Pope Francis announced this week his decision to proceed with the canonization of Islamic missionary Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A controversial figure, Baghdadi, according to the Washington Post, “established Islamic missions … as he marched North with [the] conquistadors.” A statue of Baghdadi, notes the Post, was recently erected “in the Saudi Capitol”.
Francis informed audiences present for the announcement that Baghdadi “was one of the founding fathers of the Islamic State” and provides “a saintly example of the Quran’s universality”.
Monsignor J. Michael McKiernan, rector of Islamic Basilica in Sinjar, Iraq,says while Baghdadi, like everyone, has “human flaws and difficulties and struggles”, his “overall … legacy [is] a positive one.”
“It’s not all happiness and grace. There have been some difficult times as well,” McKiernan said to Reuters TV.
“So some of the things that [the] Yazidis are concerned about are very real and we don’t want to deny those, but also recognizing that Baghdadi’s legacy [has] also brought beautiful things as we celebrate here every single day.”
In contrast, Yazidi author Simon Moya-Smith points out that Baghdadi “brutally beat[s] and whip[s] men, women and children in order to force obedience among the Yazidi people” and “celebrate[s] the demise of Yazidi children, referring to their deaths as a ‘harvest.’”
Moya-Smith says these and many other acts are documented in “The Enslavement of Iraq’s Yazidis by the Islamic Missions”, by Elias Castillo.
He continues that Yazidis who refuse to “voluntarily enter Baghdadi’s mosques [are] kidnapped and then held captive within the mosque’s parapets, where they [are] subjected to an ‘unforgiving regimen that [has] claim[ed] the lives of 62,000 Yazidis and devastate[d] their civilization,” bringing about “extinctions” of numerous entire towns.
But “exaltation” of Baghdadi and people like him is “nothing new”, says Moya-Smith. “[T]he celebration of aggressive Islamic conquest by religious zealots is evident the world over, especially here in the Middle East”.
In his opinion, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, rather than a pillar of “piety and deliverance”, is a “religious extremist…” and “the antithesis” of sainthood.
Professor of Middle Eastern studies, David E. Stannard, notes that Baghdadi’s conquests are “directly modeled on the genocidal encomienda system that ha[s] driven many millions of people in the Middle East to early and agonizing deaths.”
Militants in place to force Yazidis to comply with Baghdadi’s religious dictates “routinely rape young Yazidi women” as Baghdadi travels “from pulpit to pulpit preaching fire and brimstone, scourging himself before his incarcerated flock, pounding his chest with heavy rocks … burning his breast with candles and live coals”, and insisting of the ungrateful Yazidis that “such a race of people deserve to be put to the knife.”
Those who try to escape Baghdadi, notes Stannard, are tortured. He gives an example of an eyewitness account of a man being punished for trying to flee: “One Yazidi chief was taken out to the open field and a young calf which had just died was skinned and the chief was sewed into the skin while it was yet warm. He was kept tied to a stake all day, but he died soon and they kept his corpse tied up.”
But Francis insists Baghdadi’s real role has been to “defend the Yazidi peoples against abuses by the colonizers”. Other Baghdadi supporters saythe Islamic scholar “loves” what the supporters call the “Mission Yazidis”, and that “spreading the Quranic gospel to them and ensuring their salvation [is] part of that love, even if it mean[s] barring them from leaving the mosques.”
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All of the above sources and quotes are accurate, but were made about Junípero Serra (who was just canonized by Pope Francis) and the Euro/Christian genocide against and enslavement and conquest of the Native people of what are now known as the USA and the Americas. In the above piece, Junípero Serra, Christianity, Churches/Missions, Natives/Indigenous Peoples, and the USA/Americas have been replaced with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islam, Mosques, the Yazidis (who have been particularly brutalized by ISIS), and locations in the Middle East.
Baghdadi could here be exchanged for any ISIS figure thought to be more directly analogous to Serra. He was chosen because he is one of the best known and because he is a religious leader, authority, and missionary, with a PhD in Islamic Studies, according to US and Iraqi government sources.
While one side will comment that the ongoing Euro conquest and occupation of the Americas was far worse than what ISIS is doing, and the other side will insist that ISIS is worse, it may serve to recall Douglas A. Blackmon’s response when he was asked to compare the US/Euro enslavement of Africans with the Nazi Holocaust: “There is no unit of measure for infinite evil.”
 Stannard, David E. American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World. New York: Oxford UP, 1992. 139-140. Print.
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Contributed by Robert Barsocchini of Washington’s Blog.