The new caliphate 80

Again there is an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East.

It is 90 years since the last caliphate came to an end.

The Ottoman Sultan was the Caliph. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, the Turks themselves repudiated and banished him.

This is from The Economist, March 8, 1924:

THE REPUDIATION of the Caliphate by the Turks marks an epoch in the expansion of Western ideas over the non-Western world, for our Western principles of national sovereignty and self-government are the real forces to which the unfortunate ‘Abdu’l Mejid Efendi has fallen a victim. Both by tradition and by theory, the Caliph is an absolute monarch over a united Islamic world, and it is therefore almost impossible to find a place for him in a national state (whether it be called a republic or a constitutional monarchy) in which the sovereignty is vested in the parliamentary representatives of the people.

The banishment [of the Caliph] … is the logical consequence of the policy which has been steadily pursued by the Turkish Nationalist (or “Defence of Rights”) Party since its foundation in the summer of 1920. Mustafa Kemal Pasha [Kemal Ataturk] and his associates have always had two main ends in view: that the Turkish nation should be absolute master in its own house, and that it should retain neither pretensions nor liabilities outside what it regards as the proper boundaries of its own “national home”. … 

The banishment of the Caliph will not, perhaps, prejudice the friendship between Turkey and such countries as Egypt, Persia or Afghanistan, where compact and fairly homogeneous Muslim peoples are just now awaking to national consciousness, and are following Turkey’s example in reorganising their political life on national lines. For all these peoples the Western idea of nationality is in the ascendant, and the Caliphate is losing its power over the imagination.

With the rise of Turkish nationalism, the Caliphate became a thing of the past as far as the “Young Turks” were concerned. But for other Muslims, the end of the Turkish Caliphate was a lamentable development.

But what of the vast Muslim populations in India, Russia, China, and the African colonies of the Western Powers, who are “dispersed abroad: among the Gentiles” and subjected to alien rule? For these Muslim subject minorities the spread of nationalism throughout the world means submergence if not extinction, while the Caliphate carries a message of salvation through an international Muslim solidarity. This is the explanation of the Indian Muslim’s distress at the Turkish Nationalists’ action. We are possibly on the eve of a profound cleavage of policy within the Muslim world.

The new Caliph is summoning Muslims from all over the world to come to the Islamic state he has proclaimed.

Apparently, they will resume from there the old war of Islam against “Rom” – Christendom, perceived by Islam from the time of the Crusades to be centered in the ancient capital of the Roman Empire.  

The Telegraph reports:

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of the ‘Islamic State’ stretching across Iraq and Syria, has vowed to lead the conquest of Rome as he called on Muslims to immigrate to his new land to fight under its banner around the globe.

Baghdadi …  said Muslims were being targetted and killed from China to Indonesia.

Speaking as the first Caliph, or commander of the Islamic faithful since the dissolution of the Ottoman empire, he called on Muslims to rally to his pan-Islamic state.

“Those who can immigrate to the Islamic State should immigrate, as immigration to the house of Islam is a duty,” he said in an audio recording released on a website used by the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham:

Rush O Muslims to your state. It is your state. Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. The land is for the Muslims, all Muslims. This is my advice to you. If you hold to it you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills.

Having claimed the title of “caliph”, Baghdadi appealed to “judges and those who have military and managerial and service skills, and doctors and engineers in all fields.”

He also called on jihadi fighters to escalate fighting in the holy month of Ramadan, which began on Sunday:

In this virtuous month or in any other month, there is no deed better than jihad in the path of Allah, so take advantage of this opportunity and walk the path of you righteous predecessors. So to arms, to arms, soldiers of the Islamic state, fight, fight.

In a reflection of the havoc wreaked the past month by the Sunni insurgency led by the group … more than 2,400 people were killed in Iraq in June, making it the deadliest month in the country in years.

Baghdadi’s claims to control vast territority have yet to be tested by an Iraqi government counter attack. Many Muslim groups dispute his putative caliphate. However some experts fear his rise could transform the appeal of extremist Islam, partly by harassing social media to build a global following.

The Sunni insurgents’ advance, which has plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since US troops left in 2011 puts it up against avowed enemies in Shia areas.

Against the Shia forces of Iraq, even though they are strongly supported and aided by Iran, the “soldiers of the Islamic state” stand a chance of winning.

But against “Rom”, or what it actually is, the Western World, it  stands no chance at all. In fact, Baghdadi has presented the West with a great opportunity. It is most convenient for the Western powers – committed by President Bush to wage war on “Terror” (then the politically correct term for Islam) – that there is now a territorial target. Victory should be quick and easy.

Would be – if the West had a leader who accepted the fact that Islam is the enemy and wanted to win the war.

But no such leader exists. The president of the United States, who should be that leader, is a dedicated pacifist deeply sympathetic to Islam.

So what will happen next as Islam proceeds with the war that Baghdadi – and who knows how many of his followers world-wide – regard as a sequel to the Crusades?

One thing is certain: we live in interesting times.