A Tale of Two Caliphates

Now, more than ever before, is a time of great reflection and vigilance for Muslim communities in the West.

In a world in which the menace of ISIS has raised its head and is reaching out to vulnerable, impressionable Muslim youth all over the world through internet chatrooms and social media, we in the west need to recognize that all of our children are at risk.

Over 130 Canadians have left to join ISIS. Who would have ever thought that terror would become one of our fastest growing exports?

But there's something we in the West aren't getting about ISIS, which is why we've continuously been on our heels with ISIS.

The real threat posed by ISIS, which is one that will linger on, is its ideological allure - one that has been able to indoctrinate people born and raised in the West, thousands of miles away.

ISIS troops might temporarily be defeated, but they'll just rise again, because ISIS is an idea, and ideas cannot be defeated with bullets and bombs.

But there's one underlying factor in particular that gives ISIS the appeal to attract people around the world to join them and gives them the ability to send out a global rallying cry. It's the same factor that gives them their cold-blooded confidence, ruthlessness, swagger, and determination

They have a unifying force, and a greater cause; an ideological peg that is drawing people from the other side of the world to them from right under our noses - it's called Caliphate.

What the West doesn't understand, is the magnetic power and appeal that Caliphate possesses for Muslims. But in order to really deal with the menace of ISIS, we need to know what Caliphate is.

Until we understand this, we can't really solve this "ISIS crisis". That's why we need to be looking into how to counter this ideology here on Canadian soil, because ultimately, this war with ISIS - to recall the words of an American general - "will be won or lost in the hearts of Muslims", not in the battle fields of Iraq.

Essentially, Caliphate is the Holy Grail of the Muslim world.


Well, during the era when Islam was the leading civilization on earth, it was Caliphate that provided the unifying global leadership to the Muslim world.

That's why Caliphate possesses this strangely powerful allure.

And this is what ISIS is capitalizing on. They know that they can rally nationalistic, extremist Muslims for this "greater cause", to regain past Islamic glory.

But this is where these Western Muslims who are flocking towards ISIS, go wrong.

Their concept of Caliphate is utterly twisted, and that's what we have to work towards correcting on a wide scale, here in Canadian society, so that we don't keep seeing stories like that of Damian Clairmont or Martin Rouleau.

In the time of the famous second Caliph, Umar, Caliphate was in its heyday, as the Muslim empire spread far and reigned in wealth.

However, counter to what ISIS tells its recruits, the hallmark of that Caliphate didn't lie in its material or military exploits.

When Umar visited Jerusalem on an historic trip, he happened to be in the city's largest church when the time for prayer had come. At that moment, the Bishop offered for him to pray in the church. At this he replied: "No, for if I pray in this church today, my followers may fall prey to annex it after I am gone (out of their love for me)"

That's Caliphate.

It is this type of justice, consideration for others' rights, and a deep will for peace, that Caliphate is truly defined by.

And this is where we in the West, by proliferating the true concept of Caliphate and showing another side of it then just Al-Baghdadi, can help cut at the root of ISIS' power and appeal.

In the world today, there are two major claimants of Caliphate.

One of these is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, whose followers are in the thousands, and whose currency is blood and war.

The other is Mirza Masroor Ahmad, whose followers are in the tens of millions, making him the leader of the largest single group of Muslims in the world following one Imam. Masroor, who has spoken for world peace at Capitol Hill, the British Parliament, and the EU Parliament, has been called a "Champion of Peace" by Prime Minister Harper and hailed by Nancy Pelosi as "a figure of global prominence" and "a guide for millions of Muslims worldwide". Last year, the Wall Street Journal called him the "Pope of Islam".

And yet despite all this, it is Al-Baghdadi and the ISIS Caliphate that are known to most of the world.

That's the troubling part.

This interesting juxtaposition is a microcosm that explains some of our underlying issues that prevent us from defeating extremism in general, and ISIS in particular.

When will we provide the strong counter-narrative that will shape the minds of Western Muslims - a growing number with every day - in a way that opens new vistas for them aside from just the path of extremism?

As it stands today, we focus on the sensational. We focus on the negative. We focus on the problem.

When will we focus on the solution?