Den egyptisk-belgiske journalisten Khaled Diab finner ingen historiske forløpere til det kalifatet ISIS har utropt. Det henger i løse luften.
The Abbasid caliphate, for example, which ruled from 750 to 1258, was an impressively dynamic and diverse empire. Centered in Baghdad, just down the road from where ISIS is occupying large areas of Iraq, the Abbasid caliphate was centuries ahead of Mr. Baghdadi’s backward-looking cohorts. Abbasid society during its heyday thrived on multiculturalism, science, innovation, learning and culture — in sharp contrast to ISIS’ violent puritanism. The irreverent court poet of the legendary Caliph Harun al-Rashid (circa 763-809), Abu Nuwas, not only penned odes to wine, but also wrote erotic gay verse that would make a modern imam blush.
Centered on the Bayt al-Hikma, Baghdad’s “House of Wisdom,” the Abbasid caliphate produced notable advances in the sciences and mathematics. The modern scientific method itself was invented in Baghdad by Ibn al-Haytham, who has been called “the first true scientist.”
With such a proliferation of intellectuals, Islam itself did not escape skeptical scrutiny. The rationalist Syrian scholar Abu’l Ala Al-Ma’arri was an 11th-century precursor of Richard Dawkins in his scathing assessments of religion. “Do not suppose the statements of the prophets to be true,” he thundered. “The sacred books are only such a set of idle tales as any age could have and indeed did actually produce.”
It is this tolerance of free thought, not to mention the supposed decadence of the caliph’s court, that causes Islamist radicals to hark back to an earlier era, that of Muhammad and his first “successors.” But even these early Rashidun (“rightly guided”) caliphs bear little resemblance to jihadist mythology. Muhammad, the most “rightly guided” of all, composed a strikingly secular document in the Constitution of Medina. It stipulated that Muslims, Jews, Christians and even pagans had equal political and cultural rights — a far cry from ISIS’ punitive attitude toward even fellow Sunnis who do not practice its brand of Islam, let alone Shiites, Christians or other minorities.
Men når Diab skal finne årsaken til dagens radikalisme, skorter det. Han nevner flere gyldige bevegggrunner, men enten det er skuffelsen over Baath-partiene eller vakuumet i Irak etter amerikanernes innmarsj, så stikker islamismens røtter dypere og går lenger tilbake, og de vokser i flere land samtidig, med ulike varianter, men har noe til felles.
Diab er inne på noen viktig når han sier at de radikale kom til å se på hele samfunnet som hedensk – yahiliyyah – altså som det premuslimske samfunnet på Muhammeds tid. Hvor oppsto denne overbevisning fra?
Out of this multilayered failure, which often included the brutal suppression of both secular oppositionists and moderate Islamists, emerged a nihilistic fundamentalism, which claimed that contemporary Arab society had returned to the pre-Islamic “Jahiliyyah” (an “age of ignorance”). The only way to correct this was to declare jihad not only against foreign “unbelievers,” but also against Arab society itself in order to create a pure Islamic state — one that has only ever existed in the imaginations of modern Islamic extremists. These Islamists misdiagnose the weakness and underdevelopment of contemporary Arab society as stemming from its deviation from “pure” Islamic morality, as if the proper length of a beard and praying five times a day were a substitute for science and education, or could counterbalance global inequalities.
Diab sier et flertall av arabere og muslimer i verden ikke vil leve under sharia og slett ikke støtter grupper som ISIS. Det kan han kanskje ha rett i, men holdningen er kanskje mer komplisert og preget av ambivalens? Noe som gjør at man ikke klarer å marsjere og si «ikke i vårt navn». Mangel på motstand er bemerkelsesverdig og tilsvarende lar jihads appell seg ikke ignorere eller bortforklare. I sum gjør det at de ekstreme vinner, og det er ikke første gang i islams historie, som Douglas Murray så skarpt beskriver i et glimrende essay i siste nummer av Document tidsskrift.