What the Dickens? Symbolic details in Inspire issue 3

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

It’s easily missed. It’s part of the “small print” that most small-format paperbacks carry on the copyright page:

The sale of this book without its cover is unauthorized. If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that it was reported to the publisher as “unsold and destroyed.” Neither the author nor the publisher has received payment for the sale of this “stripped book.”

Here’s the picture that AQAP took of the copy of Dickens’ novel Great Expectations they inserted into one of their bombs recently – which they then published in issue 3 of their English language magazine Inspire:


And here’s the explanation that accompanies that photo, in a piece titled “The Objectives if Operation Hemorrhage” by their “Head of the Foreign Operations Team”:

This current battle fought by the West is not an isolated battle but is a continuation of a long history of aggression by the West against the Muslim world. In order to revive and bring back this history we listed the names of Reynald Krak and Diego Diaz as the recipients of the packages. We got the former name from Reynald de Chatillon, the lord of Krak des Chevaliers who was one of the worst and most treacherous of the Crusade’s leaders. He fell into captivity and Salahuddeen personally beheaded him. The name we used for the second package was derived from that of Don Diego Deza, the Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition after the fall of Granada who along with the Spanish monarchy supervised the extermination and expulsion of the Muslim presence on the Iberian Peninsula employing the most horrific methods of torture and done in the name of God and the Church. Today we are facing a coalition of Crusaders and Zionists and we in al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula will never forget Palestine. How can we forget it when our motto is: “Here we start and in al-Aqsa we meet”? So we listed the address of the “Congregation Or Chadash”, a Gay and Lesbian synagogue on our one of our packages. The second package was sent to “Congregation B’nai Zion”. Both synagogues are in Chicago, Obama’s city.
We were very optimistic about the outcome of this operation. That is why we dropped into one of the boxes a novel titled, Great Expectations.

They may not have read the book or seen the movie, as Ibn Siqilli comments at the link above, but they do have long memories and/or a taste for history, and they are indeed sending signals with small details like the fictitious names of their addressees.


This is in line with one of the basic premises of Islamic thought: that the world we inhabit is a world of ayat or symbols (the singular is ayah, and the word is also used to refer to the verses of the Qur’an, each of which is viewed as a symbolic utterance). Here, for instance, is a passage from Fazlun Khalid’s paper, Islam and the Environment, from the website of Jordan’s Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought:

The Qur’an refers to creation or the natural world as the signs (ayat) of Allah, the Creator, and this is also the name given to the verses contained in the Qur’an. Ayat means signs, symbols or proofs of the divine. As the Qur’an is proof of Allah so likewise is His creation. The Qur’an also speaks of signs within the self and as Nasr explains, “… when Muslim sages referred to the cosmic or ontological Qur’an … they saw upon the face of every creature letters and words from the cosmic Qur’an … they remained fully aware of the fact that the Qur’an refers to phenomena of nature and events within the soul of man as ayat … for them forms of nature were literally ayat Allah”. As the Qur’an says, “there are certainly signs (ayat) in the earth for people with certainty; and in yourselves. Do you not then see?” (Adh-Dhariat, 51:20, 21).


BTW, I don’t think Penguin (or, for that matter, Charles Dickens) got paid for that book… whatever their expectations may have been.

7 thoughts on “What the Dickens? Symbolic details in <em>Inspire</em> issue 3”

  1. Penguin? That’s the Oxford World Classics edition. If you go here and press the right arrow once, you can see the very page visible in your picture (biography of the author). What kind of Chicago Boy doesn’t know the difference between a Penguin and an O.W.C.?

  2. If I ever read Great Expectations, it was 40+ years ago, and I have no memory of it. However, if the very detailed plot summary at Wikipedia can be trusted, the “great expectations” of Dickens’ title are in fact disappointed: all the money Pip had expected to inherit goes to the taxman. Maybe AQAP should have read the book before using it as a symbol. (Maybe I should, too, of course.)

  3. Ha! Thanks for the correction.

    I’m actually an Oxford boy, with a Chicago affiliation for blogging purposes — so double shame on me. And i don’t think I’ve read Great Expectations, either — I’m not a great fan of Dickens, but that may be an artifact of earlier aspects of my education.

  4. FWIW, Anonymous, posting comment #3, is myself — I was posting from another machine, and didn’t realize it “hadn’t recognized me”.

    And okay, I’m not young enough to understand the implications, but the Always Judged Guilty blog is reliable on Yemen, and it seems the comment there on current slang in Inspire #3 is likely on the mark, perhaps even hilarious. Check it out!

  5. Islam believers have rewritten history to justify murdering Christians just as Marxists have rewritten history to justify class and race warfare.

    Christians brought back many Islamic ideas from the crusades — numbers, sheriffs, lost manuscripts, medicines, architecture, Damascus steel to name only a few. Muslims learned nothing.

    Islam severely limits creativity because the Prophet answers every question. Islamic creativity is solely devoted to forcing reality to match the answers given by the Prophet. The Medieval Bishop of Rome claimed infalibility only in matters of faith and morals, and only when he spoke Ex Cathedra, which was very seldom. He left everything else unregulated.

    As a result one culture prospered, the other perfected the sour grape.

  6. There’s an excellent analysis of the latest issue of Inspire out at FreeRadicals which includes a Dickens-to-al-Awlaki connection that I’m ashamed to say I’d read and forgotten:
    Al-Awlaki posted a series of book reviews featuring books he’d read in prison a while back, and expressed considerable anthusiasm for Dickens:

    I read Hard Times thrice. So, I ordered more Charles Dickens and read Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and his masterpiece: David Copperfield. I read this one twice.
    What fascinated me with these novels were the amazing characters Dickens created and the similarity of some of them to some people today. That made them very interesting. For example: the thick and boastful Mr. Josiah Bounderby of Coketown was similar to George W. Bush; Lucy’s father, Mr. Gradgrind, was similar to some Muslim parents who are programmed to think that only Medicine and Engineering are worthy professions for their children; the amazing cruelness of Stephen Blackpool was similar to some people who appear on the surface to be decent and kind human beings; and Uriah Heep was similar to some pitiful Muslims today.

    You can find a perceptive comment by Seth Hettena here, and Awlaki’s whole series of book reviews archived here.

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