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What’s a caliphate? News puts focus on ancient form of government


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What’s a caliphate? News puts focus on ancient form of government



McClatchy Washington BureauJuly 3, 2014

WASHINGTON — When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria announced Sunday that it was changing its name and reviving the caliphate, the news lit up the Internet and headlined news reports around the world.


But what is a caliphate? And what is the self-described Islamic State hoping to achieve with its declaration?


The answers, experts say, have more to do with the Sunni militant group’s rivalry with al Qaida than with any plan to replicate the last caliphate, which was abolished in 1924 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.


Understanding the history of the caliphate and its powerful symbolism is key to comprehending what the Islamic State’s declaration means. It’s the latest salvo in an inter-Muslim battle for territory and influence in the Middle East and beyond _ a conflict that not only pits Sunnis against Shiites but radical Sunni jihadis against each other.


Q: What is a caliphate?


A: A caliphate is a political-religious institution led by a successor of the Prophet Muhammad, who died in 632 AD Scissors-32x32.png

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