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Akhmet Yarlykapov: “Islamic State” is the consequence of so-called “Islamic globalization”

Akhmet Yarlykapov (left). Photo: kavkaz-uzel.ru

The “Islamic State” phenomenon is the logical consequence of the so-called “Islamic globalization”, says Akhmet Yarlykapov, a senior fellow-researcher at the Centre for Problems of the Caucasus and Regional Security at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).

“The globalizing world is now experiencing the phenomenon of the so-called “Islamic globalization”. Its ideologists claim that the Muslims worldwide should unite and that the difference between madhhabs is insignificant. In the reality, however, this globalist project has not only failed to unite the Muslims worldwide, but has also triggered unrest of the Salafi groups in the world. Even on the Arabian Peninsula — the area of genesis and spread of the so-called “pure Islam” — the “pure Islam” is not a single monolith but a boiler,” Yarlykapov has told EADaily.

“What does Islamic globalization mean? A Muslim region may undergo drastic changes within half a year. The boundaries between the conventionally “traditional” Islam and marginal para-Islam in its jihadist version are being leveled off. For instance, a traditional mosque somewhere in Europe might prove to be the backbone of jihadists as a matter of fact," he says. The orientalist notes that the formal imam of such a European mosque is a pious Muslim, but in the reality the mosque is headed by a Wahhabi group. “Furthermore, the phenomenon of “e-imams” or “virtual muftis” is quite popular now.

The expert points out that until quite recently the so-called “classical Wahhabis” were the domineering religious group in Saudi Arabia. “I would mention Abdul Aziz Al ash-Sheikh, the current Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Saleh Al-Fawzan, the head of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court of Justice, and others. Later, another group originated from the classical Wahhabis and it can be called “Wahhabis-jihadists”. The most prominent ideologists of the group are sheikhs Muhammad al-Qahtani and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi,” says Yarlykapov.

Editor's note: Muhammad al-Qahtani (1935 — 1980) was a prominent Saudi preacher of radical Salafism, disciple of the well-known Salafi scholar Abdul Aziz ibn Baz (Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia in 1993 — 1999). In the 1970s, together with his fellow student Ibn Baz Junayd al-Otaybi, al-Qahtani took part in a plot against the ruling Saudi dynasty. He was a member of the terrorist group that seized the Masjid al-Harām in Makkah in November 1979. Muhammad al-Qahtani was killed in the clashes with the royal troops in 1980.

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (born in 1959) is a Jordanian Salafi preacher. He got Islamic education in Saudi Arabia. During the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan, al-Maqdisi lived in Pakistan and visited the mujahids fighting against the Soviet troops.  In 1992 he returned to Jordan and has been carrying out his preaching activities to the present day. He pays frequent visits to Palestine. The British and US special services call al-Maqdisi the ideologist of al-Qaeda in Jordan. The Russian Federal Security Service analysts consider al-Maqdisi to be one of the spiritual mentors of Imarat Kavkaz.   

“The key rhetoric motive of the jihadists who followed al-Qahtani, al-Maqdisi and others is to urge the Muslims worldwide to join the “defensive jihad”, because the jihadists' leaders claim that “the Muslims worldwide suffer aggression,” says Yarlykapov. “The jihadists' ideology formed the backbone of al-Qaeda first and then moved to the “Islamic State” in a slightly modified form,” he notes.  

The orientalist emphasizes that initially the Saudi Arabian authorities were not only reluctant to persecute the jihadists but they also cooperated with them, for instance, during the Soviet presence in Afghanistan or the Wahhabi expansion into the Caucasus during the Chechen campaigns. “The situation changed in the mid-2000s, when the jihadists started undermining the fundamental concepts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the foundations of almost а century-old laid-back life of the Saudi establishment. The Saudi Arabian authorities replaced their kindness by anger and their cooperation with the jihadists— by reprisals. The ideologists and leaders of the “war of Muslims” are now being imprisoned or expelled from the Kingdom,” says the MGIMO expert.

Yarlykapov says that a new group has recently emerged among the jihadists and it interprets Wahhabism in the way that was previously impossible to imagine in the Wahhabi space. “It all started with the fact that part of the Wahhabis fell under the influence of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an ideologist of the “Muslim Brotherhood”, and included a number of Ikhwan creeds in their ideology. These Wahhabis are called ikhwanized Wahhabis and their prominent ideologists are Sheikh Muhammad al-Arifi and Salman Al-Ouda. They can be considered the protagonists of the “Islamic State”. As a result, one more puzzle is originating in the fragmented Sunni space — the “Islamic State“, the ISIS, or DAISH, as Muslims usually call it,” the expert notes.

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