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Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan's Allegiance to Islamic State
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi • Aug 1, 2015 at 2:54 pm
In a Ramadan video message (H/T: Jihadology), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan announced its allegiance to the Islamic State. Though the opening sequence of the video still features al-Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, this should only be taken as generic. Even without knowledge of Uzbek, the allegiance to the Islamic State becomes clear through the featuring in the video of the Islamic State nasheed entitled: "The hands have stretched forth pledging allegiance to you as Imam."
It should be noted that logically this video follows on from pushback by the group earlier this year against a key argument al-Qa'ida central had upheld in rejecting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a higher authority: the allegiance to the supposedly alive Mullah Omar, whose death was only recently confirmed by the Taliban. In the earlier Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan statement, the group's leader argued that Mullah Omar was not alive- pointing to his silence on various issues over the years- and thus signalled Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the new leader to be followed.
"And we rejoiced greatly at the news of the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate in the land of al-Sham and Iraq and the appointment of our brother Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph of the Muslim Ummah.
If he [Mullah Omar] were not absent, he would not have kept silent when the disbelievers published a series of drawings mocking the Prophet (SAWS). If he were not absent, he would not have remained silent when the Afghan populace rose up against the burning of the Noble Qur'an, the word of God...If he were not absent, he would not have remained silent when the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham [ISIS] was announced  and then became the Islamic Caliphate."
With the news of Mullah Omar's death, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan can now feel vindicated in its arguments, as al-Qa'ida in particular is shown to be either ignorant or deceitful in Zawahiri having renewed his pledge of allegiance to Mullah Omar last year. Moreover, whatever the actual date of Mullah Omar's death, it is true he never said anything about the legitimacy of ISIS and/or the Islamic Caliphate it declared, potentially allowing the Islamic State to claim Mullah Omar as part of a line of succession of key jihadi figures that has culminated in the truest realization of the jihadi project yet. For the same reasons the Islamic State has honoured Sayyid Qutb, Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, whatever differences they might have had with the Islamic State's approach.
Most logically, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan should be incorporated into the Islamic State's Wilayat al-Khorasan for the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. The controversy over Mullah Omar in the wider jihadi world is likely to provoke further divisions that the Islamic State can exploit to gain new allies, fitting in with its modus operandi of playing on splinters to attract new support (cf. Caucasus Emirate). But whether these further divisions will prove fatal to al-Qa'ida is more questionable.
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