house master, arguably, something that makes the al-Qaeda crowd unhappy.

Now while Obama has promised to go after Osama, I think the fact that al-Zawahiri has been doing these tapes since 2004 with no appearances by Osama means that the latter is either incapacitated or dead. If dead, I can see them keeping the illusion of him still alive going. Although they are Sunnis, this sort of resembles the Shi'i cult of the missing 12th Iman, who supposedly went into Occultation and will reappear in the world as a messianic savior at some point, with various current leaders claiming access to him. Osama could be the radical Sunni Hidden Imam, with Obama chasing a Hidden Imam Osama.

4 comments:

David Weman said...

You're wrong, actually.

http://www.aqoul.com/archives/2008/11/house_niggers_o.php

Anonymous said...

1) A better translation would be "house nigger", which is a serious insult as it implies a slave who feels he or she is superior to the other slaves because he or she gets to work in the house rather than in the fields.

2) I've been wondering about this too. If it didn't involve providing aid to terrorists, I would have offered to get bin Laden a cheap video camera. But, surely Al Qaeda is not THAT strapped for office supplies.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

One can debate translations, and given that Malcolm X used this stronger term in his discussions and he was cited in the video, I can see the argument being made. "House negro" is rather ludicrous, being racist, without going whole hog.

However, my point was that the video did avoid the more racist terms to literally say "house slave," which is what "abd al-bayt" in fact literally means, "abd" meaning "slave" and "al-bayt" meaning "the house."

"Abd" shows up in many Arab names: "Abduallah" is "Slave of God." "Abdul-Rahman" is "Slave of Mercy," and "Abdul-Rahim" is "Slave of Charity."

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Oh yes, and the southeastern part of Riyadh, where Africans live, has long been called the "Hillat al-Abeed," the "Slave District." I note that in contrast with the US Protestants, Arab Muslims with their polygamy were more likely to marry their slaves with whom they were procreating, arguably a sort of tradeoff of sexism for racism.