"What Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS Don't Know About Islamic History: The Use and Abuse of History in Modern Iraq and Beyond"

Robert Haug, University of Cincinnati

Date: Sat. Nov. 1, 2pm

Location: Cincinnati Public Library, Main Library South Building, Genealogy & Local History Program Space (3rd floor)

When the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared himself Caliph this past June, he was attempting to connect himself and the extremist, militant organization he leads to a millennia old Golden Age of Islamic Civilization when the Caliphs ruled a Sunni Muslim Empire that stretched, at its height, from Spain in the West to the frontiers of China and India in the East. Despite these attempts to legitimize his rule through evocations of the past, al-Baghdadi and ISIS’s actions before and after this declaration have had little resemblance to the actual Caliphs of the past. This is because al-Baghdadi’s vision of the past is shaped not by the actual study of history but by much more recent political and religious movements and ideologies. In this talk, Prof. Robert Haug of the University of Cincinnati History Department will discuss the use and abuse of early Islamic history in modern political discourse, what people from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to the American media gets wrong about that past, and the origins of these politicized versions of history.