Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal

It is absurd to be baffled by those who leave Britain for Iraq and Syria, argues renowned academic John Casey. Healing the divisions of Islam and forming a single state under God’s law is a dream that stands at the heart of all Muslim traditions

“…Last week the Today programme asked some British Muslims why so many of their community are going to Syria to fight. The usual answers came – they are brainwashed, or groomed, or they have no real understanding of Islam. One old man said simply that he could not imagine why three mothers could abandon their husbands and take their nine children to a war zone. Other explanations have been offered – these young men go for sex, for money, for sadism. There have even been bizarre attempts to blame the British police for radicalising some of them.

The bafflement strikes me as absurd. What is the mystery? When my lame attempt at humour in Al Azhar fell flat I realised that certain ideas had never died. For the Caliphate had existed as long as Islam itself. That Muslims throughout the world form a single community – an Umma – is not the conviction of a few cranks. It is inherent in all Muslim traditions. Even if the divisions within the Arab world make a Caliphate seem impossible to achieve, very many Muslims – perhaps the majority throughout the world – respond to it instinctively as an ideal.”

  • ellake

    I am rather disgusted when the guy who is hailed as a “historian” writes that ” The Crusaders committed atrocities on the way pretty much comparable to
    the barbarities of Isis – and when finally they captured Jerusalem,
    they slaughtered 70,000 Muslims, so that they waded knee-deep in blood,”
    He, who is supposed to be historian, is taking unquestioningly figures from an anonymous Muslim chronicle which were rejected by other Western historians. Even Wikipedia writes that the figures are much too high.
    Otherwise, yes he is mostly right.

  • Jay Currie

    That is an excellent and worthwhile essay. The desire for the caliphate is part of a broad thrust of Islam. Pretending otherwise is foolish.

    As importantly, if the Muslim world wants a caliphate it is none of our business. Of course there will be a century or two of killing as the Sunnis and the Shi’tes battle out the question of which caliphate. And it is unlikely that the Saudis will accept anything less than a caliphate with their King in charge.

    But, in principle, there is no real reason for the West to give a rat’s ass until and unless the caliphate begins to attack the West. As Islam has done before. So, while it makes sense to let the Muslims have at it and kill each other in the millions, we also need to isolate the battleground and prevent the fight from coming to us. Beginning with ending all immigration from Islamic countries save and except the non-Muslim minorities who have no dog in this fight.

    Which would require politicians who actually understood and were willing to fight against the threat of Islam. They are coming but they are not here yet.