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The Mystery of Shaker Al Absi - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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After numerous and lengthy debates regarding the fate of Fatah al Islam leader Shaker Al Absi, who mysteriously disappeared after the battles between the Lebanese army and Fatah al Islam ended late September 2007, an audio tape by al Absi emerged and has been broadcast by several extremist websites via the internet over the past week to demonstrate once again the system that this kind of “Jihadist” had established.

Al Absi’s alleged audio message and the threats that he had made against the Lebanese army from an anonymous location followed the example of Al Qaeda members and their affiliates after they had suffered a defeat and were forced to disappear owing to military changes on the ground. Accordingly, al Absi’s emergence is no less mysterious.

It is noticeable that Al Absi’s emergence on the internet, just like Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, [Abu Musab al] Zarqawi and others before them materialised after an unexplained absence. It is as if the demise of these figures as human beings is connected to their transformation into distant voices and faces that threaten and terrorize and appear suddenly in an incomprehensible manner; however it has become a phenomenon that is being repeated on a daily basis within our media.

In his latest audio message it appears that Shaker Al Absi, who is not known for mastering the Jihadist discourse since he was originally an outsider to this experience, has received some kind of training on how to deliver speeches without which the image of “the jihadist” would be incomplete. The audio message entitled “A warning and a Horn” mentioned that the recording was prepared by the media department of Fatah Al Islam in the same way that the specialized Sahab media entity is based on Al Qaeda’s tapes.

Former jihadists faced the same outcome after their failures on the ground; they transformed into tools of a media war that has its own literature. For example, in his audio message, Al Absi used expressions such as “the epic of Nahr el Bared camp,” “The Lions of Islam,” “The common attack by infidel forces,” and other terms that are usually reiterated in speeches by Bin Laden, Zawahiri and their jihadist followers. Of course, in the speech, which lasted almost one hour, al Absi did not forget to mention the leader of Al Qaeda a number of times.

Those who know Shaker al Absi unanimously agree that he does not have strong oratory skills and that he expresses himself poorly and is incapable of convincing others. However as his role at the camps of northern Lebanon came to an end, his withdrawal or “escape” to a certain location caused him and those who were harbouring him to reconsider the way in which he presents himself. Perhaps he saw that the discourse of those who are absent would not be complete without the Al Qaeda discourse that is broadcast via the internet and that is delivered so easily and effectively.

Once again, modern means of communication are being used negatively in order to demonstrate violent positions and promote the calls for war and conflict. The irony here does not lie in the capacity of these means of communication to spread destructive ideas but rather in the inability to benefit from these technologies by promoting modern and liberal thinking that limits the ability of these destructive ideas to reach large parts of our societies.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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