Muslim conspiracy to Rule the World?

Haroon Siddiqui

Posted Jan 24, 2006      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Muslim conspiracy to rule world just nonsense

We had Wahhabism. We had the madrassas. We had the houris of Heaven. Now we have the caliphate.

Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld et al have been raising the spectre of a worldwide Islamic rule by a caliph, as envisaged by Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab Zarqawi and other terrorists.

The chances of a caliphate coming are zero. But raising its spectre helps keep Americans scared. Never mind that, just as the reasons given for the Iraq war proved false, the explanations offered for terrorism have not met the test of time either.

When 15 of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 turned out to have been Saudis, Washington and its apologists blamed Wahhabism, the essentialist Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. The problem with that theory was that the Saudi ruling family, the guardians of Wahhabism, was and remains the staunchest ally of the U.S. and guarantor of its energy needs.

We were also told that terrorists were hatched primarily in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere in religious schools. But we know now that most of those who bombed Bali, Jakarta, Istanbul, Amman, etc. were not graduates of those schools. Nor were those responsible for the train bombings in Madrid and London. They were Muslims born or raised in Europe.

So were the two Britons who went to Israel in 2003 to be suicide bombers. So was the man who murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004. So have been some of those turning up in Iraq to join the insurgency.

The third theory was that suicide bombers were inspired by Islam’s promise of a Paradise full of virgins. That may have motivated the religiously inclined but not others, certainly not women bombers, who had no such sexual favors to look forward to in Heaven.

Now comes the caliphate - from the Arabic word, khil’afah, rule by a khaleefah, successor to the Prophet Muhammad, who died in 632 A.D.

A caliphate is an ideal Islamic polity governed by God’s law. But a debate has raged for 1,400 years over whether it’s a religious requirement or just a tool to regulate social order and public welfare. Is it local or worldwide? There’s no consensus.

The first caliphate lasted until 661 A.D. Others followed, the last one being the Ottoman Empire that ended in 1924.

Since then, debate has turned to how best to combine religion and state. There’s no agreement. States labeling themselves Islamic have offered varying models - Afghanistan of the Taliban, Iran of the mullahs, the semi-dictatorships of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and the moderate Malaysia. Iraq now calls itself an Islamic democracy, ‡ la Israel’s Jewish democracy.

The dream of a caliphate is confined to the marginalized: a rallying cry by the bin Laden-Zarqawi crowd, and, among others, by a Central Asian group battling the dictatorships there.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov invokes the caliphate to justify his brutality. Who would have thought he would be echoed by Washington?

Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. commander in the Middle East, says Islamists “will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world.” Rumsfeld magnifies the danger, saying “Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia.”

George W. Bush talks about “a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain.”

Exaggerating the power of the enemy is a standard war tactic (used against Saddam Hussein by both George H.W. Bush in the 1991 Gulf War and by George W. Bush in 2003). But this caliphate business takes the cake. One can laugh it off but for its possible long-term consequences.

One of the biggest mistakes of the war on terrorism was the misreading of bin Laden’s initial popularity among Muslims.

He always had two constituencies; the few who joined his terrorist campaigns and the many who identified only with his articulation of Muslim grievances, albeit in religious terms.

America analyzed his theology and ignored his political message, while Muslim masses tuned out his religious claptrap but identified with his political message. He has since lost even that lure but America remains hobbled by its fixation with his religious pronouncements.

In being so, the Bush administration makes him and other terrorists sound more important than they are, thereby playing into their hands.

They no doubt love their own caliphate talk getting such worldwide amplification from Washington.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Toronto Star’s editorial page editor emeritus.