Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the self-styled ‘Islamic State of Iraq,’ thinks that a confluence of events—electing Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land in mid-May—all point to one outcome: the imminent destruction of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
This is happening against the backdrop of the Obama administration, and it is interesting to quote in full what al-Baghdadi has to say about that:
“It is gladdening that the commander of the [Christian] forces in their war on the Muslims today is a black slave [who has] apostatized from Islam. Thanks be to Allah they don’t have a man [among] them to put forward, so they borrow a submissive slave who [is an] apostate from his religion to incur the anger of God and His spite and the quickness of His punishment. So rejoice in the era of the black [man] of Washington.”
Al-Baghdadi is pointing to Obama’s election as the ultimate affront to Islam. In his eyes, Obama is an apostate who left Islam to become the nominal head of the latter-day “Romans.” He seems to believe that this will unleash a divine sort of fury to smite the enemies of the Muslims.
Obama is due to the address the Arab and Muslim worlds in Cairo. His speech, and his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, are being hyped up as the ultimate rapprochement between the West and Islam. Not a few people in the president’s audience will have al-Baghdadi’s words ringing in their ears, and it those people, the ones who have taken the time to stop by a jihadist internet forum to download the caliph’s speech, who are the most likely to turn jihadist, if they haven’t done so already. They have been primed to judge Obama to be a walking, talking insult to their faith. How would one go about undoing the effects of such venom?
American intelligence analysts don’t take al-Baghdadi too seriously; the consensus view still holds that he is a “fictional character” meant to put an Iraqi name to Al-Qaeda’s leadership. But clearly, there are those among Arabs and Muslims who take him very seriously, enough to sacrifice their lives for something that they don’t see.
Al-Baghdadi sets the tone of his latest by quoting verse 73 of the Al-Maeda sura of the Quran: “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.” He accuses Pope Benedict, as world leader of the Catholic faith, that after twenty centuries of cursing the Jews, the pope made a point of visiting Israel on the anniversary of its birth as part of expectations among Christians for the return of the Messiah.
The pope’s visit coincided with the formation of the Netanyahu cabinet, which, according to al-Baghdadi, is committed to the construction of the Third Temple on the rubble of the Aqsa Mosque; yet another milestone in the return of the Messiah. Christians and Jews have set aside their centuries-old antipathy to “fulfill this goal” opines al-Baghdadi.
However, the legions of the jihadists shall descend upon to Jerusalem to forestall this “real danger” to the Aqsa, and they shall come in from “Iraq, [Afghanistan], Somalia, the Maghreb, and Yemen.” Al-Baghdadi goes on to warn Pope Benedict that the Christian holy places, as well as the heads of the churches and the elite of the “Christians in the East” are within the reach of the jihadists, who shall render unto them a “death blow”, and that the pope’s support for Israel has effectively offered up the Christians living among Muslims as sacrificial lambs to the wrath of jihad.
Al-Baghdadi had been in the news recently, the focus of an alleged arrest in Baghdad that the Iraqi government claimed was him. Al-Baghdadi put out two speeches denying his arrest. The last one, released in full on May 30 through jihadist internet forums, was titled ‘The Aqsa Mosque Between the Fallaciousness of the Christians and the Malice of the Jews’; excerpts relating to the denial of the arrest were aired earlier on May 22 on the Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel.
Regardless of whether the Iraqi government has nabbed the right man or not, the jihadists—thousands of whom have pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi as Islam’s new candidate caliph—still believe the voice they hear on the audio tapes that tells them that he’s still a free man. But what is more important is what else al-Baghdadi is feeding into the minds of his listeners.
At the end of his speech, al-Baghdadi reminds his listeners of a prophecy made by Muhammad, that Muslim armies shall conquer Rome. With Jerusalem and Rome as their destination, what in the world can Obama the ‘apostate’ say to placate the jihadists and their sympathizers out there?