In the New Republic, Graeme Wood explains what the Islamic State’s ostensible caliphate means to Muslims the world over:
The word khalifa means “successor” (to Muhammad), and as such, a rightful caliph can demand the allegiance of all Muslims. But historically, an applicant for the job has had to fulfill a few conditions. He (always he) must be Muslim, fully grown, devout, sane, and physically whole.
OK, we’ll just go with that.
The new (self-proclaimed) caliph is, of course,
… Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, born Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai, the Caliph of all Muslims and the Prince of the Believers… [N]ews reports and social media from within ISIS have depicted frenzied chants of “The Caliphate is established!”
The entire self-image and propaganda narrative of the Islamic State is based on emulating the early leaders of Islam, in particular the Prophet Muhammad and the four “rightly guided caliphs” who led Muslims from Muhammad’s death in 632 until 661. Within the lifetimes of these caliphs, the realm of Islam spread like spilled ink to the farthest corners of modern-day Iran and coastal Libya, despite small and humble origins.
So millions of Muslims have been champing at the bit to bring back those long-gone glory days (which really weren’t very glorious for people who didn’t believe in Allah).
Wood quotes Fred Donner, a historian of early Islam at the University of Chicago:
“There is a mystical belief that, if you just establish the caliphate in the right way, Muslims will come to you and everything will fall into place.”
Wood’s advice is that a U.S. sniper or drone operator should assassinate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before he gains a bigger following and more legitimacy and then “to use Kurdish and Shia proxies to arrest his state’s expansion.”
For those of you who are Humanists, is the assassination of a terrorist figurehead an acceptable option?