Dr. Ibrahim al-Badri is an individual “who has convinced himself he is a medieval caliph named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi” says Professor Juan Cole, who accuses the head of the “Islamic State” terror group of hypocrisy. Last week, Baghdadi delivered a sermon where he proclaimed himself to be a humble servant of the people. The speech was broadcast online, and was immediately met with backlash on Twitter, where several users noticed that the “humble caliph” was wearing an $8,000 Rolex watch.
Some users went through the trouble of zooming in on the watch:
“Islamic leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his Rolex : because being a hypocrite is what religion is all about,” said one user, with the following photo.
Under the leadership of Mr. al-Baghdadi and his predecessors, the terrorist group currently known as “The Islamic State” has undergone at least six name changes. In 2004, the group started out as “The Organization of Monotheism and Jihad”, and just a few short months later changed its name to “The Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers.” Many in the media gave up, and simply referred to the organization as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” for the next few years, but in 2006 the group began calling itself the “Mujahideen Shura Council.”
After taking the unusually named and unheard of “Oath of the Scented Ones” the group changed its name again in 2006 to the “Islamic State of Iraq.” After this, following a successful U.S. strike on his cohorts, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became the leader of the group and renamed the body to “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” in 2013. In the last few weeks, the group again renamed itself settling upon “The Islamic State.”
Opponents of the “The Islamic State” use the Arabic word “Daish” to derogatorily refer to the militants, refusing to keep track of the constantly changing nomenclature.
Mr. al-Baghdadi himself has gone through a plethora of names. He was born Ibrahim al-Badri, but decided to call himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi when he reached adulthood. That remained the case, until this month when he through another name change, deciding to call himself Caliph Ibrahim.
It is not typical for Muslims to repeatedly adopt new names, and historically Muslim leaders did not do so either, even upon assuming power.
Critics believe that the image that Mr. al-Baghdadi has adopted, that of a 7th century CE, aesthetic, religious leader, is a manufactured façade. They point to the fact that Mr. al-Baghdadi has a Master’s and a Ph.D., a sophisticated audio visual photography team, and a social media strategy. While Mr. al-Baghdadi currently sports a long beard, robes and a turban, the last known photo of him shows him with a neatly trimmed beard, wearing a suit and tie, and short hair. All this, combined with the recent controversy related to Mr. al-Baghdadi’s multi-thousand dollar watch, contributes to the theory that Mr. al-Baghdadi is fabricating an identity in an attempt to gain patronage.
As for the declarations of being the righteous leader of Muslims, Mr. al-Baghdadi has met with overwhelming opposition.
“Muslim scholars and movements from across the Sunni Islamic spectrum have rejected the caliphate declared by the Islamic State group, with the fighters receiving scathing criticism from both mainstream religious leaders, and those associated with their former allies, al-Qaeda,” said Al Jazeera.
“I do not promise you what the kings and rulers promise their subjects and followers — luxury and security and leisure,” says Mr. al-Baghdadi in a video recently posted online. Decriers of the self-proclaimed caliph point out that Mr. al-Baghdadi seems to be enjoying luxury, security, and leisure for himself.