By Yaşar Yakiş
July 09, 2014
The territorial expansion of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues unabated, taking root and growing in Iraq in fertile ground unintentionally prepared by the US.
The Syrian crisis provided additional opportunities, as it broke out in an adjacent country and was initiated by a Sunni population against an Alawite ruler. Because of these and other favourable conditions, the organization grew, removed the words “Iraq and the Levant” from its name and became the “Islamic State” on June 29. The spokesman of the organization announced that they have decided to reinstate the caliphate, inviting all Muslims to pledge their allegiance to the new caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Last week the Friday prayer was led by the new caliph in the Great Mosque of Mosul and he told all Muslims, "Obey me as long as I obey God and you.”
ISIL now considers itself a full-fledged state, complete with an army of 5,000 dedicated fighters, a flag, territory effectively under its control, a head of state (caliph) and sustainable finances. US think tank the Rand Corporation learned that, contrary to initial belief, only around 5 percent ISIL's income was coming from outside sources. The remainder has come from their own sources, such as ransom from kidnappings, extortion and other activities. Now, with the robbery of the central bank in Mosul, and seizure of oil wells, refineries and power plants, etc., their sources of income have multiplied and diversified. This has made ISIL the richest terrorist organization in the world. ISIL may recruit tens of thousands of well-paid mercenaries with this money. Coupled with the promise of a guaranteed place in paradise, these recruits could wreak havoc everywhere in the Middle East.
ISIL is unequivocal concerning its ultimate goals: It aims at creating a state where Shariah law will be strictly observed. Women will have to “dress decently” and only go outside “if needed.” Muslims must go to prayers on time and thieves would have their hands cut off.
It is not easy to sustain such a strict implementation of Shariah in the 21st century. However, the longer it takes to mobilize the international community to counter ISIL, the more difficult it will be to fight it.
The Islamic Ummah is without a supreme leader comparable to the pope in the Catholic world. Therefore, by appointing a caliph, ISIL is filling this gap. There is an interesting background to the question: The title of caliph was held, for 400 years, by the Ottoman sultans. When the last Ottoman sultan fled Turkey, his title of sultan became defunct, but the title of caliph was transferred by the Turkish Parliament to Abdülmecid II, a cousin of the sultan. When Abdülmecid II used his caliphate prerogatives too extensively, the Turkish Parliament adopted a law consisting of one single vague sentence that reads as follows, “The post of caliph is abolished, as the caliphate is contained in the meaning and concept of the government and the republic.” So far, nobody has offered a meaningful interpretation of this vague sentence.
In light of this background, one may claim that, technically speaking, ISIL has usurped a title that is held, in theory, by the Turkish Parliament, but Turkey has rightly chosen to ignore it.
Turkey is one of the most vulnerable countries to the acts of ISIL, because it is the biggest country with a predominantly Sunni population adjacent to the region controlled by ISIL. A Turk, aged 15, who had fought in ISIL's ranks recently made a revealing statement to the Turkish media: He said that five boys from his neighborhood had joined ISIL; four of them returned to Turkey after a while, while he stayed until he was wounded and allowed to return. If five young boys could be recruited in one single neighborhood of Ankara, I do not want to think about out how many of them could be recruited in other neighborhoods of Ankara and in other cities of Turkey.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç revealed on June 5 a new dimension of the threat when he “appeal[ed] to Turkish girls not to be lured by an invitation to join ISIL.” This is good news if it is a sign that the bitter truth about ISIL is now dawning on decision-makers in Turkey.