In what was once considered a conspiracy theory advanced by right-wing bigots seeking to engender Islamophobia, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a Sunni Muslim militant group that has seized vast portions of northern and western Iraq, declared the establishment of an Islamic state and demanded allegiance from other Muslim groups this weekend.
In an audio statement posted online that coincided with the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a spokesman for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), announced that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was the “caliph,” or leader, of a state whose territory extended from the city of Aleppo in northwestern Syria, to Diyala province in northeastern Iraq.
The spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, described al-Baghdadi as “the imam and khalifah (caliph) for the Muslims everywhere.” He also said that with the establishment of the caliphate, the group was changing its name to just the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant.
“The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas,” al-Adnani continued. “Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.”
Muslim extremists have long dreamed of recreating the Islamic state, or caliphate, that ruled over the Middle East, much of North Africa and beyond in various forms over the course of Islam’s 1,400-year history.