ISIS and Their Historical Caliphate Cobblers, June 17, 2014


caliphate1ISIS is a group of Islamists who have recently made it on the news by taking over a quarter of Iraq and an adjacent and not insignificant area of poor mutilated Syria. Flick through ISIS news reports and most will involve atrocity stories including decapitation, crucifixion and human bonfires: even elements in Al Quaeda in Iraq have complained that ISIS is too violent for their tastes, while ISIS’s delightful leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, makes you long for the witty nonchalance, rictus smile and worrying eyes of Osama Bin Laden. (Abu Bakr’s parting words to American soldiers when he was released from Allied detention in 2009 – woops! – was ‘See you in New York!’) This leads us to the geographical ambitions of the upstanding geographers running ISIS…
Before getting onto their jihadist wet dream, however, a few observations. First, Islamists have long dreamt of the fabled world-wide caliphate. If some Christian fundamentalists see life as a hellish version of chess, then Islamists see their universe in terms of a Risk board. Second, ISIS essentially straddles one international border, between Syria and Iraq, and this has perhaps given them dangerous ideas. Third, ISIS are on a roll – enough to temporarily turn Iran and the US into allies – and when people are on a roll then ideas get away with them.



Now to the maps. The map immediately left is a rather ambitious number detailing ISIS’ expected mid term conquests in Syria and Iraq as predicted in March of this year. Now that this is looking half credible ISIS have moved onto their long term goals in the map that heads this post. Usually with these kinds of terrorist fantasies sobre sorts are left commenting solemnly on the disappearance of Israel: Jihadists ambitions rarely stretch beyond the Levant. However, here millions of murdered Jews are just one of several slaughters in the making. ISIS has been merciless against Shia populations and as tens of millions of Shias are represented, presumably they too would be offed: notably in Iran. But as extraordinary are ISIS’s demands in the west: Greece, the Balkans, way past the Danube and an intriguing line into the Alps that presumably represents Ottoman attacks on Vienna in 1529; that little arm of territory would be a mess to administer. As interesting is the conquest not just of Andalusia in southern Spain (Bin Laden used to get teary eyed about the loss Al-Andalus on some of his early videos): the reference is to the eighth century conquests in Iberia. But rather rudely ISIS have ignored the Christian hold out kingdoms in northern Spain, particularly in Galicia and Asturias: can anyone put us in touch with ISIS map makers so we can negotiate them down? This is the equivalent of a westerner putting Mecca as an archbishopric on an Anglican map. However, intoxicated with conquests on the Atlantic the mapmakers have missed out Arab conquests in Malta, Sicily and Calabria so perhaps there’s a kind of give and take thing being thrashed out? Or did outraged of Catania have a cousin at ISIS headquarters? Ricardo’s wife pointed out the resemblance of the ISIS caliphate to a bear and Ricardo sent in a quietly subversive map that makes the whole Jihad thing look so much less threatening: Pooh Bear has forgotten his honey in China and then it was time for elevenses…



24 July: a couple of updates on this. First a claim that this is not official ISIS documentation. Perhaps, but it clearly shows ISIS mentality, note least the fact that the ISIS head has recently announced he intends to conquer Rome.

My guest blogger does have an address, and this is it!


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