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Thoughts on al-Baghdadi

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Iftekhar Sayeed

Now that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, it's time for reflection.

No doubt he was an abomination, but far less so than his adversaries, especially the United States (Iraqi children 👶 body count: 1.7 million).

Why did he lead, trying to form a Caliphate? We'll probably never know what went on in his head: loyalty to Allah and the Umma, no doubt played a part.

Why did he succeed to such an extent? That we can infer.

The Sunnis of Iraq 🇮🇶 were top dogs 🐕 and the Shias the underdogs since their colonial masters put them in charge. The Iraq invasion upended this hierarchy: the Sunnis dreaded, resented and resisted relegation to being the ruled.

A civil war followed, in which 3,700 people were murdered every month. Sunni anger still smoldered.

Wherever Islamic State went, under the charismatic al-Baghdadi, they received a hero's welcome from Sunnis.

Consider the fact that a ragtag army of amateurs drawn form every country near and far routed the national army of Iraq, barely stopping at the gates of Baghdad. This was not a bunch of lunatics run amok.

Consider also the fact that al-Baghdadi, despite being a sternly orthodox Sunni, had recourse to the Shia myth of the returning and redemptive Mahdi.

One can imagine the depth of hopelessness that prompted these jihadis to turn to Shia eschatology.

(This phenomenon occurred in Indonesia under the Dutch, when the hopeless Sunnis there eagerly waited for the Mahdi, and in the process effected a rebellion.)

Group dominance theory, heavily influenced by evolutionary ideas, posits that dominance is an essential element of society: somebody has to be top dog 🐕.

The theory explains and takes in a great deal.

After Reconstruction, whites bitterly resented the equality of blacks. They went to great artifices to ensure their underdog status.

The Civil Rights Act lost the Democrats the South to the Republicans.

Today, the white majority impatiently watches the clock ticking down to their minority status: two hundred years of white domination will come to an end.

They are not going "gentle into that good night", but raging "against the dying of the [white] light".

Similarly, the Alawites of Syria have fought tooth and nail to preserve their dominance.

During the twilight of the Muslim world, a Persian poet lamented:

آبِ زمزم خورده بودم

آبِ شورا کي خورام؟

پادشهئ کردو بودم

پاسبا کي کنم؟

(My translation:)

I drank the waters of Zemzem,

How can I drink the brine,

Once I was sultan,

How can I to servitude decline?


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Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, "Bangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL "TEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. "He is also a (more...)
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