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Ethnic Legitimacy of Contemporary Islam. Taliban and Al Qaida Cases


Associate Professor Vladimir Chukov, Ph D


    The Muslims remained homogeneous social group only prior to the Prophet death. Since the Kharidjite trend came into view in 660 for the first time the followers of Mohamed were forced to face insurmountable contradictions generated by a wide-range of disparities. The main perceptive political and dogmatic differences framed by the fourth Sunni tendencies as well as the Shiite and Kharidjite doctrines were justified by elusive and concealed reasons among that as though the ethnic identity stands at the head.

    Whole Islamic history and further development may be considered as clash between legitimated ethnic groups (holders of irreversible and glorious statehood traditions) and marginalized ethnic communities devoid of the luck to be first-hand interpretators of God message. Beyond the struggle the Pious (Rashidiin), Omayades, Abassides, Fatimides and Ottomans khalifs peeped out the rivalry between the three "legitimate" ethnic groups - Arabs, Persians and Turks. The up-to-day foreign policy misunderstandings between Ryad, Damascus, Teheran, Baghdad and Ankara are projected at some extent and may be explained by the mediaeval dogmatic-ethnic upheavals.

    Former Taliban regime and Qaida organization represent legal cases within Islamic public law, but their pragmatic dimensions apply to the national security of the rival (marginalized Islamic) and enemy (infidels, Christian and Jewish) countries. Talibans built during the period of five years political construction by imitation entirely the Pious (Rashidiin) khalifs' state. In short, Taliban leader Molla Omar attempted to follow up the ruling style of the second Pious khalif Omar ben Khatab (634-644). The name coincidence and day-today behavior are not opted by happenstance. It is worth deepening the analysis of Taliban state establishment features. Taliban rule remained semi-Pious khalifs' copy in spite of strongly Arabocentrist Salafite ideology adoption. Talibans are issued from Pushtun tribe, while according to the Hanbalite-Salafite doctrine only an Arab may accede to the legitimate and trustful Islamic rule. It is worthy to remember the hadith: "Inna al aimma min al Quraish" (The imams are issued from the Qureish tribe). So, why that Molla Omar called himself "Sovereign of the Faithful" (Emir al Muaminin) and he did not venture to confer the title of khalif. He needed the Arabs and Osama ben Laden himself who is rooted from Arab Peninsula (Ard al Islam) in aiming to complete the impaired legitimacy. Thus, Osama ben Laden was source of financial support as well as source of political legitimacy through his ethnic roots.

    Al Qaida is a military organization explicitly "conceived" within Saudi society resulting from appropriate legal collision: the presence of American troops in the Holy Islamic Lands. This legal fact occurred in 1991 as though prederminated both sides in the terror attacks on 11 September 2001. Osama ben Laden succeeded in building quickly growing organization by imitating typical community of faithful (al umma) during the early stages of Islamic religion spread. He comported himself as the Prophet during the so-called period of "public diffusion of the faith" (610-622). Osama ben Laden reached the rank of spiritual and military leader unlike political ruler because he was not state head. Molla Omar provided the lack of the requested legitimacy as state head. Thus, the Qaida leader endeavored to increase his personal significance and authority through Molla Omar. Mediaeval diplomatic approaches towards "subsidiary or completed" legitimacy are realized by Molla Omar and Osama ben Laden kinship implementation (exchanged weddings between their children). The last became argument from crucial significance for Ben Laden ambitions in aiming to convert his messages (ar-rassail) into real legal acts or fetawas. Indeed, Saudi minister of religious affairs as well as a wide-range of fukaha (as par example cheik al Azhar) objected to such pretensions. As a matter of fact, this point requires clarification in further detailed study.

    Another interesting topic that needs special in-depth analysis is the internal logic of Qaida organization building process. In short, this body is prototype of Islamic umma during the Second Abasside period as deliberative milieu and early Islamic stages (predominantly the Pious khalifs' period) principles of political management. Qaida represents the society of the Pious khalifs (stongly Arabocentrist and empowered by its Arabian Peninsula Ard al Islam roots) projected in posterior periods of the multi-stratum Islamic society development. Implicitly implemented those Salafite principles formed the hierarchy (or favored) of the members according to the ethnic identity. The last remains direct criteria of the religious justification (legitimacy). Thus, we may summarize the following ethnic order that correspond at some extent to the geographical spread of Al Qaida organization:

  1. The Arabs from the Arab Peninsula' countries form the headquarter staff. It concern the spiritual / religious leadership and at some extent the military one.

  2. The Arabs from the other countries represent the middle stratum. Predominantly, it is applied to persons issued from Maghreb as well as from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, etc… It is worth focusing on the fact of highly decreased number of Al Qaida's followers from Syria and Iraq. The popular support of Al Qaida in both countries is symbolic resulting from the rivalry often declared as illegitimacy of the Pious khalifs' rule in regard of the Omayades and Abbassides khalifs. Thus, Syrian and Iraqi governments do not face the problems of widely anti-terrorist action against the considered terrorist organization because of the illegitimacy of the Saudi-Salafite ideology spread by Al Qaida. Indeed, the Syrian and Iraqi members of this organization are in practice mercenaries (most of them are good commandos with military skills) and do not consider themselves as ideological followers. Their adhesion is military and financially motivated unlike to the lack of religious and spiritual reasons.

  3. The Muslims non-Arabs set the third level within Al Qaida structure. In short, this group is the most numerous because of the threefold possible stratification:

  1. Members whose country of origin is an Islamic state. Usually, those peoples are issued from Sunni Hanafi majority community, but themselves abandoned it and started confess Salafi-Vahabite ideology radically shifted in comparison with Taliban Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. It may applied to Central Asian ex-Soviet Republics, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Chechenia, Albania, Bosnia, etc… The group in question encompasses the ordinary warriors who often are the most fanatics. They are pushed away the headquarter and are not involved in missions from highly urgency and that require military skills.

  2. Turkey and Iran remains terra incognito for Al Qaida's cobweb. The heirs of Ottoman Sultans and Persian Shahs deny Arab and Saudi political superiority e.g. legitimacy in the light of the centuries-lasted struggle between the three leading ethnic groups within Islamic statehood traditions. It is absolutely applied to Iranian born and Shiites confessing persons, while some Turks let themselves being hired for military sophisticated operations. Whereas in practice Iran is saved from Al Qaida contamination due to double "security belt" (ethnic and confessional discrepancy) Turkish popular Islam provide very limited number of mercenaries.

  3. Citizens from Christian countries of origin are strongly encouraged to involve within Al Qaida's ranks. The act of Islamization and "Salafitization" made them "museum pieces" (par example one American and two Bulgarians and two Czechs as some Philippines' intelligence information guessed) among Osama's well-arranged and logically graduated body. Their preservation from dangerous missions aims to keep their presence as long as it could last and to serve as argument for Al Qaida's international impact.