When the FBI named the Tsarnaev brothers persons of interest in the bombing of the Boston Marathon, an extensive search for a motive began.
But in all the shuffling and conspiracy-hashing, most reporters missed clues indicating that the suspects had been swept up in a mission rooted in a marginal and much-disputed Islamic prophecy about apocalypse—and the proper role for religious heroes.
More than a year after the attack on the marathon, this same belief system and the relatively small front of Muslim militants behind it surfaced again, this time as ISIS terrorists carried black flags in their sweeps through the Middle East, their paths blazed in blood and beheadings.
As America braces for the upcoming death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it’s important to acknowledge, as some outlets have, that the suspects in Boston subscribed to the same ideologies under attack by the American military and its allies. Beneath that surface connection, though, is an even deeper and more ominous fascination with End Times that is center to the case at hand. Those things considered, some important background:
- In Islamic sacred belief, Jesus of Nazareth is a prophet who helps prepare the way for the Mahdi, Islam’s End Times messiah. Many terrorists in Al Qaeda believe the Mahdi will establish a global Islamic Caliphate after warriors of Islam recapture Jerusalem while carrying their signature Black Flags of Khorasan.
- Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot dead in the street after he was identified as a prime suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. A video still remains posted on his YouTube page in which black flags are raised in an attempt to rebuild the Muslim Caliphate as the first step toward ruling the world with a totalitarian and fundamentalist fist.
- Currently, many terrorism experts are arguing over the influence of the so-called Khorasan Group within Al Qaeda. Disagreements aside, one common thread to emerge is that terrorists are abducting sacred prophecies from Boston to Baghdad.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev posted this and other propaganda videos on his YouTube page
Generally speaking, the Tsarnaevs apparently fashioned themselves heroes taking part in an apocalyptic mission to strike at the idea, blasphemous to them, that Boston is a beacon of liberty in a land blessed by God. The vast majority of devout Muslims find this interpretation of sacred text to be appalling. Nevertheless, the minority is fueling chaos on multiple continents.
Evil triumphs when good men do nothing
As the prophecy goes, when the Muslim fighters carrying the Black Flags of Khorasan reach Israel and seize Jerusalem, the Muslim messiah Mahdi joins in the apocalyptic global battle. Tens of millions of Christians also believe this showdown is approaching. One poll indicates roughly 20 percent of Americans think President Barack Obama is or might be the Antichrist—Satan’s chief aide-de-camp in apocalyptic warfare. That significant voting block, largely religious conservatives who support military intervention on behalf of Israel, expects the Christian messiah Jesus to return to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—currently the site of Islamic shrines.
The Black Flags of Khorasan prophecy is marginal within contemporary Islam. It is said to be a hadîth, or a traditional recorded record of the statements and acts of the prophet Muhammad. According to Sheikh Salman Al-Oadah at Islam Today:
The hadîth about the army with black banners coming out of Khorasan has two chains of transmission, but both are weak and cannot be authenticated. If a Muslim believes in this hadîth, he believes in something false. Anyone who cares about his religion and belief should avoid heading towards falsehood.
If you have the knowledge and the inspiration all that’s left is to take action
Imagine you are a devout Muslim drawn into a fanatical sociopolitical movement that equates the United States with Satan. Attacking civilians on Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts is an act that glorifies God. In the mindset of a religious Islamic totalitarian, there are no innocent civilians in this country. We are all complicit in a heretical imperialist juggernaut crushing God’s chosen religion, and hobbling those true Muslims who are trying to re-establish the worldwide Caliphate that will rule as agents of God’s will. This is destiny, and only adversaries stand in the way.
Never underestimate the rebel with a cause
For the most fanatical apocalyptic Muslims, the waving of the Black Flags of Khorasan justifies converting or killing all those who refuse to help purify the planet in anticipation of End Times. As the Obama administration aims to stabilize democracies with drones and bombs, it’s more critical than ever to both thoroughly examine the enemy’s thinking and highlight the Islamic leaders condemning the terrorists. Only then, and through tangible aid to help rebuild shattered Middle Eastern economies, can one begin to address the ubiquitous forces of evil that connect Cambridge to the Tsarnaevs’ native Caucasus and beyond.
This is a preview of Chip Berlet’s upcoming DigBoston feature on End Times ideology and the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Chip is an alt media veteran and expert on apocalypticism who has served in investigative roles from High Times to the Defending Dissent Foundation. His forthcoming book, Boston’s Marathon Apocalypse: Fanaticism, Murder & the Shining Beacon on the Hill, is due out on Write to Power Books in April 2015.