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By: Rajinder Kumar
The implications of the declaration of a caliphate by the followers of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have not been fully realised by the international community, particularly the Islamic countries. By its very concept, a caliphate is not confined to areas currently held by the ISIS or to Muslim communities/ countries, but extends to the whole world. I will henceforth refer to the ISIS as the Caliphate-Baghdadi.
By declaring al-Baghdadi amir of the caliphate, a challenge has been thrown to all other jihadi groups to either recognise his leadership and submit to his command, or contest it by taking him on. Ayman al-Zawahiri of al-Qaeda now has serious competition for the leadership of jihadi groups. Being in control of substantial territory and having no dearth of funds, the Caliphate-Baghdadi is likely to benefit from desertions from other Sunni jihadi groups and declarations of allegiance from other Islamist terrorist groups across the globe
In Islamic thought, the “ummah” represents a universal world order ruled by a caliph in accordance with the shariat, modelled after the community founded by Prophet Muhammad at Medina in 622 CE. It includes Jews and Christians living within its territory as separate, albeit inferior, communities. Since the concept of a caliphate does not recognise the nation state — the only legitimate entity, the ummah, encompasses all Muslim lands — the Caliphate-Baghdadi has openly challenged the legitimacy of governments of all Muslim countries of the Middle East. There is a possibility of some sections in these countries declaring their allegiance to the caliphate, thus exacerbating the latent discontent in almost all of them. It is to be seen how the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Turkey react to this development.
Shias in general and Iran in particular should be the most worried by the Caliphate-Baghdadi, which considers Shias to be apostates who should either be forced to return to the original faith (the Salafi version of Sunnism) or be annihilated. The persecution of Shias in Iraq under Saddam Hussein was reciprocated after the fall of his regime in 2003. In fact, the genesis of the Caliphate-Baghdadi can be traced to Shia atrocities on Sunnis after the formation of the Nouri al-Maliki government with Iranian patronage. In Syria, too, there was widespread repression of Sunnis under the Shiite Assad regime.
The failure of al-Qaeda to carry out any spectacular action against the “enemies of Islam” in recent years has caused disenchantment among potential recruits in the West. The Caliphate-Baghdadi is likely to rekindle their interest, and many of them could proceed to the conflict zone in the Middle East. Al-Baghdadi is also likely to call upon his followers to carry out attacks in the lands of “infidels”, specially the US, to prove his global reach and continued…