Tiny minority of extremists update: the Post tells us that the idea of a restored caliphate “resonates with mainstream Muslims.” Someone ought to notify Stephen Schwartz that it resonates not with Wahhabis only. It’s interesting that what I have been saying for years now, about the jihadist goal of restoring the caliphate and dating the troubles of the umma to its abolition, has been dismissed and ignored by the learned analysts — but now the Post accepts it as axiomatic.
“Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical,” from the Washington Post, with thanks to all who sent this in:
ISTANBUL — The plan was to fly a hijacked plane into a national landmark on live television. The year was 1998, the country was Turkey, and the rented plane ended up grounded by weather. Court records show the Islamic extremist who planned to commandeer the cockpit did not actually know how to fly.
But if the audacious scheme prefigured Sept. 11, 2001, it also highlighted a cause that, seven years later, President Bush has used to define the war against terrorism. What the ill-prepared Turkish plotters told investigators they aimed to do was strike a dramatic blow toward reviving Islam’s caliphate, the institution that had nominally governed the world’s Muslims for nearly all of the almost 1,400 years since the death of the prophet Muhammad.
The goal of reuniting Muslims under a single flag stands at the heart of the radical Islamic ideology Bush has warned of repeatedly in recent major speeches on terrorism. In language evoking the Cold War, Bush has cast the conflict in Iraq as the pivotal battleground in a larger contest between advocates of freedom and those who seek to establish “a totalitarian Islamic empire reaching from Spain to Indonesia.”
The enthusiasm of the extremists for that vision is not disputed. However unlikely its realization, the ambition may help explain terrorist acts that often appear beyond understanding. When Osama bin Laden called the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon “a very small thing compared to this humiliation and contempt for more than 80 years,” the reference was to the aftermath of World War I, when the last caliphate was suspended as European powers divided up the Middle East. Al Qaeda named its Internet newscast, which debuted in September, “The Voice of the Caliphate.”
Yet the caliphate is also esteemed by many ordinary Muslims. For most, its revival is not an urgent concern. Public opinion polls show immediate issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and discrimination rank as more pressing. But Muslims regard themselves as members of the umma , or community of believers, that forms the heart of Islam. And as earthly head of that community, the caliph is cherished both as memory and ideal, interviews indicate.
Read it all. The article gets into some silly territory, blaming Bush and American foreign policy for not being more sensitive to legitimate caliphate aspirations — betraying yet again that the Post has no clue whatsoever just how much a restored caliphate would pose a threat to the West (not least because of the nature and goals of the groups promoting it most energetically). But there is some useful information in the piece.