In 2014 ISIS started beheading people and posting videos of the executions online. Wiki lists the following:
75 Syrian soldiers; Khaled Sharrouf posted a photo online of his 7 year old son holding the decapitated head of a Syrian soldier; James Foley, an American freelance journalist; Ali al-Sayyed, a Lebanese Army Seargant; Steven Sotloff, an Israeli American journalist; David Haines, a British humanitarian aid worker; Abbas Medlej, a Lebanese Army soldier; Kurdish soldier, as yet unidentified; 15 family members, of local police officers in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan; Hervé Gourdel, a French mountaineering guide; Kobane and eastern Syria beheadings, two male and three female Kurdish fighters, four Syrian Arab rebels and a male Kurdish civilian; Alan Henning, a British humanitarian aid worker; Raad al-Azzawi, a TV Salaheddin cameraman from the village of Samra, and others; 3 unidentified men in Baiji, Iraq; Peter Kassig, an American worker; 18 Syrian soldiers, unidentified; Alleged beheading of 100 foreign fighters, unidentified, who tried to desert from Raqqa; Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Gotō, Japanese journalists; Hujam Surchi, a Peshmerga officer.
These executions have received wide media coverage prompted outrage and condemnation from the international community and from the governments of the victims’ countries. May all of them rest in peace. It’s hard to imagine what their last years, months, days, minutes, were like, or how their families and friends suffered and are still suffering. But the Arab or Muslim world as a whole didn’t unite in condemnation of the killings. Just as the West, let’s not forget, didn’t unite in condemnation of Bush’s invasion of Iraq for spurious reasons. Mind you, nor did the Arab world. And round and round it goes.
On Dec. 21 2014 ISIS militants captured Jordanian fighter pilot First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh (the photo is of a vigil held for him). Shortly afterwards the Jordanian government threatened dire consequences if the militants harmed the pilot. The militants’ response, in February 2015, was to put Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh in a cage and burn him alive.
How do you get your head around that? He was by all accounts a beautiful man. May he rest in peace. May his family and friends somehow, somewhere, find solace.
And, wonderful to behold, the entire Arab world is up in arms. Even the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt agree with each other for once and the head of the Cairo Al Azhar institute, a university founded in 970, said the militants should be “killed, or crucified, or their hands and legs cut off.” Saudi Arabia’s response was to suspend their airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, allegedly out of fear of retribution, and demand that the American-led coalition against ISIS, of which they are a member, improve its search and rescue operations in Syria.
But I can’t help asking myself, and I don’t mean to demean the importance of Moaz’s death, where has the Arab/Muslim world been up to this point?
The principle of taking somebody’s life because you feel like it and the inhumanity and brutality of a ‘simple’ beheading or of suicide bombings hasn’t elicited a unified response and it seems that the objection to this latest killing is that ISIS militants burned a man alive and Islam prohibits death by fire as too extreme of a measure. Well, being beheaded is an extreme measure to the victim and to his family. Brutality is brutality, whatever form it takes. I’m grateful that the Muslim world is speaking out but what happens when the next beheading occurs? Will everybody go silent again?
Public executions are carried out in accordance with Sharia law in Saudi Arabia, the only caveat being that the audience is not allowed to video the execution. The crimes for which beheading is acceptable are murder, rape, false prophecy, blasphemy, armed robbery, repeated drug use, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery.
Murder, rape, blasphemy and apostasy are on a par, the last being that you realize you have a mind of your own and decide to change your religion.
Other countries governed by Sharia law where public beheading is legal are Iran, Yemen, and Qatar.
Does the fact that Sharia law promotes beheadings have anything to do with why as a whole the Muslim world has united in horror at only the latest ISIS killing? I don’t know. My first thought on reading the headlines today was ‘this is good; the West gets to see that most Muslims are anti-violence and are as outraged as we are at this horrific murder.’
I still believe that. But I also believe that just as in the West we have to look at that within our culture from which emerges violent mass murder of innocents and even of children and promotes or forgives violence done to citizens of other countries, so must the Muslim world look at whether there is something in Islam which allows for the kind of violence that has escalated to the point of a man being burned alive.