Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Caliphate's historical hearts and minds campaign

ISIL or ISIS creating a hell on Earth for Yazidis, Christians, Muslims and other non Takfiri/wahhabi Iraqis and Syrians

 Winning hearts and minds of a foreign audience or an occupied people has never been an easy task not even for the most organized empires. The new kid on the block, ISIS calling itself the organization formerly known as ISIS now renamed IS=Islamic state has been pushing itself on Iraq, Syria and is now trying to set up trouble for Lebanon. Hezbollah has also denounced ISIS as savagely violent and bad for Lebanon and the wider region making it the second militant/terror group to do so. If Al Qaeda and Hezbollah's both agree that there is a terrorist organization worthy of holding the title as the most dangerous, violent and extreme of extremes, than one must ask how insane is ISIS. The terror experts must be having a field day to suddenly see both organizations' competitor terrifying them. The denouncement comes as a reminder that even organizations such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah have moral edicts and ethics to follow. The same can't be said for ISIS who not only insists on forming a caliphate over the next five years but also using violence and physiological warfare to eliminate any opposition (no matter the cultural, religion or political views) that could push the organiztion back to the fringes of the region or dismantle the group all together. The area ISIS has mapped out follows the historical caliphates' land area.  However, ISIS has not tried to rexamine its tactics or review the methods other than violence used by the historical caliphates themselves.

La invasión árabe de la Península Ibérica y el inicio de la Reconquista

The Islamic caliphates that built empires and dynasties in the aftermath of Islam's 7th century rise lasting well into the 20th century, conquered half of the landmass and trade routes (on 3 continents) not always through warfare but through winning the hearts and minds of the local people. In the same ways as the Romans, the caliphs in Granada, Baghdad or Damascus (history has a funny way of creeping into the present) made attempts to adapt or adjust Islamic culture and faith to the culture of new territories. The motto of live and let live was exercise to some extent in places like Palestine, Algeria, Spain, Sicily, across a huge chunk of Africa from Mali to Ethiopia/Egypt and along the Silk Road in Central Asia and later in China. Realistically, the caliphs knew it would be foolish to fight gargantuan wars involving heavy troop movements, laying siege various cities or destroying cultural monuments and hertiage. Not to say that prolong wars did not occur during the caliphates time. When Jerusalem (the Kingdom of Jerusalem) under the rule of Balian of Ibelin surrounded to Saladin after the Siege of Jerusalem during the second Crusade, Saladin held his troops back from revenge and destruction by allowing Christians and Jews left behind in Jerusalem by fleeing Crusaders to leave the city of their choosing. They were not bombed out of their homes or businesses  by Saladin's men.  Jerusalem has always been an international city home to residents from different cultures and languages. Saladin, Lionheart, Balian and successors during the following Crusades were aware of this.

Sacking of Rome by Visigoth and other Barbarian armies long occupied and controlled by Romans.

Geopolitical clash of empires

In 711, Tariq or Jabal Tariq on behalf of the Ummayad Caliphs conquered or depending on the story from the view of Spanish and French invaded Iberian peninsula with his North African army made up of soldiers from Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria. The short hand name for them became the Moors. Spain and Portugal were not bombed back into the stone age to show off military might towards a subjected people or humiliated to the extreme. Tariq took three years to occupy Spain and built numerous military forts along the march north up to France then known as Gaul that remain in place to this day. The conquest of the Iberian Peninsula still named Hispania at this point, was a geopolitical shock for dark age Europe. The Roman Empire's collapse and Barbarian Invasion had left a huge vacuum for political power. There was no force that could unite the European continent as the Romans had done and Ancient Greece centuries earlier. There was Eastern Roman Empire Byzantium. But the Byzantine Empire based in Constantinople (Istanbul) faced competition and clashed with its equally strong and influential neighbors the Persians, Ummayads-Abbasaids, Seljuk Turks (that would eventually become the Ottoman Empire), Egypt always trying to go its own way while balancing trade and diplomatic relations with them. Back in Gaul, the Frankish dynasties of Merovingian and Carolingians were uniting the Franks under a single government and a somewhat shaking collective territory. The united Franks still divided by tribe and living in their respective kingdoms across Gaul would be handy when the Moorish army marched to Toulouse and Poiters on their way to Battle of Tours.

Tariq and his men as governor general of Al Andalus had managed to secure a huge territory under their rule in a few decades through a combination of wars and campaigns aimed at the conquered people the Visigoths. The Visigoth were a tribe that emerged from the Barbarian hordes (later known as Germanic peoples) that wrecked havoc on a collapsing Rome three centuries earlier. They had spread across Western Europe from Rome and established a kingdom stretching from Hispania to Gaul. The Visigoths and Ostrogoths fought under the Visigoth King Rodrigo to push Tariq and his army back. Despite the internal fighting and clashes between Arabs and Berbers who made up the majority of the army and rulers of Al Andulus, the Muslim army was able to pacify the resistance and set up an occupation government that overtime developed into a local government. After Tariq's death, the army flexed its muscle during the Battle of Tours that put an end to Ummayad Caliphate's expansion into France. Coincidentally 200 years later, the Crusades would be launched by the Pope from France. Battle of Tours is regarded as the defining moment when France and Europe in general halted the original Islamic boogeyman from conquering the rest of what would become Christian Europe over the next centuries.

Battle of Tours (Poiters) 732 AD

La Madraza de Granada

  The Islamic caliphates helped to create a European identity and the idea of "Europe" as we know today emerged over the next several centuries. Parallel to a European identity and a pan Muslim identity was the clash of civilization. Yes Samuel Huntington was not the first or the last to point to the meeting of Islam and Christianity as a perpetual clash. Even before Saladin and Richard the Lionheart were born, political leaders in Europe, Middle East and Africa were already painting each other threats to their respective civilizations and peoples. Ordinary Spanish and French people, mostly illiterate and relying on the church to provide education were kept in fear by religious and cultural leaders. It didn't take long for the image of Saracen the oriental other of a misunderstood Islam, the strange caliphates and dangerous East to appear across Europe. France (Gaul) and Europe were still recovering from the horrific destruction and war on the Western Roman Empire unleashed by the Germanic tribes and Attilia the Hun. Three centuries of relative calm didn't convince the politicians that someone or a more dangerous group would not be waiting to attack. In the East and North Africa, the Visigoths and future West was understood as equally frightening and Barbaric. The strange West with its weird customs and insistence  on warfare emerged in caliphate. In the Islamic world, Europeans regardless if they came from France or Poland were known as the Franj after Franks the ancestors of the French and other neighboring countries.

 Cities of Light: Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain

As much as there was fear of both sides, there was cooperation both cultural, educational and military. One of the upsides to Al Andulus' 800 years absorption into the Caliphate was the flow of civilization itself into the Iberian Peninsula by way of caliphate. Science and arts flourished across Al Andulas from Granada and Sevilla to Toledo and Madrid. French and other European scholars and leaders were able to benefit from Arabic/Persian sciences and mathematics and long forgotten Egyptian/Greek science and literary texts translated in Al Andulus and the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. The Spanish language and its romance cousins were heavily enriched by thousands of Arabic terms and words (especially those beginning with al) that were added to Spanish vocabulary and grammatical structure. The name of cities with Arabic origin were also kept in tact long after the Spanish inquisation that forced the moriscos, moors and Jews out of Spain. Andalusian public works also aided with upgrading the former Roman turned Visigoth cities into well planned cities, with raised sidewalks, running water, thousands of public baths and street lamps. La Madraza de Granada and madrasas across Al Andulus like their counterparts in Morocco, North Africa and Middle East provided students and city residents with subjects on law, theology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, libraries, universities, learning about the world wasn't essentially tied solely to Islamic jurisprudence or religion but to practically and rising knowledge among the people and not solely the scholars or religious teachers. Diversity played a huge role in Islamic Spain-Portugal's pre-Renaissance enlightenment and served as the epitome of multiculturalism. Christians and Mozarabs (Spanish Christians who adapted the Arabic language and culture) added their unique literature, language and perspective to Andalusian houses of wisdom. Muladis, darker Africans, Muslims of mixed Berber-Arab and Iberian descendant also found their voices and contributed to Andalusian Arabic, poetry and music and the aljamiados (from Arabic Ajamiyah) Portuguese and Spanish written in the Arabic script.  

Aljamiado, one of the many alphabets derived from the Arabic script used to write local languages in Iberian Peninsula. Other aljamiados and Arabic based alphabets were also formed to write local languages across the caliphate and conquered territories. Siculo-Arabic was one of the Arabic dialects spoken in Islamic turned Norman Sicily until the 1100s. It is the ancestor of the Maltese language

Islamic History of Europe including Sicily and Spain

Collaboration between Christian, Muslim and Jewish scholars to translate Arabic knowledge and preserve Greek and Egyptian teachings didn't sit well with neighboring Christian kingdoms in northern Spain who distrusted the Andulacian rulers and saw them as a political threat. Within Al Andulus or Islamic Spain, Berbers clashed with Arab leadership over their low rankings in the military, class and economic access. On the other end, Christians and Jews classified as dhimmis (not to be confused with demi) experienced a roller coast ride of taxation and limited legal rights under Andulus' caliphate. However, both groups were protected and flourished while in the rest of Dark Age Europe, Jews were chased and persecuted and other Christian sects faced violence from leaders and society. Even with the rise of Holy Roman Empire, Christian kings and queens continued to launch military campaigns and wars against Islamic rulers and armies in Al Andalus, Sicily and Balkans. The Islamic caliphate responded in kind constantly reminding their Christian neighbors and opposing kingdoms that they had been in Al Andulus (Spain and Portugal) for several centuries and were no longer new comers or strangers from another land.


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