Friday, June 18, 2010

The United States of Islam? Or Divided Islamic States?

An Iranian cleric is calling for the creation of a "greater Iran" or "United States of Islam".
He said he envisioned a Greater Iran that would stretch from Afghanistan to Israel, bringing about the destruction of the Jewish state.

He also said its formation would be a prelude to the reappearance of the Mahdi, a revered ninth-century saint known as the Hidden Imam, whom Muslims believe will reappear before judgment day to end tyranny and promote justice in the world.

“The Islamic United States will be an introduction to the formation of the global village of the oppressed and that will be a prelude to the single global rule of the Mahdi,” the Hezbollah newspaper quoted him as saying.

Besides Israel, he said the union would also destroy Shiite Iran’s other regional adversaries, whom he called “cancerous tumors.” He singled out secular Arab nationalists such as members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party in Iraq, as well as followers of the austere version of Sunni Islam practiced primarily in Saudi Arabia that is known as Wahabism.
Meanwhile, an international political organization called Hizb ut-Tahrir is sponsoring a conference in the Chicago suburbs advocating the creation of a Khilafah (aka Caliphate) to rule North America under Islamic jurisprudence.

A few thoughts here:

Although the statement and video both seem to advocate similar end goals - all people all over the world under Muslim rule to create a utopian society - they are vastly different in their assumptions. The Khilafah Conference 2010 assumes a pan-Islamic state that provides free healthcare, education, and food for the poor is both possible and practical. All admirable government services in of themselves, but they fail to mention which interpretation of Islam would rule these Caliphates (not to mention how these services would be fairly distributed among 6-7 billion people).

The folly of ignoring the sectarian divide throughout Islamic history comes to light with Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi's statement. By explicitly naming Shia Islam and condemning both secular Arab goverments as well as fundamentalist Sunni thought, the cleric's rhetoric indicates that pan-Islamism is far, far away.

In fact, aside from universal resentment towards Israel and US foreign policy encroachments, the global Islamic "umma" is far from unified, as we can see with: name but a few examples of groups of self-described Muslims fighting and killing each other (or otherwise dividing apart) at the moment. Islamist groups can proselytize away in English, but the Islamic world is nowhere near close to geopolitical unity.

And in the unlikely event that the "great Satans" were suddenly "destroyed," I imagine some sort of Islamic Cold War would emerge - Iran-led Shiites and Saudi-led Sunnis geopolitically positioning themselves against each other, stocking up on weapons, competing for converts in Europe, America, and beyond, soliciting powerful regional allies (Russia, China, perhaps India) until the inevitable overt Sunni-Shia clashes emerge.

Kinda like what almost happened with global Communism.

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