While it has been noted that the recent speech by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (released on 13 November) constituted the first recognition by Baghdadi of pledges of allegiance to him and his group from outside Iraq and Syria- specifically in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia (a series that emerged on 10 November beginning with Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis)- with consequent nullification of distinct group identities and announcement of new ‘wilayāt’ (‘provinces’) of IS therein, official IS recognition of the pledges had already been extended at least a day before at the lower level by an IS “General Media Committee,” according to the statement translated by me below and distributed by IS sources in Iraq’s Ninawa province. That this statement appeared in Ninawa province is unsurprising when we consider this just released official IS Ninawa province video of celebrations of the new pledges of allegiance.
Like Baghdadi’s speech, this statement names the same five specific countries where pledges of allegiance to IS have occurred. As far as the implications go on the ground in those countries, I refer to my post onJamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis’ pledge of allegiance to IS, on which subject there has already emerged notions of a Wilayat Sinai (‘Sinai Province’), which could plausibly follow on from the actions of IS-aligned jihadis in Libya, who have already created the trappings of a Wilayat Barqa (‘Cyrenaica Province’) on the model of IS institutions in Syria and Iraq like the Islamic court and Islamic police. While I believe there is potential for such groundwork to be laid in the Sinai, it is more readily in doubt in Saudi Arabia (where the security apparatus remains tight) and Yemen (where IS supporters will have to compete with al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, which already has territorial holdings). Interestingly, even before the official pledges of allegiance, one could find pro-IS photos declaring an IS province in Arabia.
Of interest also are the pledges of allegiance to IS not mentioned by Baghdadi or this statement: pledges which need to be distinguished from mere demonstrations of pro-IS[IS] sentiment without formal pledge as in Ma’an in Jordan and Shabab al-Tawheed of Tunisia. For example, no mention is made of the October pledge of Ansar al-Tawheed in India, or pledges of allegiance from some Abu Sayyaf members in the Philippines. With the former case, it is even more egregious as the whole of Ansar al-Tawheed pledged allegiance to IS, and not merely a portion. Why no explicit acknowledgement? It could be that Baghdadi and IS see no realistic prospect of expansion in these areas, which, after all, are predominantly non-Muslim and are outside the Arabic-speaking world. Even so, the lack of recognition seems somewhat at odds with the strong IS emphasis on the global nature of its struggle and end goal of world domination that can be identified within the group’s messaging since at least late summer 2013 when IS was just the Islamic State in Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), reinforced by Baghdadi’s speeches as caliph emphasizing the eventual conquest of Rome and the development of the al-Hayat Media designed to provide dissemination of IS propaganda in multiple languages (including English, French, German and Hindi), maximising global outreach. Even so, it remains true that the majority of IS’ membership is native Arabic-speaking.
Note too that in the conclusion with the request to God to protect IS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, it is clear that IS on the ground prior to the al-Furqan Media speech released on Thursday had not acknowledged any rumours of his death and affirmed his status on the presumption that he was still alive, indicating even before hints of the impending release of the speech that he had survived any airstrikes that might have hit his position.
Caliphate on the program of the Prophets
General Media Committee
18 Muharram 1436 AH
12 November 2014**
Statement: Good Tidings of the Helpers [Arabic: Ansar] with the Pledge of Allegiance [Arabic: Bay’ah] of the Regions
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Praise is due to God who said in His great book: ‘And hold firmly to God’s rope together and do not separate’ [Qur’an 3:103] and prayers and peace are due upon whomsoever God has made harmonious with the hearts of the believers. And for what follows:
With the parties in all their paths and creeds making common cause against the Islamic Caliphate today; and the devotion of their efforts to a war against Islam and Muslims, God- Exalted is He- has provided relief to this young Islamic State, and has supported it with divine victories and conquests, the most recent of them being the support and help for brothers of creed and ideological program in different Islamic countries, and their pledge of allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims: Imam Ibrahim.
And so today we present to the Ummah of Islam great tidings, making the believers rejoice and vexing the hypocrites, for five big jihadi groups have pledged allegiance to IS, in five Islamic countries/lands, and they are: Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Jazira of Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) [Saudi Arabia]. They had given the pledge of their hands by yesterday on 17 Muharram 1436 AH [10/11 November 2014].
If this shows anything, then it shows God Almighty’s support for this blessed Islamic State. And it is swift glad tidings for the ansar mujahideen in their uniting with their brothers in the muhajireen lands. [Thus] they spend the evening as tranquility floods their souls, and calm overfills their hearts.
And it is right for every Muslim man and Muslim woman to rejoice today on this great occasion and thank their gracious Lord that a Caliphate on the program of the Prophets has returned, headed by an exalted Imam of the Quraysh [Prophet Muhammad’s tribe], who has established the jihad, recruited the soldiers and has resisted- along with his righteous/upright soldiers- the violence of the people of shirk [idolatry/polytheism] and apostasy. Further, he has punished the Crusaders and their Safavid and secularist followers. He has wiped out the borders; and has revived the glory of Islam. He has wrought harmony between the ansar and the muhajireen in the land of God in totality.
Hail, oh heroic soldiers of al-Kinana [land of the quiver- i.e. Egypt]
Welcome, oh soldiers of Yemen of wisdom and faith.
Hello and welcome, zealous brothers of the Islamic Maghreb.
And congratulations from us to you, oh descendants of the Companions [of the Prophets] of the Jazeera [Arabian Peninsula]
We ask God Almighty to unite us with you in this world in obedience to Him, and in the next world in His Paradise and the residence of His mercy. And we ask for Him to protect for us our Islamic Caliphate, its leader, ministers, commanders, soldiers and subjects. Indeed He is the guardian of that and the guider of the path of the Rashad [right-guided etc.].
General Media Committee
18 Muharram 1436 AH corresponding to 12 Tishreen Thani [November] 2014.
** (Update)- Just a brief appendix note on discrepancy in the Islamic calendar date (compare this oneversus another that has 18 Muharram as 11 November), it should be pointed out that at least one local IS Ninawa province source released the above statement in online format during the evening of 11 November. See below:
Update (II): The al-Furqan Media video today of the beheading of Peter Kassing references in passing with video clips etc. pledges of allegiance beyond the five named countries. Still, it’s a fair question to wonder why those pledges of allegiance, particularly the case of Ansar al-Tawheed, get much less emphasis considering how much effort IS has invested since last year in putting out the message on the ultimately global nature of its fight.