Calls for the establishment of a Global Islamic "caliphate"

Russia’s Knotty Policies on Islam, Mirrored in Trial

Kazan Journal
Published: June 2, 2009

KAZAN, Russia — Almaz Khasanov stood up to a microphone in the green-painted cage where he and his co-defendants sit and made a statement that sent a wave of anxiety through the cramped courtroom here.

“I am a member of the political party, Hizbut Tahrir,” he said in prepared testimony. “The goal of this organization is the creation of an Islamic way of life, including the creation of an Islamic Caliphate.”

Mr. Khasanov is a self-styled religious revolutionary who has vowed to challenge the longstanding way of life here in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, an ancient Muslim region deep in Russia’s heartland.

He is on trial along with 11 others, accused of membership in a terrorist organization and of fomenting plots to violently overthrow the government. Most of the men deny belonging to the group, and their friends and human rights advocates say that the Russian police and intelligence agents used torture to extract false evidence in the case.

By contrast, Mr. Khasanov freely admits to being a member of Hizbut Tahrir and insists that it should be his right. While Hizbut Tahrir has been banned as a terrorist organization in Russia and most of the other countries of the former Soviet Union, it has sworn off violence as a means of achieving its goals. It is allowed to operate in the United States and most of the European Union, though typically under intense scrutiny.

Nevertheless, many people here, Muslim and Russian Orthodox alike, are unsettled by the unabashed fundamentalism of Hizbut Tahrir, which preaches a pre-modern theology that is generally incompatible with Western notions of civil society. In that sense, the trial has underscored the country’s broader ambivalence toward its Muslim minority.

Though historically Muslim, Kazan, a city on the Volga River about 500 miles east of Moscow, has been shaped more by its confluence of cultures than by any one social current. Crescent-topped minarets compete with gilt Orthodox cupolas and bland Soviet high-rises for prominence in the city’s skyline, though shopping malls, boutique hotels, bars and nightclubs also appear striking.

The Tatar Muslims here, who have lived under Moscow’s control since Ivan the Terrible wrested the region from the Mongol Empire in the 16th century, appear little different from their Russian neighbors in their secular dress and penchant for chilled vodka.

Yet an influx of conservative ideas from abroad, officials and religious leaders say, is beginning to undermine local traditions and could even threaten the stability of the region.

But all the defendants on trial, their relatives and many experts on Islam in Russia deny this.

It is still unclear what level of involvement, if any, each of the other men had in Hizbut Tahrir. Many of their relatives denied that they were members at all. Rather, they said the men, mostly students, were being persecuted for studying and proselytizing Islam outside official religious structures.

“These are educated people — some have two degrees — and they were interested in different currents of Islam,” said Gulnaza Faisulina, whose husband is on trial. “They are seeking philosophical thoughts, and not all the religious leaders are capable of providing this.”

Valiulla Yakupov, a deputy mufti of the government-backed Muslim Religious Board of the Republic of Tatarstan, agreed that the Muslim establishment had not responded to the interests and desires of young Muslims.

“These people have been jailed for their ideas, not for their actions,” he said. “If I and other religious figures worked with them more actively and explained things to them, this most likely would not have happened.”

Inevitably, the trial has reflected Russia’s often contradictory policies toward Muslims, who number between 15 million and 20 million out of an overall population of 140 million. The authorities have promoted the construction of mosques and religious schools, and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, while president, lobbied the government of Saudi Arabia to increase quotas on Russian Muslims permitted to take part in the annual hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca.

But the government has also embarked on a concerted campaign of intimidation and persecution of free-thinking Muslims that has at times failed to adhere to the contours of human rights law, said Yelena Ryabinina, an expert on Muslim affairs in Russia.

Dmitry Afanasov, a Russian convert to Islam and a friend of many of the men on trial in Kazan, said he was beaten badly and lost consciousness several times at the hands of the police, who he said tortured him into giving false testimony incriminating his friends in terrorist plots in exchange for his freedom.

“They said they were given the green light to beat Muslims,” he said.

It is a campaign shaped in large part by Russia’s decade-and-a-half struggle against violent Muslim-backed separatist movements in the North Caucasus. Two bloody wars in Chechnya alone caused thousands of deaths.

Religious violence, however, is practically unheard of in Tatarstan, where the powerful president, Mintimer Shaimiev, has managed to preserve broad autonomy from Moscow in exchange for keeping separatist sentiments at bay.

The religious revival here, while broad, has been largely benign. About 50 mosques have been built since the fall of the Soviet Union. Madrasas and halal meat shops have opened, and more and more women, many of them young, walk the ornate pedestrian avenues wearing colorful head scarves.

Ruslan Kurbanov, a senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Oriental Studies, accused the authorities of stifling a new generation of Muslim thinkers seeking to rejuvenate the religion. Clamping a lid on religious innovation, he said, will only drive more Muslims to extremism.

“Only through acceptance of these new ideas,” he said, “and through permitting pluralism of opinion within official religious structures can the growing tensions and inclination of Muslims to extremism be eliminated.”

Before the recent hearing, Farida Rafikov, the mother of Dias Rafikov, one of the defendants, was adamant about her son’s innocence, saying he was passionately involved in his religion and nothing else.

Following Mr. Khasanov’s testimony, however, she appeared shaken.

“I just don’t know if he will admit to it or not,” she said. “I’m afraid to think about it.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir calls for the establishment of a "caliphate" 

Germany: Court Appeal By Hizb Ut-Tahrir Highlights Balancing Act Between Actions, Intentions
By Sophie Lambroschini

A date has been set for a German court to hear an appeal by the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir against the ban imposed on its activities almost two years ago. The case illustrates the thin line Germany is balancing in its efforts to combat Islamic radicals who have not been implicated in any terrorist activities but who are nevertheless perceived as a threat.

Berlin, 26 October 2004 (RFE/RL)
-- For members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, the battle to openly convince Muslims in Germany of the benefits of a worldwide Islamic state will be brought to court before the end of the year.

Karin Siebert, a press spokeswoman for the federal administrative court in Leipzig, told RFE/RL that the court, which reviews decisions made by federal ministries, will begin hearing the appeal on 2 December.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's appeal against the ban may affect German officials' handling of those they commonly dub as "hate-preachers" -- Islamic radicals who make virulent public pronouncements against Israel, the United States, and many Western values. These preachers are considered a threat but have never been implicated in any terrorist acts.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, best known for its growing influence as an illegal opposition movement in Central Asia, calls for the establishment of a "caliphate" over the whole Muslim world. While the group is largely tolerated as a nonviolent radical ideological group in the West and in Europe -- except for Germany and, more recently, Russia -- is banned and often persecuted in many Muslim countries.

For Hizb ut-Tahrir, the court date represents a chance to reverse a decision made unilaterally by German Interior Minister Otto Schily in January 2003. Schily said the group was "spreading hate and violence" and was calling for the killing of Jews.

One member of Hizb ut-Tahrir has been expelled from Germany for alleged ties to one of the 11 September attackers. However, German officials admit that the raids and searches in offices and homes have so far revealed little.

The group's representative in Germany is Shaker Assem, an engineer and an Austrian national of Egyptian descent. He rejects the accusations:

"We, the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, are not anti-Semitic," Assem said. "We consequently reject that [accusation]. We do not call to kill Jews. Our call is addressed to the Muslim people to defend themselves against the Zionist aggression in Palestine. And they have the right to do so."

For the same reason, Assem said, he does not condemn the "resistance against the American aggressor in Iraq."

Nevertheless, Assem insists the group is "nonviolent," arguing that its efforts are not directed against Western governments and that the coming of the caliphate "will not necessarily mean bloodshed."

The scandal around Hizb ut-Tahrir in Germany erupted over a conference organized two years ago against the looming Iraq war by a student group affiliated with Hizb ut-Tahrir at Berlin's Technical University. The conference was also attended by several members of the extreme right-wing National German Party (NPD). The meeting provoked outrage in the press against "Islamists and neo-Nazis" uniting to deliver anti-Semitic harangues in a learning institution.

Schily banned the group three months later under new German antiterrorist legislation adopted in the aftermath of 11 September that lifted a privilege protecting religious groups.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is not being prosecuted as a terrorist organization but as going "against the concept of international understanding" contained in the German Constitution, a tactic that has been used in the past against Nazi groups. Two other Islamic groups also were banned under the new law.

Events unfolded in Germany in the context of a country that is still coming to terms with its Nazi past and, more recently, with the embarrassment of having harbored many of the 9/11 hijackers, who had been leading double lives as students in Hamburg.

Uwe Halbach, a researcher at Berlin's respected Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), a think tank that advises the German government on foreign affairs, explained that despite the absence of calls to immediate violence many in Germany see Hizb ut-Tahrir's rhetoric as "evocative of jihad."

Halbach suggested that the ban against Hizb ut-Tahrir in Germany was triggered more by the university conference than by prior evidence. Halbach -- who is a specialist on Central Asia and has studied Hizb ut-Tahrir -- said the group's presence came as a surprise to German authorities.

"In Great Britain, Hizb ut-Tahrir is still not banned and has a surprisingly strong field of action -- a lot stronger agenda than in Germany," Halbach said. "In fact, in Germany, it all came as a surprise. No one really knew what this Hizb ut-Tahrir really was. At first, people were asking around, 'Who are these people, anyway?' "

Assem said he was told by police that the ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir was considered a "preventive" measure.

"When the police came into my apartment on the 15 of January 2003 for a second search, and I was informed that the party is forbidden, I asked the police chief why we were banned in Germany, although in other European countries, like Great Britain, where we are much more active and stronger, no one gives us a second thought," Assem said. "This is what he answered: 'We banned you in Germany so that what is happening in England doesn't happen here.'"

Analysts agree that Hizb ut-Tahrir appears to have a strong following in the United Kingdom. Its presence has also been noted with concern by Danish authorities.

In the United States, conservative politicians and analysts have been calling for increased pressure on members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. A recent report by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank called Hizb ut-Tahrir "an emerging threat to American interests in Central and South Asia and the Middle East."

More liberal lobbies warn against efforts to radicalize the group.

Indeed, observers note that Germany's policies will be followed closely well beyond its borders as an "in situ" case of where to draw the line between freedom of expression, radical propaganda, and illegality.

Paul Wilkinson, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, pointed out that some of these organizations are "very smart in walking the very fine line between propaganda and incitement to terrorism."

Wilkinson said this makes national authorities more careful when determining the moment to intervene.


Central Asia: Is Hizb ut-Tahrir a Threat to Stability?

Established in the 1950s in the Middle East, Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (The Party of Islamic Liberation) began operating in Central Asia around 10 years ago. The group advocates replacing the governments of the Muslim world with an Islamic state in the form of a caliphate (Which is what the Ottoman Empire Was). Although the group professes only peaceful means to achieve its aims, Central Asian governments have mostly taken a harsh stance against it.

Prague, 23 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- During the past decade, the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir has become increasingly active -- and controversial -- in Central Asia.

Although the group officially espouses peaceful means to achieve its goal of establishing a caliphate, it's been blamed by Central Asian governments for a recent upsurge in Islamist violence. Uzbek authorities suspect it may be behind a series of recent attacks that killed several people there.

David Lewis, who runs the Central Asia project for the International Crisis Group (ICG) in the Kyrgyz city of Osh, says the group is feeding on discontent. He says many -- especially the young -- are attracted to it as an alternative form of political opposition or expression.

"Of course, Hizb ut-Tahrir is a threat to our society. It's a religious threat [because] it does not serve Islam. It only brings tension."

But he says Hizb ut-Tahrir's influence should not be exaggerated as it has little public support in Central Asia.

"It has been spreading but not as much as [Central Asian] governments suggest. There have been arrests in southern Tajikistan and there are occasional reports of arrests in northern Kyrgyzstan. [But] its core constituency is the Uzbek territory. In Kazakhstan they have gained increasing support. [However] for most young people of the region, it's not an attractive option," Lewis said.

Although Hizb ut-Tahrir is not known for committing terrorist acts, it's opposed by Central Asian governments at odds with the group's political objectives. Kenzhebulat Beknazarov, a spokesman for the Kazakh National Security Committee, told RFE/RL in the capital Astana.

"In general, Hizb ut-Tahrir and other similar organizations are serving against our constitution. Of course it is the goal of our state authorities and the National Security Committee to fight them, it is our obligation," Beknazarov said.

Uzbekistan is leading the way by arresting and sentencing thousands of members to prison terms. According to independent Uzbek estimates, there may be as many as 5,000 alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Uzbek prisons.

Twice this year, Uzbekistan was targeted by waves of violence, including bombings, for which authorities were quick to blame Hizb ut-Tahrir.

But the group claims to reject violence. Hizb ut-Tahrir member Sultan Badalov told RFE/RL in the Kyrgyz city of Jalalabad.

"In Islam, to kill someone and to shed his blood is a sin. It is forbidden to kill an innocent person, even if he is from another confession. Hizb ut-Tahrir is conducting political and ideological work only. And it is against armed fighting. Hizb ut-Tahrir does not have relations with terrorist actions," Badalov

In some instances, the governments have joined forces with mainstream religious figures to oppose Hizb ut-Tahrir. Imam Saidbek Boyzoda told RFE/RL recently in Dushanbe.

"Of course, Hizb ut-Tahrir is a threat to our society. It's a religious threat [because] it does not serve Islam. It only brings tension. Hizb ut-Tahrir is opposed by the police because they don't know the group's financial sources. The danger is [an] explosion because they [have fragmented] society. They use Islam as a mask but their words and actions don't have any link to Islam," Boyzoda said.

The utopia of a caliphate may not be achievable. But analysts warn that repression of Hizb ut-Tahrir members has radicalized the movement and threatened to sow the seeds of greater Islamist extremism.

Regional security expert Ahmed Rashid, the author of "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia," recently told RFE/RL, "The enormous repression of the regimes and the lack of any kind of political expression naturally forces politically oriented people to go underground and to become radicalized, and then join these Islamist groups."

(RFE/RL's Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Kazakh services contributed to this report)


HAMAS Targets Spain

Assyrian International News Agency


Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos' efforts earlier this year to remove HAMAS from the European Union's terrorist list, have done little to change HAMAS' agenda. It is not only Palestine that children in the West Bank and Gaza are asked to liberate; now they are asked to liberate Seville. The HAMAS children's magazine, Al-Fateh, in a recent issue, (No. 66), tells the children about the city called Asbilia (Seville) and calls on them to free it, together with the whole country, from the infidels and to reinstate Muslim rule.

This is how the magazine has the city Asbilia (Seville) telling its story to Hamas' children: "Salaam Aleykum my dear beloved. I would like to introduce myself: I am the city Asbilia, the bride of the country Andalus (Spain). In the past I was the Capital of the Kingdom of Asbilia… the Arab Muslims, led by the hero-commander Musa bin Nusair, conquered me in 713, after a siege, which lasted one month.

"In the year 97 of the Muslim calendar, the ruler of Andalus, Ayoub bin Habib al-Lahimi moved the Capital to my sister city, Cordoba… in the year 646 of the Muslim calendar, Ferdinand III besieged me and conquered me after a siege which lasted one year and five months, and that was due to the strength of my fortifications and my walls. This is when the Golden Age of the Muslims ended, and Asbilia (Seville) was lost by the Muslims."

And the story goes on: "However, Muslim cultural expression and symbols still remain witness to the superior Muslim culture on my soil…I yearn that you, my beloved, will call me to return, together with the rest of the lost cities of the lost orchard [Andalus] to the hands of the Muslims so that joy and happiness will fill my land, and you will visit me because I am the bride of the country of Andalus." (emphasis added)

This telling story comes at a time when Hamas, in English, states that its interest is "to liberate occupied Palestine." However, this story to liberate Spain, in Arabic, in a form that children can easily relate to, describes the Fatwa issued by Yusuf Qaradawi on December 2, 2002.

The Egyptian-born Yusuf Qaradawi, an al Azhar University-educated member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who resides in Qatar, is one of the most influential Sunni clerics. The Fatwa, which the children's story reiterates, follows the Muslim Brotherhood's teachings -which also serve as the basis of HAMAS' Charter.

Qaradawi, calls on Muslims to conquer Europe, saying: "Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and a victor after being expelled from it twice -- once from the south, from Andalusia, and a second time, from the east, when it knocked several times on the doors of Athens." Qaradawi ruled that Muslims should re-conquer "'former Islamic colonies' in Andalus (Spain), southern Italy, Sicily, the Balkans and the Mediterranean islands."

Indeed, the activities of Radical Islamist movements in Spain are nothing new. Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas was sentenced last September in Madrid, to 27 years in prison for aiding the 9/11 attacks from Spain, and 16 of his co-conspirators were convicted for belonging to al Qaeda. On December 20, 2005, 16 additional al-Qaeda operatives on Spain were arrested for allegedly sending volunteers to wage Jihad in Iraq. These arrests are only the most recent since the March 11, 2004 train bombing in Madrid.

In a series of speeches about the importance of confronting al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq, President George W. Bush acknowledged that their aim is to "establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Spain to Indonesia."

However, this ideology is clearly not limited to al Qaeda's terrorists. HAMAS' children magazine, Al Fateh's call to return Seville "to the hands of the Muslims" is no different than that of al-Qaeda's call to establish the Caliphate. Evidently, HAMAS' interests also extend to the liberation and Islamization of all occupied former Muslim territories, according to the dogma of the Muslim Brotherhood from which HAMAS originated.

Apparently encouraged by successful Jihad against Israel, HAMAS is now raising the ante, going international. Just as they have indoctrinated a generation of Palestinian children to commit suicide attacks against Israelis, they are now expanding their targets to include the rest of the Caliphate -- beginning with Spain. It is only a matter of time, before today's Palestinian children, and others exposed to HAMAS' publications start offering themselves up for the next stage of Jihad in Spain.

By Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed--and How to Stop It, Director of American Center for Democracy and a member of the Committee on the Present Danger. She is the world's leading expert on Narco-Terrorism and a noteworthy authority on international terrorism, political corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Most recently, she was a consult for the Department of Defense's Threat Reduction Strategy.


Islam’s Imperial Dreams

Efraim Karsh

When satirical depictions of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper sparked a worldwide wave of Muslim violence early this year, observers naturally focused on the wanton destruction of Western embassies, businesses, and other institutions. Less attention was paid to the words that often accompanied the riots—words with ominous historical echoes. “Hurry up and apologize to our nation, because if you do not, you will regret it,” declared Khaled Mash’al, the leader of Hamas, fresh from the Islamist group’s sweeping victory in the Palestinian elections:

This is because our nation is progressing and is victorious. . . . By Allah, you will be defeated. . . . Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the imagination but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world, Allah willing. Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good.

Among Islamic radicals, such gloating about the prowess and imminent triumph of their “nation” is as commonplace as recitals of the long and bitter catalog of grievances related to the loss of historical Muslim dominion. Osama bin Laden has repeatedly alluded to the collapse of Ottoman power at the end of World War I and, with it, the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate. “What America is tasting now,” he declared in the immediate wake of 9/11, “is only a copy of what we have tasted. Our Islamic nation has been tasting the same for more than 80 years, of humiliation and disgrace, its sons killed and their blood spilled, its sanctities desecrated.” Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s top deputy, has pointed still farther into the past, lamenting “the tragedy of al-Andalus”—that is, the end of Islamic rule in Spain in 1492.

These historical claims are in turn frequently dismissed by Westerners as delusional, a species of mere self-aggrandizement or propaganda. But the Islamists are perfectly serious, and know what they are doing. Their rhetoric has a millennial warrant, both in doctrine and in fact, and taps into a deep undercurrent that has characterized the political culture of Islam from the beginning. Though tempered and qualified in different places and at different times, the Islamic longing for unfettered suzerainty has never disappeared, and has resurfaced in our own day with a vengeance. It goes by the name of empire. 

“I was ordered to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.’” With these farewell words, the prophet Muhammad summed up the international vision of the faith he brought to the world. As a universal religion, Islam envisages a global political order in which all humankind will live under Muslim rule as either believers or subject communities. In order to achieve this goal, it is incumbent on all free, male, adult Muslims to carry out an uncompromising “struggle in the path of Allah,” or jihad. As the 14th-century historian and philosopher Abdel Rahman ibn Khaldun wrote, “In the Muslim community, the jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Islamic mission and the obligation [to convert] everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.”

As a historical matter, the birth of Islam was inextricably linked with empire. Unlike Christianity and the Christian kingdoms that once existed under or alongside it, Islam has never distinguished between temporal and religious powers, which were combined in the person of Muhammad. Having fled from his hometown of Mecca to Medina in 622 c.e. to become a political and military leader rather than a private preacher, Muhammad spent the last ten years of his life fighting to unify Arabia under his rule. Indeed, he devised the concept of jihad shortly after his migration to Medina as a means of enticing his local followers to raid Meccan caravans. Had it not been for his sudden death, he probably would have expanded his reign well beyond the peninsula.

The Qur’anic revelations during Muhammad’s Medina years abound with verses extolling the virtues of jihad, as do the countless sayings and traditions (hadith) attributed to the prophet. Those who participate in this holy pursuit are to be generously rewarded, both in this life and in the afterworld, where they will reside in shaded and ever-green gardens, indulged by pure women. Accordingly, those killed while waging jihad should not be mourned: “Allah has bought from the believers their soul and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the path of Allah; they kill and are killed. . . . So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him; that is the mighty triumph.”

But the doctrine’s appeal was not just otherworldly. By forbidding fighting and raiding within the community of believers (the umma), Muhammad had deprived the Arabian tribes of a traditional source of livelihood. For a time, the prophet could rely on booty from non-Muslims as a substitute for the lost war spoils, which is why he never went out of his way to convert all of the tribes seeking a place in his Pax Islamica. Yet given his belief in the supremacy of Islam and his relentless commitment to its widest possible dissemination, he could hardly deny conversion to those wishing to undertake it. Once the whole of Arabia had become Muslim, a new source of wealth and an alternative outlet would have to be found for the aggressive energies of the Arabian tribes, and it was, in the Fertile Crescent and the Levant.

Within twelve years of Muhammad’s death, a Middle Eastern empire, stretching from Iran to Egypt and from Yemen to northern Syria, had come into being under the banner of Islam. By the early 8th century, the Muslims had hugely extended their grip to Central Asia and much of the Indian subcontinent, had laid siege to the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, and had overrun North Africa and Spain. Had they not been contained in 732 at the famous battle of Poitiers in west central France, they might well have swept deep into northern Europe.

Though sectarianism and civil war divided the Muslim world in the generations after Muhammad, the basic dynamic of Islam remained expansionist. The short-lived Umayyad dynasty (661-750) gave way to the ostensibly more pious Abbasid caliphs, whose readiness to accept non-Arabs solidified Islam’s hold on its far-flung possessions. From their imperial capital of Baghdad, the Abbasids ruled, with waning authority, until the Mongol invasion of 1258. The most powerful of their successors would emerge in Anatolia, among the Ottoman Turks who invaded Europe in the mid-14th century and would conquer Constantinople in 1453, destroying the Byzantine empire and laying claim to virtually all of the Balkan peninsula and the eastern Mediterranean.

Like their Arab predecessors, the Ottomans were energetic empire-builders in the name of jihad. By the early 16th century, they had conquered Syria and Egypt from the Mamluks, the formidable slave soldiers who had contained the Mongols and destroyed the Crusader kingdoms. Under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, they soon turned northward. By the middle of the 17th century they seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe, only to be turned back in fierce fighting at the gates of Vienna in 1683—on September 11, of all dates. Though already on the defensive by the early 18th century, the Ottoman empire—the proverbial “sick man of Europe”—would endure another 200 years. Its demise at the hands of the victorious European powers of World War I, to say nothing of the work of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern Turkish nationalism, finally brought an end both to the Ottoman caliphate itself and to Islam’s centuries-long imperial reach.

To Islamic historians, the chronicles of Muslim empire represent a model of shining religious zeal and selfless exertion in the cause of Allah. Many Western historians, for their part, have been inclined to marvel at the perceived sophistication and tolerance of Islamic rule, praising the caliphs’ cultivation of the arts and sciences and their apparent willingness to accommodate ethnic and religious minorities. There is some truth in both views, but neither captures the deeper and often more callous impulses at work in the expanding umma set in motion by Muhammad. For successive generations of Islamic rulers, imperial dominion was dictated not by universalistic religious principles but by their prophet’s vision of conquest and his summons to fight and subjugate unbelievers.
That the worldly aims of Islam might conflict with its moral and spiritual demands was evident from the start of the caliphate. Though the Umayyad monarchs portrayed their constant wars of expansion as “jihad in the path of Allah,” this was largely a façade, concealing an increasingly secular and absolutist rule. Lax in their attitude toward Islamic practices and mores, they were said to have set aside special days for drinking alcohol—specifically forbidden by the prophet—and showed little inhibition about appearing nude before their boon companions and female singers.

The coup staged by the Abbasids in 747-49 was intended to restore Islam’s true ways and undo the godless practices of their predecessors; but they too, like the Umayyads, were first and foremost imperial monarchs. For the Abbasids, Islam was a means to consolidating their jurisdiction and enjoying the fruits of conquest. They complied with the stipulations of the nascent religious law (shari’a) only to the extent that it served their needs, and indulged in the same vices—wine, singing girls, and sexual license—that had ruined the reputation of the Umayyads.

Of particular importance to the Abbasids was material splendor. On the occasion of his nephew’s coronation as the first Abbasid caliph, Dawud ibn Ali had proclaimed, “We did not rebel in order to grow rich in silver and in gold.” Yet it was precisely the ever-increasing pomp of the royal court that would underpin Abbasid prestige. The gem-studded dishes of the caliph’s table, the gilded curtains of the palace, the golden tree and ruby-eyed golden elephant that adorned the royal courtyard were a few of the opulent possessions that bore witness to this extravagance.

The riches of the empire, moreover, were concentrated in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. While the caliph might bestow thousands of dirhams on a favorite poet for reciting a few lines, ordinary laborers in Baghdad carried home a dirham or two a month. As for the empire’s more distant subjects, the caliphs showed little interest in their conversion to the faith, preferring instead to colonize their lands and expropriate their wealth and labor. Not until the third Islamic century did the bulk of these populations embrace the religion of their imperial masters, and this was a process emanating from below—an effort by non-Arabs to escape paying tribute and to remove social barriers to their advancement. To make matters worse, the metropolis plundered the resources of the provinces, a practice inaugurated at the time of Muhammad and reaching its apogee under the Abbasids. Combined with the government’s weakening control of the periphery, this shameless exploitation triggered numerous rebellions throughout the empire.

Tension between the center and the periphery was, indeed, to become the hallmark of Islam’s imperial experience. Even in its early days, under the Umayyads, the empire was hopelessly overextended, largely because of inadequate means of communication and control. Under the Abbasids, a growing number of provinces fell under the sway of local dynasties. With no effective metropolis, the empire was reduced to an agglomeration of entities united only by the overarching factors of language and religion. Though the Ottomans temporarily reversed the trend, their own imperial ambitions were likewise eventually thwarted by internal fragmentation.

In the long history of Islamic empire, the wide gap between delusions of grandeur and the centrifugal forces of localism would be bridged time and again by force of arms, making violence a key element of Islamic political culture. No sooner had Muhammad died than his successor, Abu Bakr, had to suppress a widespread revolt among the Arabian tribes. Twenty-three years later, the head of the umma, the caliph Uthman ibn Affan, was murdered by disgruntled rebels; his successor, Ali ibn Abi Talib, was confronted for most of his reign with armed insurrections, most notably by the governor of Syria, Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufian, who went on to establish the Umayyad dynasty after Ali’s assassination. Mu’awiya’s successors managed to hang on to power mainly by relying on physical force, and were consumed for most of their reign with preventing or quelling revolts in the diverse corners of their empire. The same was true for the Abbasids during the long centuries of their sovereignty.

Western academics often hold up the Ottoman empire as an exception to this earlier pattern. In fact the caliphate did deal relatively gently with its vast non-Muslim subject populations—provided that they acquiesced in their legal and institutional inferiority in the Islamic order of things. When these groups dared to question their subordinate status, however, let alone attempt to break free from the Ottoman yoke, they were viciously put down. In the century or so between Napoleon’s conquests in the Middle East and World War I, the Ottomans embarked on an orgy of bloodletting in response to the nationalist aspirations of their European subjects. The Greek war of independence of the 1820’s, the Danubian uprisings of 1848 and the attendant Crimean war, the Balkan explosion of the 1870’s, the Greco-Ottoman war of 1897—all were painful reminders of the costs of resisting Islamic imperial rule.

Nor was such violence confined to Ottoman Europe. Turkey’s Afro-Asiatic provinces, though far less infected with the nationalist virus, were also scenes of mayhem and destruction. The Ottoman army or its surrogates brought force to bear against Wahhabi uprisings in Mesopotamia and the Levant in the early 19th century, against civil strife in Lebanon in the 1840’s (culminating in the 1860 massacres in Mount Lebanon and Damascus), and against a string of Kurdish rebellions. In response to the national awakening of the Armenians in the 1890’s, Constantinople killed tens of thousands—a taste of the horrors that lay ahead for the Armenians during World War I.

The legacy of this imperial experience is not difficult to discern in today’s Islamic world. Physical force has remained the main if not the sole instrument of political discourse in the Middle East. Throughout the region, absolute leaders still supersede political institutions, and citizenship is largely synonymous with submission; power is often concentrated in the hands of small, oppressive minorities; religious, ethnic, and tribal conflicts abound; and the overriding preoccupation of sovereigns is with their own survival.

At the domestic level, these circumstances have resulted in the world’s most illiberal polities. Political dissent is dealt with by repression, and ethnic and religious differences are settled by internecine strife and murder. One need only mention, among many instances, Syria’s massacre of 20,000 of its Muslim activists in the early 1980’s, or the brutal treatment of Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish communities  until the 2003 war, or the genocidal campaign now being conducted in Darfur by the government of Sudan and its allied militias. As for foreign policy in the Middle East, it too has been pursued by means of crude force, ranging from terrorism and subversion to outright aggression, with examples too numerous and familiar to cite.

Reinforcing these habits is the fact that, to this day, Islam has retained its imperial ambitions. The last great Muslim empire may have been destroyed and the caliphate left vacant, but the dream of regional and world domination has remained very much alive. Even the ostensibly secular doctrine of pan-Arabism has been effectively Islamic in its ethos, worldview, and imperialist vision. In the words of Nuri Said, longtime prime minister of Iraq and a prominent early champion of this doctrine: “Although Arabs are naturally attached to their native land, their nationalism is not confined by boundaries. It is an aspiration to restore the great tolerant civilization of the early caliphate.”

That this “great tolerant civilization” reached well beyond today’s Middle East is not lost on those who hope for its restoration. Like the leaders of al Qaeda, many Muslims and Arabs unabashedly pine for the reconquest of Spain and consider their 1492 expulsion from the country a grave historical injustice waiting to be undone. Indeed, as immigration and higher rates of childbirth have greatly increased the number of Muslims within Europe itself over the past several decades, countries that were never ruled by the caliphate have become targets of Muslim imperial ambition. Since the late 1980’s, Islamists have looked upon the growing population of French Muslims as proof that France, too, has become a part of the House of Islam. In Britain, even the more moderate elements of the Muslim community are candid in setting out their aims. As the late Zaki Badawi, a doyen of interfaith dialogue in the UK, put it, “Islam is a universal religion. It aims to bring its message to all corners of the earth. It hopes that one day the whole of humanity will be one Muslim community.”

Whether in its militant or its more benign version, this world-conquering agenda continues to meet with condescension and denial on the part of many educated Westerners. To intellectuals, foreign-policy experts, and politicians alike, “empire” and “imperialism” are categories that apply exclusively to the European powers and, more recently, to the United States. In this view of things, Muslims, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, are merely objects—the long-suffering victims of the aggressive encroachments of others. Lacking an internal, autonomous dynamic of its own, their history is rather a function of their unhappy interaction with the West, whose obligation it is to make amends. This perspective dominated the widespread explanation of the 9/11 attacks  as only a response to America’s (allegedly) arrogant and self-serving foreign policy, particularly with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As we have seen, however, Islamic history has been anything but reactive. From Muhammad to the Ottomans, the story of Islam has been the story of the rise and fall of an often astonishing imperial aggressiveness and, no less important, of never quiescent imperial dreams. Even as these dreams have repeatedly frustrated any possibility for the peaceful social and political development of the Arab-Muslim world, they have given rise to no less repeated fantasies of revenge and restoration and to murderous efforts to transform fantasy into fact. If, today, America is reviled in the Muslim world, it is not because of its specific policies but because, as the preeminent world power, it blocks the final realization of this same age-old dream of regaining, in Zawahiri’s words, the “lost glory” of the caliphate.

Nor is the vision confined to a tiny extremist fringe. This we saw in the overwhelming support for the 9/11 attacks throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds, in the admiring evocations of bin Laden’s murderous acts during the crisis over the Danish cartoons, and in such recent findings as the poll indicating significant reservoirs of sympathy among Muslims in Britain for the “feelings and motives” of the suicide bombers who attacked London last July. In the historical imagination of many Muslims and Arabs, bin Laden represents nothing short of the new incarnation of Saladin, defeater of the Crusaders and conqueror of Jerusalem. In this sense, the House of Islam’s war for world mastery is a traditional, indeed venerable, quest that is far from over.

To the contrary, now that this war has itself met with a so far determined counterattack by the United States and others, and with a Western intervention in the heart of the House of Islam, it has escalated to a new stage of virulence. In many Middle Eastern countries, Islamist movements, and movements appealing to traditionalist Muslims, are now jockeying fiercely for positions of power, both against the Americans and against secular parties. For the Islamists, the stakes are very high indeed, for if the political elites of the Middle East and elsewhere were ever to reconcile themselves to the reality that there is no Arab or Islamic “nation,”  but only modern Muslim states with destinies and domestic responsibilities of their own, the imperialist dream would die.

It is in recognition of this state of affairs that Zawahiri wrote his now famous letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, in July 2005. If, Zawahiri instructed his lieutenant, al Qaeda’s strategy for Iraq and elsewhere were to succeed, it would have to take into account the growing thirst among many Arabs for democracy and a normal life, and strive not to alienate popular opinion through such polarizing deeds as suicide attacks on fellow Muslims. Only by harnessing popular support, Zawahiri concluded, would it be possible to come to power by means of democracy itself, thereby to establish jihadist rule in Iraq, and then to move onward to conquer still larger and more distant realms and impose the writ of Islam far and wide.

Something of the same logic clearly underlies the carefully plotted rise of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, the (temporarily thwarted) attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to exploit the demand for free elections there, and the accession of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. Indeed, as reported by Mark MacKinnon in the Toronto Globe & Mail, some analysts now see a new “axis of Islam” arising in the Middle East, uniting Hizballah, Hamas, Iran, Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood, elements of Iraq’s Shiites, and others in an anti-American, anti-Israel alliance backed by Russia.

Whether or not any such structure exists or can be forged, the fact is that the fuel of Islamic imperialism remains as volatile as ever, and is very far from having burned itself out. To deny its force is the height of folly, and to imagine that it can be appeased or deflected is to play into its hands. Only when it is defeated, and when the faith of Islam is no longer a tool of Islamic political ambition, will the inhabitants of Muslim lands, and the rest of the world, be able to look forward to a future less burdened by Saladins and their gory dreams.

Efraim Karsh is head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, University of London, and the author of, among other works, Arafat’s War, Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography, and Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East. His new book, Islamic Imperialism: A History, on which this article is based, is about to be published by Yale.


SSP vows to establish caliphate worldwide

Saturday, April 08, 2006

ISLAMABAD: Activists of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) vowed to establish a global caliphate, beginning with Pakistan.

In a rally attended by thousands of activists of the banned group to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on Friday, leaders of the SSP called for an Islamic theocracy in Pakistan. “The concept of nation state is an obstacle in the way of the establishment of Khilafat. We will start the establishment of Khilafat in Pakistan and then will do so across the world,” said Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, a former general who was sacked and arrested in 1995 for trying to topple the government of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Activists distributed pamphlets in Islamabad preaching jihad and hatred against Shias, as their leaders delivered fiery speeches to a crowd of around 5,000 late on Thursday.

They also sold video compact discs of the beheadings of American soldiers in Iraq, and militant activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan at the rally, which they said was convened to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) this month. One of the organisers thanked the Islamabad administration for allowing the rally, which was held under floodlights in a bus depot, with hundreds of riot police watching on. SSP is known to have close links with Jaish-e-Mohammad, a militant group fighting in Indian-occupied Kashmir and with links to Al Qaeda.

Some of the crowd briefly chanted anti-Shia slogans, until they were told to refrain by their leaders. They also swore allegiance to their late leader, Maulana Azam Tariq, a fiery pro-Taliban cleric who was assassinated in Islamabad in 2003, and founder of the organisation Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, who was killed in 1980s.

Last July, President Pervez Musharraf ordered a major crackdown against clerics and organisations inciting sectarian violence. The SSP was banned by the government in 2002.

The SSP has often been blamed for violence against Shias, planting bombs in mosques or attacking religious processions. Thousands of people have been killed in tit-for-tat attacks by militants from the two sects over the past 20 years. Most of the victims are Shias, who account for about 15 percent of Pakistan’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 150 million.

On Thursday, a prominent Shia Muslim cleric narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Karachi after his car was hit by a remote-controlled bomb Authorities have launched several crackdowns on militant outfits since Pakistan joined a US-led war on terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States, but critics say that the steps taken have been half-hearted and many groups have resurfaced under new names.

Like other groups, SSP remerged under the new name of Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan.

Founded in the 1980s, SSP wants Pakistan to be officially declared a Sunni Muslim state.

It had recently been reported in the press that the government might relax some restrictions on the group and allow it to commence political activities in a “very low profile”. Reuters


Muslim group 'won't be banned'

By Vincent Morello

Associated Press

January 28, 2007


A RADCAL Muslim cleric has urged hundreds of supporters meeting in Sydney's south-west to join a global push to create an Islamic utopia.


Indonesian firebrand cleric Ismail Yusanto outlined his plan for instituting Sharia law, the absolute form of Islam, to a crowd of about 500 people gathered at the Khilafah Conference in Lakemba.

The meeting was organised by the Australian arm of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group widely known for its anti-democratic, anti-Semitic views.

The group believes that it can reduce suffering around the globe by introducing Sharia law and creating an Islamic utopia.

The NSW Government has called on the Commonwealth to follow several European and Middle Eastern countries and ban the group.

Dr Yusanto called on followers to denounce capitalism, warning that if Islam was not followed in his Islamic super-state, jihad would follow.

From the nationalisation of utilities for the on-going funding of a jihadist army to fighting off an ensuing American-led invasion, he told the audience never to let pessimism enter their minds when seeking a utopian state of Islam not seen since 1924.

"Once the program is ready it must be implemented as soon as possible,'' Dr Yusanto said.

"Once successful, the new order would be just the beginning of the new era in the application of Islamic ideology."

The cleric went on to remind his listeners of the ultimate sacrifice in achieving a utopian Islamic state.

"There is no victory and glory without sacrifice and hard work,'' he said.

"No pain no gain.''

Hizb ut-Tahrir is already banned in several European and Middle Eastern countries.

It has also been linked to the 2005 London bombings.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma called on Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock to join countries including Britain and Germany and ban the group.

"This is not a case of someone being different, someone advocating a different point of view,'' he said.

"This is an organisation that is basically saying that it wants to declare war on Australia, our values and our people. That's the big difference.

"And that's why I believe that they are just beyond the pale, enough is enough and it's time for the Commonwealth to review this organisation's status and take the lead from other countries and ban them.''

But Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said government agencies were monitoring Hizb ut-Tahrir, although its activities in Australia did not warrant it being banned.

"Proscription of terrorist organisations is an issue that is dealt with by the Commonwealth after a referral of powers from the states,'' Mr Ruddock said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Tony Burke called on newly appointed Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews to consider cancelling Dr Yusanto's visa.

"There are clear character provisions in the immigration act that mean that if the Government didn't want Ismail Yusanto here it could have stopped him from coming,'' he said.

"The only reason we have someone in western Sydney right now preaching Sharia law is because the Federal Government chose to allow him to be here.

"My question and my comment to anyone from around the world who hates Australia is simple - if you hate the place, don't come here.''


Caliph Wanted

Why An old Islamic institution resonates with many Muslims today

By Jay Tolson
U.S. News & World Report
Posted January 2, 2008

Osama bin Laden and his fellow jihadists repeatedly claim that the ultimate goal of their violent struggle is to restore the Islamic caliphate, the system of political-religious leadership that originated with the first successor to the prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century. But they are not alone in favoring its return. A number of nonviolent Islamic organizations, such as the pan-Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), champion the same cause. And more than two thirds of people recently polled in four Muslim nations say they support the idea of unifying all Muslim countries in "a single Islamic state or caliphate."

The idea of the caliphate is a poorly understood, vaguely threatening concept in the West. But it is deeply rooted in cultural memory throughout the Muslim world, where the caliphate existed in various forms for almost 1,300 years. By the eighth century, about 100 years after Muhammad's death, the authority of the caliphs extended over parts of three continents, from what is now Pakistan across the Mideast and North Africa to what is now Spain and Portugal."Ninety-four percent of Muslim history took place under the caliphate," says Jamal Harwood, a former chairman of Hizb ut-Tahrir's London-based executive committee, giving perhaps the simplest reason his party works to restore the institution that Kemal Ataturk—the founder of modern, secular Turkey—abolished in 1924.

But what does the caliphate really mean to those who claim to favor its return—or, for that matter, to those who oppose it, whether Muslim or not? Does such a proposed restoration involve a practical political agenda, with usable historical precedents? Or is it merely convenient political rhetoric, a slogan and rallying cry for those seeking power or at least change?

While most scholars and analysts conclude that it is mainly the latter, they also say that the "caliphate debate" goes to the heart of the current crisis of authority and leadership in the Islamic world. That crisis is complicated by a view held by many Muslims, and particularly by Islamists, that political and religious authorities are ultimately inseparable.

"The notion of reinstating the caliphate is the way that some Muslims struggle with the colonial and postcolonial situation," says Tamara Sonn, a professor of religious studies at the College of William and Mary. "It's the reflection of people's dissatisfaction with politics in the postcolonial Muslim world."

That dissatisfaction traces back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when various Muslim intellectuals sought to reform Islam so that it (and particularly Islamic law, or sharia) could be used as a source of practical social and political guidance. This, they believed, would liberate Muslim societies from European-imposed laws and institutions. Hassan al Banna, the Egyptian schoolteacher and founder (in 1928) of the Muslim Brotherhood, coined the word Islamism to assert the political character of his faith, but he believed he was only trying to recapture the political and spiritual unity of the first four (so-called rightly guided) caliphs, who spread Islam in the years following Muhammad's death in 632.

Global politics. The Brotherhood and its offshoots nevertheless devoted little effort to restoring the caliphate. They focused on welfare projects and the institution of Islamic justice within the structure of the existing nation-states, while only more conservative figures like King Fouad I of Egypt made any effort to revive the caliphal office in the early years after its abolition.

By the 1990s, though, Islamists were changing, having lived through the failure of Pan-Arabism and disappointments with national leaders like Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, who refused to implement Islamic law and cracked down on the Brotherhood, which he saw as a threat to his power. "You begin to see groups that do not see the world according to the state-oriented model of politics," says Georgetown University historian John Voll. "You get postmodern Islamists, notably jihadists, who see politics in a global way...and with Ayman al-Zawahari [the Egyptian physician who became bin Laden's chief strategist], you get the idea of global jihad."

To name the transnational order they now sought to create, the jihadists resorted to the word caliphate as what Voll calls "a term of conceptual convenience."

Hizb ut-Tahrir officials would partly agree with that assessment. "Al Qaeda has never elaborated its meaning of caliphate," says Harwood, a Canadian-born convert to Islam. By contrast, ever since it was founded in 1953 by a Muslim scholar and jurist in Jerusalem, the Hizb ut-Tahrir party has been elaborating its own program (including a provisional constitution) for a modern caliphal state. That agenda includes a popularly elected caliph whose paramount executive function (subject to monitoring by the highest court) would be to guarantee the application of sharia to all areas of civic, economic, and national life. "We don't distinguish between political and religious," says Harwood.

Practically the only area where caliphal oversight would not intrude, it turns out, is in the realm of worship. Hizb ut-Tahrir believes that such freedom would make it possible for Shiites and other minority Muslim sects to live under an office that was, for most of its history, an almost exclusively Sunni institution.

Promoting "ideological struggle" through its many websites and large pro-caliphate conferences (one in Indonesia last summer drew around 100,000 attendees), Hizb ut-Tahrir boasts more than 1 million followers in 40 countries. In November, the group raised its previously low profile in the West Bank by organizing Palestinian protests against the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, which a spokesman denounced as "a conspiracy against the Islamic nation."

The group has been banned in many countries and came under investigation in Britain after London's July 7, 2005, bombings. Zeyno Baran, a program director at the Hudson Institute, sees the organization as an ideological factory and "de facto conveyor belt for terrorists." But many other analysts see it simply as a refuge for disappointed utopians in search of alternatives to capitalism and liberal democracy.

Historically, in fact, the caliphate model poses huge problems, including the crucial schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that is now playing out so dramatically in Iraq. That schism began with a dispute among the early Muslims over who qualified as a legitimate successor to the Prophet. Those who insisted that only a relative of Muhammad could do so claimed that Ali, the fourth caliph, and his kin were the only legitimate office holders. But the party of Ali (Shiite) lost out to the majority Sunnis, who held that the consensus of the community should determine the selection of the caliph.

Questions about who the caliph should be and what he should do have sparked other controversies, both theoretical and real. The problem begins, Voll says, with the Koran: It never discusses a caliphal office but refers only to Adam as "God's caliph"—a usage that some have taken in an almost environmentalist way to mean God's appointed steward of the Earth.

Spiritual authority. Another contentious question is the amount of spiritual and political authority caliphs actually had. Some historians claim that the first four caliphs exercised even greater religious authority than most standard pro-Sunni accounts suggest, making the office more closely resemble that of the imam in Shiite Islam. At least up to the ninth century, caliphs weighed in on interpretive matters.

But the office started to become more exclusively political in the 10th century. And even the century before, a social class consisting of learned scholars, the ulema, assumed the dominant role of interpreting the sharia. "The job of the caliph was now not to interpret the law," Voll says, "but to enforce what the ulema thought was correct." Even the political authority of the later caliphs grew shaky, particularly when there were simultaneously competing caliphates in different parts of the larger Islamic empire.

Despite debates over such historical realities, is there any reason to think that a new kind of caliphate, something more closely resembling the Roman Catholic papacy, could restore needed authority and order to the currently chaotic situation in which almost any shopfront imam or mullah can issue rulings on life-or-death issues, including the legitimate uses of jihad? Most scholars think not. "I cannot see a caliphate that would be embraced by all Muslims," says Baran. "Hizb ut-Tahrir says it doesn't care where the caliph comes from, but the Brotherhood would say that it has to be a Sunni."

Ebrahim Moosa, a Muslim legal scholar at Duke University, entertains an intriguing idea: a caliphal synod, or assembly of thinkers, with representatives of the laity as well as members of the ulema, collectively recognized as the successor to the teaching authority of the Prophet. Yet Moosa's hypothetical "caliphate redux" cannot withstand even his own pessimism about the real cause of the crisis of authority in the Muslim world: corrupt, authoritarian regimes. "I'm afraid that a caliphal body would be used by existing governments, he says, "and caliphal authority would just end up reinforcing tyranny in religious disguise."