Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A new caliphate arises in the east


Finally, thirteen years after terrorists attacked the USA to restore the Caliphate, someone announces that he is Caliph. It all reads like a sequel to Greenmantle. I imagine thriller writers are busy trying to emulate non-fiction.

Can anyone declare himself Caliph? 

Is there a job description?

The Janissaries used to choose them, or rather used to choose the Ottoman Sultans. Many of these were half-Albanian as Albanian wives were esteemed for their beauty and I think an Albanian Caliph might be nice. Albania could do with a boost and an Albanian one would probably drink wine. And Albania hopes to join the EU. On the other hand, if being female and Christian were no bar, Queen Elizabeth II is said to be a descendant of Mahomet, by way of King Peter the Cruel of Portugal, though this is not certain.

Actually, what is happening in Syria and Iraq is another act in the tragedy. Nothing is funny about it or rather the humour is black. It drips with Gibbonian irony.

This very informative link says that the Ottoman Sultan's claim to be caliph was very slight and the Sultan only claimed to be Caliph as late as 1880.  I've read quite a lot of books about Ottoman history without realising this. The Mahdi and other Muslim leaders, despite their providential claims, bit the dust and few take seriously Mullah Omar's claim to be caliph, wherever he is.

This latest pretender seems like a true psychopath, who kills household pets for fun. As I write this it occurs to me to wonder what the press, had it existed in their day, would have made of the 'four righteous caliphs' who spread Mahometanism across the Middle East and North Africa after Mahomet's death. They were certainly Islamists and fanatics, without a doubt. They created the Muslim world. That is if we believe the traditional account. A few revisionist scholars have suggested that the empire came first and the religion later.

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