Miss Mabrouk of Egypt

Check the archives too - a lot of good stuff to enjoy. Me myself? Off to new adventures in the blogosphere, if time permits.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Toward a Virtual Caliphate

Al-Qaeda is not the only game in town in terms of the transnational forces competing for Muslim hearts and minds, Peter Mandaville says in Yale Global Online. He is pointing to an emerging infrastructure on the internet and satellite television (among other channels) with Islamic scholars that is challenging al-Qaeda's global rhetoric, but like Al-Qaeda is also seeking to establish a transnational religious polity in the empty space created by waning nation-states under globalization. Perhaps most interesting and least noticed, he says, is

a diverse body of "superstar" religious scholars whose efforts might serve as a more metaphorical embodiment of the caliphate. For this group, the caliphate is not so much a political institution attached to sovereign territory, but rather an ideal of pan-Islamic ecumenicism – a moderate and relatively inclusive form of lowest-common-denominator orthodoxy.

In their minds, this community of shared knowledge and religious interpretation is explicitly designed as an antidote to bin Laden and the radical jihadis. Given the means of its establishment and propagation, such a tendency might perhaps best be thought of as a "virtual caliphate.

At the forefront of this movement is the Qatar-based Egyptian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Mandeville is warning that “the worst thing the West could do is to cast figures such as Qaradawi as part of the problem simply because his views don't precisely correspond with US goals.” – E.g. he is not one of the ‘good Muslims.’

Well, he is in exile, as good as dead if he ever returns to Egypt. Although he is a moderate by regional standards, he is not exactly the kind of sheikh you would like your children to meet. A few of his opinions:

1) The Israelis might have nuclear bombs but we have the children bomb and these human bombs must continue until liberation.

2) It is not suicide; it is martyrdom in the name of God.

3) By Islamic law… the blood and property of people of … non-Muslims (are) not protected.

Manderville is aware of his radical standing but “…one has to wonder whether US goals and those of the emergent "virtual caliphate" might not overlap more than they diverge. After all, a vote for Qaradawi is a vote against Zarqawi. Furhter:

While increased recruitment into the Qaradawi camp will not by any means produce a generation of Muslims favorably predisposed to US foreign policy, it will represent a consolidated, critical mass of influential and respected Muslims with whom meaningful dialogue with the hope of tangible progress can take place.

So out of two evils, take the least evil? Perhaps that would be a strategy if you have no other options. Fortunately, there are plenty of learned Muslims “with whom meaningful dialogue with the hope of tangible progress can take place.” The problem is that Qaradawi is taking too much space, not that he is the only one you can speak too. He should be met in the door, not allowed inside until you find more suitable company. Then again, via the telly and the PC, he is already a popular guest in many Muslims’ living rooms.

Link to the article. h/t: Aardvark

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