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Ghosts of the caliphate

Fantasies of reviving the caliphate reveal a deep crisis of legitimacy within Sunni Islam

By Jean-Pierre Filiu   November 2007

In October 2006, al Qaeda proclaimed the first online caliphate in Islam’s 14 century-old history. Bin Laden’s deputies in Iraq tried hard to make it look legitimate, with jihadi leaders and tribal sheikhs pledging allegiance to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, appointed “commander of the believers.” Their oath was about “ending the oppression to which the Sunnis are being subjected by malicious Shiites and the occupying Crusaders” and was open to all the Iraqi insurgent groups. Most of them refused to join in and continue to resent al Qaeda’s imported agenda and terror. But Bin Laden and Zawahiri were making the connection…

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