The rise of the caliphate

Posted: Aug 18, 2006 12:01 AM
The rise of the caliphate

LONDON -- Let the recriminations begin! In the aftermath of Israel's abortive, on-again, off-again military campaign against Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, there are calls for a no-confidence vote to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In Washington, critics of President Bush cite the latest round of Mideast violence and the discovery of a suicide plot to bomb U.S.-bound aircraft as reasons to spurn Republicans at the polls this November. In Lebanon, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah claims that Hezbollah's "victory" gives him a new mantle of political authority. His assertion is supported not just by his zealous followers -- but by governments in Tehran, Damascus and less quietly in other Islamic capitals.

All these accounts of recent Mideast hostilities -- and now a U.N.-imposed cease-fire -- have appeared in this week's newspapers, magazines, radio and TV broadcasts. Though such depictions of political consequence may indeed be accurate -- they are woefully shallow and ultimately, misleading to readers and viewers.

With the exception of a small handful of serious journals, few of today's commentators or "reporters" seem able or willing to explain the latest armed confrontation and suicide bomb threats in the stark and perilous terms they deserve. As a consequence, few Americans seem to comprehend the two dangerous -- and perversely synergistic -- themes that predominate in modern radical Islam:

-- The apocalyptic belief of Shia scholars, clerics and political leaders -- like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- predicting a violent, "final" clash between Muslims and infidels in which Islam triumphs, by wiping "non-believers" from the Earth, and;

-- The predominantly Sunni Muslim goal of an Islamic caliphate that extends from Casablanca, Morocco in the west to Bali, Indonesia in the east.

The vision of a globe-spanning Islamic theocracy is not new. In 632 A.D., following the death of Muhammad, his followers named Abu Bakr as caliph -- or successor. He resolved to spread the Muslim theology, with its message of equality and strict rules of behavior, through force of arms. His goal of Islamic dominance has survived the bloody Sunni-Shia schism, the rise and collapse of the Ottoman Empire, two world wars, communism and the fitful spread of representative democracy through most of the rest of the world.

Thanks to a steady flow of petro-dollars, today's leaders of "the religion of peace" -- both Sunni and Shia -- have been able to launch and sustain well-financed, extremely aggressive campaigns to advance their beliefs. Sheiks, imams, mullahs and ayatollahs routinely expound the virtues of "martyrdom" and vicious treatment for Christians and Jews.

The "common ground" for all Islamic radicals is hatred of the United States and Israel. Shia leaders like Iranian Ayatollah Khameini, Sheikh Nasrallah and "President" Ahmadinijad, routinely proclaim that Israel, the "Little Satan," must be "destroyed," and that the United States, the "Great Satan," must be "driven from the lands of the prophet" -- meaning places where Islam is practiced as a state religion.

Sunni terror leaders -- like al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and his second-in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, have openly pledged to establish a new global caliphate. They have loudly and proudly proclaimed Islam will rule the world, and that the West and its "infidel" religions and cultures will be destroyed.

Bin Laden has boasted, "the pious caliphate will start from Afghanistan." Al-Zawahiri envisions the reestablishment of the caliphate, writing, "history would make a new turn, God willing, in the opposite direction of the United States and the world's Jewish government." Fazlur Rehman Khalil, an al-Qaeda apologist has written, "due to the blessings of jihad, America's countdown has begun. It will declare defeat soon," and will be followed by a new caliphate.

Western political leaders and media elites appear unwilling to acknowledge the threat posed by these two repetitive themes in modern radical Islam -- an Armageddon-like final battle -- and the call for a new globe-spanning caliphate. The failure of the "international community" to fully support democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, to insist on disarming Hezbollah in Lebanon or to stand unified against Iranian efforts to acquire nuclear weapons place all of us -- not just Israel -- in great peril.

Instead of confronting radical Islam, the response in the United Nations, most of Europe and much of the United States is to preach "tolerance," "understanding" and "dialogue." The belief that poverty, lack of education or inadequate economic opportunity has incited Muslim rage against the West is totally mistaken.

The terrorists left to re-arm in Lebanon weren't recruited into Hezbollah by the promise of a square meal. Apparently most of the would-be suicide killers apprehended last week here in London had jobs. Like the 19 hijackers who killed nearly 3,000 in the United States on Sept. 11, several had university degrees. And like the seven who blew themselves to pieces here in London on July 7, 2005 -- they all intended to die. Understanding that is going to be important in the days ahead -- particularly so if the Iranians deploy "an Islamic bomb."