When I saw this article, “No middle ground” by Irfan Husain, this morning in Dawn (thanks to D.C. Watson), I realized that I had let go by the egregious piece by Osama Saeed to which it is replying, which appeared in The Guardian not too long ago. (Like so many other stories, I set it aside to reply to in detail later, but got overwhelmed by the rush of work and travel and never got back to it.) Saeed was essentially saying that the non-Muslim world should not be concerned or determined to resist the goal of Osama bin Laden and other jihadists everywhere — reinstitution of the caliphate. He argued that it would be a good thing for Muslims and the rest of the world. Husain reminds him of a few things he left out.
IN a recent article in the Guardian titled “The return of the caliphate”, Osama Saeed argues that the restoration of the caliphate to unite the Muslim world is a desirable goal. In support of his argument, he cites the success of the European Union and the United States in forging political and economic unions.
He conveniently forgets that both his examples are secular entities, whereas the caliph derived his authority from his designation as God’s vice-regent on earth. He also glosses over the inconvenient history of the caliphate which saw much intrigue and bloodshed. Indeed, after the sack of Baghdad by Halaku in 1258, the reigning caliph Khalifa Mustasim was killed, and his surviving Abbasid relatives sought refuge in Cairo. His uncle was appointed caliph in the Mamluk capital.
Subsequently, for the next 250 years or so, the caliph was a virtual prisoner in Cairo until the Ottomans anointed themselves the spiritual and temporal leaders of the Muslim world, and moved the caliphate to Istanbul. This institution was finally abolished in 1924 by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the secular leader of the newly established Turkish republic, much to the consternation of Muslims around the world. Now, many Muslims think the answer to their current woes is the revival of the caliphate.
Leading this school of thought is Osama bin Laden and his bloodthirsty cohorts. But none of these extremists seem to have considered the practical difficulties in transforming their dream into reality. For starters, who would decide on a suitable candidate? Given the deep schisms that divide the Muslim world today, I cannot see how a consensus can be developed….
What are the other goals of Al Qaeda and similar groups? Apart from wishing to restore the caliphate, they also want to reverse the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain, as well as overthrow the rule of non-Muslims from countries where the faithful once held sway. These include India, Bosnia and Chechnya. And of course, Jews must be thrown out of Israel. They also want to see the removal of all kings, generals and sundry rulers currently running Muslim countries. It goes without saying that all other Muslim sects with the exception of a Salafi interpretation of the faith have to be destroyed.
In the long term, the whole world must be converted to Islam, and Sharia must be the law governing everybody. Understandably, the rest of the world is not very enthusiastic about these plans. Fortunately, we live in a very diverse world, and we are all enriched as a result. The thought of a homogeneous world in which there is imposed uniformity of thought is a repulsive one, no matter which ideology motivates it.
Converted or subjugated, of course. Read it all.