Arab Spring Feeding Push for Islamic Caliphate?

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ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Tunisia's leading Islamist party recently captured most of the votes in the country's first open election in decades.

For many, the move was another sign that Islam, not democracy, would continue to dominate the Middle East.

Some feel Muslim groups in the region are working harder than ever to re-establish an Islamic caliphate, or Islamic state.

When Muhammed died 14 centuries ago, the Muslim world needed someone to take the prophet's place.

"The caliphate was the leadership of Islam after the death of Muhammad the prophet of Islam," explained Islamic expert Moshe Sharon.

The last caliphate was located in Istanbul, Turkey. For 400 years, Istanbul and the Topkapi Palace was the political center of the Muslim world.

From there, the Turkish sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire as caliphs from 1517 until the empire fell after World War I.

But in 1924, the Turkish leader Attaturk abolished the caliphate. Since then, many Muslims have dreamed of its return.

"The major aim of the caliphate is to rule the world and this can be done under the leadership of one caliph and he himself only can declare a holy war, a jihad," Sharon explained.

Click play to watch Chris Mitchell's report, followed by comments from CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck.

Some believe a restored caliphate will precede the Islamic messiah. While they may disagree on tactics, many modern Islamic groups share the goal of restoring the caliphate.

They include the Taliban, al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the granddaddy of them all, the Muslim Brotherhood.

"The Muslim Brotherhood was set up in 1928, four years after the disbanding of the Muslim caliphate by Ataturk," said Kenneth Timmerman, president of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. "And their specific mission was to restore the caliphate just four years later."

"They've been pursuing that mission ever since," he continued. "Their goal remains to set up one world Islamic government."

The Brotherhood now has a foothold in Egypt where after the fall of the Mubarak government, it became the country's most organized political party.

"What the Muslim Brotherhood would like to see is a strong, powerful Islamic government armed with nuclear weapons," Timmerman added.

"Whether those are supplied by Pakistan or Iran doesn't matter, and they would be gradually eliminating Christian and Jewish influence, Christian and Jewish governments," he said.

Another potential power player who wants to restore the caliphate is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"I think Erdogan clearly sees himself as the founder of the new caliphate, the world Islamic government with Turkey at its center," Timmerman said.

"I think this is what's behind him offering to send the Turkish navy, for example, to protect a quote 'peace flotilla' that would come to Gaza," he said.

"I'm sure that in his heart that [Erdogan] is dreaming about the re-establishment of the caliphate," Sharon added. "He behaves like it. He can easily push this area into a great war."

Because of the threat of war and rise of Islam, many feel the so-called "Arab spring" is a misnomer.

"I wouldn't call it an Arab Spring," Sharon said. "It's far from being an Arab Spring. It's the same kind of winter."

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CBN News
Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

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