The year is 2152, or 1576 according to the Islamic calendar. The world is divided into three great empires, America, Sino-Russia, and the largest of the three, the Eurasian Islamic Caliphate, embracing all of Europe and western Asia, from the Iberian peninsula to the Ganges. In the previous century two momentous events have precipitated the emergence of Islamic Europe, the transformation of the European Union into a cohesive federal republic with a central government, modeled on the United States, and the emergence of a new brand of secular Islam that synthesized the most progressive elements of Islam with the best of secular humanism of the European tradition. It had first swept Germany and France, the countries with the largest Muslim population as a reaction to fundamentalist Islam, and from there it quickly spread to North Africa and onwards to the Middle East, essentially reversing the course of the original spread of Islam over 1,000 years earlier.
No one had expected this turn of events, least of all the oil rich emirates, the Mullahs of Iran, or the autocratic rulers of Saudi Arabia. Within just a few years the political map of the Middle East changed dramatically and irreversibly. In place of Jihadists preaching the destruction of the West and religious fanatics renouncing modernity there arose the appealing alternative of adopting a new kind of Islam. forward looking, humane, and with an immediate appeal to the rest of the world.
As always, it was mainly the work of a charismatic leader, a Dutch cleric in fact, Mullah Ali Masoud Al-Bindi, a television savvy evangelizer who came to be known to posterity as the Martin Luther of Islam.
It did not take long before the growing numbers of “New Muslims” and their bright meeting houses, so different from the hate filled mosques of just a few years earlier, started to attract ordinary Europeans by the thousands. Neither was it a surprise that these swelling numbers quickly realized their political muscle. In short order New Islamic parties were popping up everywhere and forming coalition state governments, first in Germany, but soon also in Spain, Holland, Italy, and Sweden. It was only a matter of time before a Muslim would ascend to the newly minted position of European President. That historical event came to pass on November 28th, 2076, a date auspiciously coinciding with the anniversary of the Hijra, the Prophet’s escape from Mecca to Medina, precisely 1500 years earlier (the Hijra marks the founding of Islam as well as the start of the Islamic calendar).
At first, the Muslim president was just like any other politician elevated to that highest of positions. But within a few years, as more and more young Europeans and other nationalities everywhere kept flocking to this new secular religion that embraced everyone, of every faith and every political persuasion, new laws were being enacted in Europe to reflect the beliefs of the New Muslim majority. Slowly but inexorably Europe was becoming in law and in fact a Muslim empire. And as more countries succumbed to the lure of this new faith, major countries like Iran and Pakistan, the empire spread to a size the world had not seen since the time of the Ottoman Empire at its peak.
It is beyond the scope of this brief historical outline to enumerate all the political ups and downs of this new global power, the internal squabbles of the member states, and the inevitable external military conflicts. Our subject here is merely tracing a single epochal event, the transformation of the European republic to a monarchy, a Caliphate.
That process having evolved only in the past twenty or so years is too fresh to yield any predictions as to its impact and longevity. All the same, it is a momentous event by any standard, not only because history rarely goes back on itself to repeat past glories, such as an Islamic Caliphate, but more importantly because of what this new Caliphate in fact bodes for all of Humankind.
Here is just the bare-bones summary of how this strange transformation came about.
As was to be expected, the surprising ascent of New Islam, and the success of the early Muslim leaders of Europe to appeal to all their constituents, could not be maintained without opposition. All the regional, linguistic, and cultural histories of Europe did not go away overnight. Neither did the long cultivated suspicion and animosity towards “Arabs” and their foreign religion, even though most of the “new Arabs” were now the sons and daughters of everyone. It was not long before regional tensions too started threatening to boil over into full-fledged secession movements, and from conservative quarters came the call to shake off this takeover, this surreptitious hijacking of old Europe.
On the other end of the political spectrum were traditional Islamic voices calling for a greater fidelity to older tenets of the faith that were superceded and suppressed in the new state religion. Still others in the halls of power simply would not tolerate dissent. These were the military men and their industry backers. “Crush the malcontent” was their simple recipe.
Things were looking bad for Europe, when of all things the most outlandish solution to the crisis was started to circulate everywhere, It was promulgated not through political manifestos but through a series of novels. The author, a young Dutch woman of American descent, whose mother converted to Islam even before it was the New Islam quickly became the most read author in Europe. Her books called for, believe it or not, the establishment of a monarchy, an Islamic monarchy called a Caliphate in Europe, a form of government that had not existed anywhere for centuries. Why bring back the most anachronistic relic of a past long gone? It made no logical sense. If a republic could not manage its internal affairs, how on earth could a monarchy be anything but pouring oil on the flames of discontent?
And yet, such was the power of the author, Khalifa Al-Masri, and such was her following, that this outlandish idea started getting adherents, first half-embarrassedly by some renegade intellectuals, but gradually, mainly thanks to the film adaptations of her novels, by the general public. Here is what was the core of Khalifa’s proposition. The problem of the republic was not its vast size or the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of its citizens. Neither could the problem be blamed on New Islam, which clearly had the support of the majority of at least the young people of the state. The problem , according to Al-Masri, was the outmoded form of a republican government trying to rule a federation, and modeled on the long bankrupt model of a United States of America, long past its prime.
There was another model, a model not tried anywhere for 300 years, and even that model was a corrupt version of a much more successful model that had not existed for close to 2,500 years, said Khalifa in her stories. That model was the original Muslim Caliphate in Baghdad that flourished under the Caliph Harun Al-Rashid. In that model, a head of state was elected for life, though he could be removed by his Viziers (or cabinet) if he abused his position. The salient point that caught the fancy of everyone, federalists and separatists alike, was the one tenet of Islam most missing from the new religion, tolerance. It was the remarkable tolerance of early Islam that was its enduring legacy.
Of course Khalifa did not advocate a literal return to a medieval form of government. All she suggested in her thrilling tales and movies was the possibility of letting people feel masters in their own backyard, without regard to how many different backyards the country actually consisted of. Let there be no more uniformity in Europe, but let there be a central authority that governs through the approbation of the multitude, a focal point to hold for the empire.
It was a ridiculous premise, to say the least, one destined to be forgotten once a new literary fad or film style swept the public. But against all odds, Khalifa continued to fire up people’s imagination with her images of a benign, respectful, and civilized co-existence between entities of semi-autonomy and between the individuals who made up those entities.
In the end, as all other option were failing, and the Eurasian experiment was seeming to collapse, Khalifa’s harebrained idea started to seem to be the only way out. When it was put to a referendum just five years ago it won an overwhelming approval. Now, the only question that remained (and a thorny one at that) was who could be entrusted with the immense responsibility of governing the largest empire on earth, for life?
It was a no-contest. Khalifa Al-Masri, a mother of two young children, the most celebrated author of Eurasia, who had never held a public office, was the only candidate. She chose as her royal name the title Khalifat Al-Awlad, the empress of children.
And so it transpired that a woman who happened to be (if you comb the historical records) the great great great granddaughter of an obscure Jewish musician in America centuries before, became the first Caliph of the Eurasian Islamic Empire.
And you couldn’t guess it of course, but I was that Jewish man back in America, the proud great great great grandfather of a Muslim empress.
The Kvetching Factory
"Start every day with a smile and get it over with" (W.C. Fields)