Islamic caliphate

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Friday, July 11, 2014


TURKO” is the term Cebuanos use to describe people of Middle Eastern/Indian descent. I never figured out why for a long time. But recent developments on the establishment of Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) under the authority of a caliph may provide the answer.

While we are taught in World History about the Greek and Roman empires and later others like the Spanish and British empires, little is told about the Ottoman Empire (or the Turkish Empire) that was founded in 1299 by Oghuz Turks and which reached the height of its power in the 16th and 17th centuries. The empire included Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

The Ottoman Empire was dissolved after World War I with the establishment of modern-day Turkey and the creation of the Balkan and Middle Eastern countries.

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From my readings, the Ottoman Empire grew in might because the Islamic rulers allowed states to enjoy autonomy and their inhabitants to freely practice their faith, as long as they abided by the laws of the empire.

The modern era overtook the empire as the Allies fought against it, taking hold of territories and distributing these amongst themselves. For instance, the British and French, through the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, guaranteed French and British possession of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq.

The Isis wants to re-establish the old Ottoman Empire with Islam as a unifying force.

The appearance of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the leader of Isis, leading prayers at Mosul's Great Mosque, was a declaration that it has a controlled territory and is prepared to expand it.

Baghdadi called on the world's Muslims to "obey" him as the head of the caliphate, having been anointed by a Sunni jihadist group.

Calling himself Caliph Ibrahim, Baghdadi addressed his followers promising the return the Islamic world to “dignity, might, rights and leadership.”

He made clear his intention by addressing jihadists: “Allah likes us to kill his enemies and make jihad in his sake."

According to one source, by declaring the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, Isis (under the leadership of Baghdadi) is claiming to be the successor of the political and religious community established by the Prophet Muhammad.

Isis’ vision is easier said than done. While Isis could diminish the influence of al-Qaeda by making itself visible, it has made itself a target of all its enemies. Its foes not only include the United States and other Western countries but also Iraq, Syria and other Arab countries, not to mention Israel.

Baghdadi is bound to fail. To restore an empire in these modern times is simply impossible. Established nations and kingdom in the Middle East will not allow this to happen. Russia, which has military might and economic resources, is discovering that.

China is not making friends by claiming small islands in the Philippine Sea. What more for a caliph without a standing army, without enough resources, without support from the Islamic world, not even from “Turkos.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 12, 2014.

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