He has a doctorate in Islamic studies and yet is waging violent jihad in order to restore the caliphate? How could this have happened? Are greasy Islamophobes in charge of Islamic studies at Baghdad university? John Esposito, call your office! Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — Dr. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — is a misunderstander of Islam who is fostering the spread of Islamophobic stereotypes! He must be stopped at once! Call out Daniel Martin Varisco! Get Reza Aslan on the phone! Send Faisal Abdul Rauf to Mosul! This Islamophobia must be nipped in the bud!
“Leader of Iraq insurgents is jihad’s rising leader,” by Mariam Karouny, Reuters, June 11, 2014:
BEIRUT (Reuters) – The leader of radical Sunni fighters who have made rapid military advances in Iraq is the rising star of global jihad, driven, Islamist fighters say, by an unbending determination to fight for and establish a hardline Islamic state.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, commander of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now controls large parts of eastern Syria and western Iraq, a vast cross-border haven for militants in the Sunni Muslim core of the Middle East.
Despite his power – and a $10 million U.S. reward for information leading to his capture – little is known about a man who for his own survival has shunned the spotlight.
Fighters from ISIL and its rivals who spoke to Reuters praised Baghdadi as a strategist who succeeded in exploiting turmoil in Syria and Iraq’s weak central authority after the U.S. military withdrawal to carve out his powerbase.
He has proved ruthless in eliminating opponents and showed no hesitation in turning against former allies to further his ambition of creating an Islamist state.
Enemies, even those from rival radical groups who broadly share ISIL’s religious ideology, are fought and defeated. Captured fighters – and non-combatants – are usually shot or decapitated, their deaths recorded in grisly videos which inspire fear and revulsion among opponents.
“In short, for Sheikh Baghdadi, each religion has its state except Islam, and it should have a state and it should be imposed. It is very simple,” said one of his non-Syrian members, speaking from inside Syria.
According to the U.S. reward notice, which depicts a round-faced, brown-eyed man with closely cropped beard and short dark hair, Baghdadi was born in the Iraqi town of Samarra in 1971.
He got a doctorate in Islamic studies at Baghdad university, jihadi websites say, and after years of fighting with al Qaeda groups became leader of its Islamic State in Iraq in 2010.
A year later, sensing opportunity when the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad erupted, Baghdadi sent an aide across the border to expand al Qaeda’s foothold there….
“He is becoming very popular among jihadis. They see him as someone who is fighting the war of Islam,” said a Nusra Front fighter from the Syrian city of Aleppo, adding bitterly that Baghdadi’s supporters “cannot see the damage he is inflicting”
“He has received letters expressing loyalty from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well,” the Nusra fighter said. “Sheikh Zawahri is trying but I think it is too late.”
From Nusra’s perspective, Islamists in Syria have “entered a cycle of blood and nobody will come out of it,” he added.
To his followers, Baghdadi represents a new generation of fighters working to fulfill the next stage of bin Laden’s dream, moving from Qaeda – which can mean ‘base’ in Arabic – towards the fully fledged radical state.
“Sheikh Baghdadi and Sheikh Osama are similar. They always look ahead, they both seek an Islamic state,” said a Syrian ISIL fighter….