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Fr. Califat

→ City, community, confederalism, empire, federalism, ummah

Transliterated from Arabic khalifah, the muslim viceregency of man on earth or succession to the Prophet Mahomed.

The Muslim califat is one example of a polity reemerging after it had apparently disappeared, until its latest resurrection as the Islamic State (IS). From the time Muhammad and his followers withdrew from Mecca to form their own political community, Islamic governments ruled states that ranged from towns to empires until the Ottoman Empire’s Anatolian rump eventually became the Turkish Republic, declared itself secular and abolished the caliphate in 1924. A first attempt to re-establish the califat by 2020 had been announced by Al Qaeda, then put into practice by IS. Dreams of empire-building has always been associated with radical islam as a universal religion, which today recruits tens of thousands of fighters from tens of countries, across ethnic and linguistic boundaries. Born as a local movement, it has rapidly extended its appeal among mostly Sunni supporters, to reach the status of both a transnational, extra-territorial network and a self-proclaimed territorial state. Rooted in a traditional doctrine going back to the military « migration » from Mecca to Medine, it has absorbed the contemporary approach of realpolitik, supported by an efficient propaganda and led by a magis­terial authority based in a literal reading of the Coran. In any case, its ideology is far more communitarian than universalist: even though Islam grants the dhimma status to the "people of the Book" (Jews and Christians), which is supposed to protect them and does not force them to convert, this status excludes equality with Muslims, because "... these are subjected to fiscal, civil and legal discrimination (...) ; they must live in closed quarters, use only donkeys as mounts, have houses lower than those of Muslims, move away before them in the street; before the courts, their testimony is null and void..." (Perez 2018, 122).

According to the UN report, more than half the countries in the world are currently generating foreign terrorist fighters. Among the various Al-Qaida (QDe.004) associates around the world, including the splinter group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (listed as Al-Qaida in Iraq under QDe.115), there are more than 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters involved, travelling from more than 100 Member States. The rate of flow is higher than ever and mainly focused on movement into the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq, with a growing problem also evident in Libya.

Such individuals and their networks pose an immediate and long-term threat. Those that have returned or will return to their States of origin or to third countries may pose a continuing threat to national and international security. Many may reintegrate, abandoning violence. Some have already gone on to organize further terrorist attacks and others will do so in the future.

The emergence of the Islamic State (IS) is the latest revival of the “restored Caliphate” since the formal abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate by Kemal Atatürk in 1924. The appeal made by Baghdadi and his followers for a transnational body that stands above the various tribes or communities making up the Muslim world. They had achieved impressive results in 2016, with pledges of allegiance (bayat) from militants in places as far removed from one another as Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen, and in Libya ISIS now has an airbase in Sirte, the hometown of former leader Muammar Qaddafi.