Syrian Opposition: Baghdadi “Caliphate” lame attempt to take Spotlight off his Crime Spree

By Juan Cole

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s proclamation of himself as “caliph” is rather like the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan declaring himself the Holy Roman emperor. A small criminal/ terrorist group making claim on an archaic institution is more worthy of ridicule than awe. Having offended educated Muslims around the world, the extremely violent psychopath and serial mass murderer, whose real name is Ibrahim al-Badri, went on Tuesday to call on Muslims to immigrate into his so-called ‘Islamic State’ in northern Syria and northern Iraq. He also declared a holy struggle (jihad) against his enemies during the fasting month of Ramadan.

At the same time, the anti-Assad opposition in Syria issued a joint statement from its “Religious Law Bureau,” saying that al-Baghdadi’s declaration of a caliphate is illegitimate both according to Islamic law and according to simple reason. In Syria, al-Baghdadi has killed his putative allies against Bashar al-Assad with such vicious abandon that even core al-Qaeda threw him out of their movement.

The religious affairs bureaus of the opposition groups said that “the prerequisites for the caliphate do not exist in our own time.” They said it was particularly invalid with regard to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” They said that al-Baghdadi’s declaration of the caliphate was an attempt to escape from his crimes and to endow his violent activities with an Islamic patina, especially his war on his opponents and on those who refuse to pledge fealty to him.

Al-Baghdadi’s call for immigrant Muslims refers to some medieval jurisprudents who forbade Muslims to live under non-Muslim rule and who urged them to emigrate to a Muslim-ruled kingdom. He is implying that Middle Eastern states are actually non-Muslim, and as such are apostates who should be killed. The “true” Muslims should therefore leave their homelands and come to live under ISIS.

In fact, the some 75 million Indian Muslims in British India in 1900 declined to emigrate even though they were ruled by the British non-Muslims. Muslim clerics mostly ruled that since Britain allowed them to practice their religion, it was licit for them to live and work there. Of course many Muslims served Hindu rajas of the princely states, as well. There was one sad episode in British India in 1920, where a hysteria spread that Muslims should not be living under foreign Christian rule, and some of them emigrated to Kabul in Afghanistan. They hadn’t made proper preparations, and there were not exactly a lot of jobs in Kabul for foreigners, so the whole thing quickly collapsed. Most straggled back, broke and traumatized. A few, ironically, ended up in Soviet Central Asia. The great clergymen condemned the movement as ignorant of Islamic law. Al-Baghdadi is attempting to provoke a similar hysteria.

As for jihad or holy struggle, al-Baghdadi is not recognized as having the prerogative to issue such a command. Classical Sunni law invested such a call in the duly constituted government. Current radical movements in Middle Eastern Islam see jihad or holy struggle as an individual duty (fard `ayn) on all Muslims. This is a heresy from the point of view of the Sunni tradition.

But the classical Muslim tradition does not recognize vigilantes, only the “people who bind and loose” as having such authority.


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13 Responses

  1. “They said it was particular invalid with retard to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”


  2. If all the above is true about Ibrahim al-Badri, then the main question that needs answered is: how does he attract any followers at all?

    • The chaos in Syria and an excellent propaganda campaign, especially on the net is what made ISIS a real force in the Middle East, IMO. That along with their religious extremism.

      No matter what their faith, religious fanatics willing to die for their cause are the most dangerous people on the planet. 9/11 and George’s XTIAN CRUSADE are the two best examples in the 21st century. 70% of America supported the idea of a PAYBACK CRUSADE AGAINST MUSLIMS even if was in a different country.

    • Al Capone had followers. So did Napoleon, and that Hitler guy, and Stalin, and Pol Pot, etc. People’s enthusiasms, greeds and identities line them up to follow dudes who pick up the knack of manipulating the effective symbology and lose the general reluctance to kill and grasp power.

      • I didn’t give a very good example. George’s XTIAN CRUSADE included other groups with various agendas, many having nothing to do with religion. But religious fanatics don’t always launch crusades that end badly. Joan of Arc and John Brown were both religious extremists 100% committed to their cause.
        Joan of Arc heard voices. John Brown led a massacre with the victims being hacked to death and then chopped into pieces.

        History has judged both favorably.

  3. While I agree that it isn’t going to attract hordes from Indonesia or Nigeria or anywhere really, I wouldn’t underestimate it. al-Baghdadi has clearly set up the most successful jihadi project to date and that is likely to attract more volunteers and defections from the likes of Jebhat al-Nusra. They have a similar ideology anyway and ISIS is looking more successful. I’m told a number of leaders and units, particularly in the Deir al-Zor area have already gone over. It may be a joke it you, but to literally millions of people living under it, it is a deadly serious matter.

  4. Once again many thanks for your lucid commentary.

    I might be a tad sectarian here (I’m convert to Twelver Shiism from Sunnism), but I think there is a genuine security threat to both the Occident and Orient emanating from this sub-strata of religious (often young) Sunni men who are in thrall to Salafi jihadism.

  5. If the struggle “Jihad” is to loot, kill, grab land, and fill personal pockets it is anything but JIHAD.

    The ISIS is the direct offshoot of Blair-Bush unjust, baseless, decision to attack and utterly destroy Iraq. Yes, Saddam Hussain was bad but he was good enough to serve western interests and control his people with iron hand. Saddam Hussain is dead along with his sons but now another Boogiman has been created.

    When we analyze evil things we may turn back to ourselves to see if we are the reason?

    For all practical reasons we are in the END TIMES and the world leaders are busy hastening it.

    May God bless the earth and those who dwell on it. Ameen.

    Mahboob Khan
    World’s Peace Ambassador
    High Performance Tennis Coach
    Islamabad, Pakistan

    • Blair-Bush sought their own gains, but unleashed instability and created an extremist magnet, with excuse to overthrow one kind of tyrant, among many in the region. They should be tried for war crimes, but sadly won’t. But, the East, and our global Muslim communities, should be accountable too. Despite active efforts to stop extremism, we still see radicals in global conflicts (sadly some Jihadists are from the Pakistani diaspora). Most other suffering religious/ethnic/political groups in some conflict or another today, don’t produce the same widespread violent crisis like us. Canada of all places, lists its top foreign, domestic terrorist threat as religo-political Sunni Islamist extremism, particularly the Wahhabi and Salafi kind.

      The Pak state with the US willingly utilized the same religious extremists, with foreign Saudi ideology, funds and radicals, for interests in South Asia, in the 80’s, if not earlier. It was detrimental to sectarian harmony way before 9/11. Even post-9/11 Pak played double games which was an open secret. At least there’s now army ops against the Pak Taliban. We’ll see if there’s sincere action on the Afghan Taliban, though I hear the likes of Haqqani, despite an early tip off, are being driven out to Afghanistan. Fleeing militants among IDPs still a problem. Need to address South Punjab and Eastern border extremist militants roaming openly despite wanted by the int’l community.

  6. ISIS/IS etc. Thrown out by al qaeda, why? CIA paw. Marauders who got western training in Syria. Western muslim youth fooled by propaganda designed to split perception from reality. Big Oil keeping control. Followers of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the west. Your best weapon in your jihad is in the ballot box, in a truly moral and just society, tolerance, mercy and truth become the torch to shine a light against satan. They want you to think its religious war, the truth is its always class war. Maliki, Saudis, Obama’s, Camerons, Putins of this world share one truth. Golden taps, plates etc and worship money.

  7. I watched Emile Hokayem, author of “Syria‚Äôs Uprising and the Fracturing of the Levant”, speak about situation in Syria (also Iraq.) He thinks the declaration of the caliphate will backfire greatly against ISIS, bad PR move. This is an excellent talk, highly recommended.
    link to

    Another interesting point he made: the nature of Syrian conflict as proxy war is overblown by outsiders looking for facile shorthand. Much more important are the very complex local conflicts. He sees the war in Syria (also Iraq I presume) going on for very long time, like Lebanon civil war. The local actors have their support networks in place to continue indefinitely.

    • Emile Hokayem explained how the nature of the Syrian conflict became local and Assad created the refugee crisis for his own benefit. Basically, he agreed with John McCain that we should have sent aid to the locals two years ago. Emile Hokayem thinks a long war in Syria will at least be partially caused by the United States inaction.

      10 million displaced people out of a total of 22 million. geez

      An excellent discussion.

  8. There were hundred thousands of indians that emigrated in the 40ies and fifties to Pakistan because of their religion. Whether it was worth it or not, they did it, and only a small minority did it out of actual religious piety. You can create facts on both sides if all you are after is a greater flock

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