Three sets of medieval-era remains found France may turn out to be some of the earliest evidence of Muslim presence outside of the Iberian Peninsula, scientists say.
The Early Middle Ages was a period of expansion and conquest for the Arab-Islamic world, culminating in the expansion of Islamic caliphates into what was once known as Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. The impact of several hundred years of Islamic rule in the Iberian region has had an indelible and unmistakable influence on Spanish, Portuguese, and Mediterranean history and culture, but the period has shown little in the way of evidence of an Islamic expansion outside of the region – that is until the discovery of these new graves.
As detailed in a newly published research study, the medieval graves dating to the 8th century CE were found in Nimes, near the Mediterranean coast of France northeast of the city of Montpelier, not far from the Côte d’Azur. Researchers from the University of Bordeaux and the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research examined the graves closely, claiming that evidence of the way the remains were interred seem to be in line with Islamic funerary practices. Additionally, preliminary DNA analysis and forensic examinations of the remains made in order to determine the age and sex of the individuals in life indicate the possibility of Arab-Islamic ancestry.
The evidence is slowly but surely mounting that these graves may be Islamic in origin. The remains were found to be buried with their bodies pointing towards Mecca, a widely-established Muslim funerary practice. Genetic markers also indicate North African ancestry for the exhumed individuals along their paternal genetic line. Finally, the remains themselves have been radiocarbon dated to somewhere between the 7th and 9th centuries. Researchers have drawn some initial conclusions from this data, theorizing that the individuals interred within the graves at one time could have been Berber soldiers that had been part of the Umayyad army after the caliphate expanded into North Africa.
The authors of the new research study into the identity of these graves say that the graves may be some of the only evidence discovered to date that indicates Muslim settlement north of the Pyrenees. While there does seem to be a high likelihood that these three individuals may have been North African Muslims that had traveled to the south of France via the caliphate’s occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, how or why they came to be, by themselves, so far into what would have been Frankish territory at the time remains a mystery.
15 pages of jihadist propaganda in color and in French can now be found on the Internet. The new magazine entitled Dar al-Islam has been available online since December 22. Previously the other major foreign language magazine was “Daqib,” a publication in English. The two magazines are released by the media communications branch of ISIL, Al-Hayat, which was founded in May 2014. The communication arm of ISIL often uses Twitter as its main platform. A recent Twitter post reads:
#Al-Hayat presents the first edition of the magazine “Dar Al-Islam” — fr-alhayat (@fralhayat) 22 Décembre 2014
The magazine’s first edition is entitled “The Islamic state extends its territory.” In the introduction, the authors celebrate being “witnesses to a new era,” that of the restoration of the caliphate, which would allow Muslims to live according to Islamic law.
The magazine’s title translates to “abode of Islam.” One of its article’s reads: “It’s why the magazine is named Dar al-Islam, to remember the immense blessing it is to live under Allah’s law, among believers.”
The magazine is filled with grammatical errors, passages from the Qur’an and words in Arabic, and seeks to convince French Muslims to pledge allegiance to the caliphate. The authors denounce the “idolatrous”: “those who change the law of Allah,” and “the crusaders who love the cross and call a child the Lord of heaven.”
For Mathieu Slama, specialist in “crisis communication,” the magazine serves two purposes. The first is as a recruitment method. The last page of the magazine shows a French passport being burned. The second purpose is to show ISIL’s a willingness to institutionalize. The magazine uses Western journalistic methods: catchy titles, photos and summaries, shows the West that ISIL is becoming a legitimate institution.
Manuel Valls said he could not definitively ban this type of propaganda. The Cazeneuve law of November 2014 hardened provisions that punish the glorification of terrorism, especially on the Internet. However the European Commission must meet to discuss if the magazine can be banned, and the decision would not take effect until late February or early March 2015.
Dutch newspaper Trouw has fired one of its employees for using non-existing sources when writing articles. The name of this journalist has yet to be confirmed, but other media write it’s Perdiep Ramesar.
One of his articles that caused a lot of commotion dates from May 18 2013: ‘If your neighbourhood changes into a caliphate.’ He wrote about a part of the Schilderswijk with a so-called enclave of orthodox Muslims, where smoking, alcohol and short skirts were said to be prohibited.
The article caused a lot of commotion and some politicians decided themselves to take a look in this neighbourhood. Geert Wilders, from the rightwing party Party for the Freedom (PVV) said he didn’t feel like he was in the Netherlands, while walking there.
There were however also some doubts about the article among Muslims themselves. The article played a great role in the (already) negative image of the neighbourhood, and also its stigmatization, as complained by Adri Duivesteijn, former councillor in the Schilderswijk.
Minister of Social Affairs and Safety Asscher also visited the neighbourhood and said he didnt’t recognize himself in what the article wrote.
According to the research 87% of the by Motivaction interviewed people (18-34 years) is happy with support from Dutch Muslims for IS and they don’t want the Dutch government to prevent them. However, they also don’t believe in prosperity without democracy and don’t believe in a caliphate. But groups of jihadi’s do establish some welcoming changes in the region. Turkish youth seem to be much more positive about IS and the ‘holy war’ in Syria and Iraq than their Moroccan counterparts.
Minister of Social Affairs and Employment and vice premier, Asscher expressed his worries about the research, explaining that he already was worried about the Turkish community who according to him, does not seem to feel ‘at home’ in the Netherlands. But the next day he was somehow doubtful about the research because of its inconsistencies. How can this youth support IS-fighters, but at the same time be against a caliphate and for democracy? He questioned.
Ahmet Kaya, PhD researcher used an own inquiry among Turkish Dutch people. According to his research, 90% of the more than 1000 respondents condemn IS-violence. Kaya admits he cannot control if the respondents are part of the target group, since the inquiry was done online, but the results do correlate with the ideas he experiences around himself.
According to Kaya the research done by Motivaction should not be taken seriously. Verheggen, Motivaction-researcher disagrees and says that nuances in a research are very easy to get lost. Being against Assad, does not automatically mean that you’re supportive of a caliphate. A possible explanation for the (so-called) support of Turkish youth for IS might be the Turkish media, that is often pro-Erdogan and anti-Assad. Verheggen says this is however not completely clear and is pleased with more thorough research.
Research done by Motivaction on the support of Turkish youth for IS, is marked by inconsistencies. An example is that the youth indeed think that IS-fighters are heroes, but at the same time they are against a caliphate and for democracy. Asscher wants a more thorough research on the matter. He visited the Kuba-mosque in the city of IJmuiden, where apparently everyone attending is against IS.
When the extremist group Isis (now known as Islamic State or IS) declared a caliphate taking in parts of Syria and Iraq it reignited a debate over the role of an Islamic state. For many a caliphate is a political leadership, others a spiritual figurehead, and for some a combination of the two.
“What we’re seeing being carried out against helpless civilians like the Yazidis and other groups isn’t what an Islamic state is about,” says Yasmin Khatun, a journalist from London.
The institution of a caliphate (khilafah in Arabic) is how Muslims were led for centuries after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
The last widely recognised one was the Ottoman Empire which was abolished in Istanbul in 1924.
Caliph or khalifa – which means “successor” – is deemed by certain strands of Islam to be a leader destined to unite the Muslim “ummah” or community.
The position of caliph is often likened to that of a pope, a king, or head of state.
Many of those who want a caliphate today compare it to having an Islamic superpower – “an America for Muslims”.
It would also be a place to live that would be governed by Sharia law, the Islamic legal system.
Yasmin Khatun, 26, a journalist from London is a Sunni Muslim, Mina Topia, 29, a business development manager from Birmingham, is a Sunni Muslim, Joy Ahmed, 27, works in banking, lives in south London and is a Sunni Muslim, Zahra Abdeali, 31, is a recent graduate and a Shia Muslim, Fida Ul Haque, 23, is studying accounting and is an Ahmadi Muslim, Saif Ul Islam, 31, is self-employed and was born Hindu but converted to Sunni Islam offer their various opinions on what the Caliphate means to them.
In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Interior in 2010, 40% of Muslims rejected the ban on the niqab or the burqa in public spaces. The survey also revealed that the number of Muslims that are “very observant” has continued to grow in the last five years and only 40% of respondents were against “the existence of Islamic courts in non-Muslim countries.”The Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies (IEEE) has recently released an analysis of these movements in Spain. “They seek the establishment of a universal caliphate, the placement on a purely religious activity and an ultraconservative morality; and these circumstances make the integration of the faithful into our society more than difficult,” said Oscar Perez Ventura, an analyst of Jihadist terrorism and radical Islamic movements and co-author of the IEE document.
Rarely has the United States seen a more reckless and bare-knuckled campaign to vilify a distinct class of people and compromise their fundamental civil and human rights than the recent rhetoric against Muslims.
It would also be hard to imagine a more successful campaign. In the span of the two years since the start of Barack Obama’s presidency in early 2009, an astonishing number of people have turned into a kind of political wolf pack, convinced that 0.6% of the U.S. population is on the verge of trampling the Constitution and imposing an Islamic, Shariah-guided caliphate in its place. Like the communists that an earlier generation believed to be hiding behind every rock, infiltrated “Islamist” operatives today are said to be diabolically preparing for a forcible takeover.
Ironically, the Constitution seems more threatened by certain Americans who, prodded into paranoia by clever activists, opportunistic politicians and guileful media players, seem downright eager to deny Muslims the guarantees of religious freedom and the presumption of innocence.
The Spanish radio station, Cadena Ser, one of the most popular radio stations in Spain has published an interview with Abu Sharif, the leader of Osbat Al Ansar an Al Qaeda Group settled in the south of Lebanon, in a Palestinian refugee camp. The Spanish radio station highlighted the thesis of Abu Sharif about Al-Andalus: “Al-Andalus will be again an Islamic caliphate”
In Chasing a Mirage, Tarek Fatah writes: “Islamists argue that the period following the passing away of Muhammad was Islam’s golden era and that we Muslims need to re-create that caliphate to emulate that political system in today’s world. I wish to demonstrate that when Muslims buried the Prophet, they also buried with him many of the universal values of Islam that he had preached. The history of Islam can be described essentially as the history of an unending power struggle, where men have killed each other to claim the mantle of Muhammad. This strife is a painful story that started within hours of the Prophet closing his eyes forever, and needs to be told. I firmly believe the message of the Quran is strong enough to withstand the facts of history. It is my conviction that Muslims are mature and secure in their identities to face the truth. This is that story.”