New Delhi, India - "Muslims want to revive the Caliphate," I hear pundits say. The idea is just preposterous. The Caliphate is a pre-nation state concept, relevant only to the Age of Empire. The Caliphate was defeated by the British in 1918. It was buried by the Turks in 1924.
Upon first glance, it seems the Caliphate had a fabulous run from 632 to 1918. However, look again: Only for a very short while during these 1300 years was there a single Caliph to which all Muslim political formations gave allegiance. Usually, there were multiple Muslim communities. The Ummayads in Spain never recognized the Abbasids in Baghdad; and the Mughals in India certainly did not pay obeisance to the Sublime Porte of their Turkish kinsmen in Istanbul. Then Mustafa Kemal Ghazi packed off the last Ottoman Caliph with 2000 pounds and a one-way ticket to Europe. He sealed the institution that had long outlived its utility.
The British drew most of the arbitrary lines around which nations were created out of the fallen Ottoman Empire. Those lines survived colonial mischief, local tyranny, despotism, socialism, popular upsurge against unrepresentative governments, war, and upheaval. Through nearly decades of turmoil, the power of the nation has been the one steady reality.
The Arabs are united by a common language, culture and faith, and yet prefer to live in some 22 nations. They do not want to report to an Arab Caliph.
Don't believe me? Just try selling a Pakistani Caliph to a Bangladeshi.
For the record, the last serious attempt to create a Caliph was made by Lloyd-George and Churchill, both during the First World War and just after it. They were keen forming a 'Southern Caliphate' to counter the Ottoman. They wanted an Arab who could rule from Mecca. Their preferred candidates were from the Hashemite family, now ruling Jordan. An emir from the dusty neighborhood thought it was not such a good idea. Thus, the Saudis rule over Mecca and Medina now.
Do Bush and Blair really need a Caliph as an ogre-enemy? Do they need the kind of figure who mother's warned their troublesome children about in eighteenth century Europe? Why can't they just admit to themselves that their shock-and-awe might is being defeated in Iraq by anonymous young men with cottage industry weapons? I suppose that's a tough truth to face.
If you'd like to receive an email notification when PostGlobal sends out a new question, please click here and press send.
Please e-mail PostGlobal if you'd like to receive an email notification when PostGlobal sends out a new question.