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Decapitating the truth

Publication Date : 28-08-2014


The video posted on YouTube last week that showed a masked man holding a knife to the throat of a kneeling figure in orange was meant as a political statement.

According to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Isis, a fringe group of Muslim fundamentalists who released the video, the beheading of the kneeling figure identified as American journalist James Foley was a “Message to America.”  It was payback for the air strikes the United States had conducted against Isis strongholds in Iraq.  America, the video had meant to stress, was responsible for Foley’s death for targeting the group.

In recent weeks, the US has stepped up air strikes against Isis targets because the group had taken advantage of the power vacuum amidst the chaos on the Syria/Iraq border, and had slaughtered thousands of Syrian and Iraqi Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic groups who had refused to convert to their brand of Islam. Rape, torture and beheadings were meant as a show of force, a strong-arm argument for the world to acknowledge the group as a legitimate power in the Middle East.

But the message that actually comes across from the video is that Isis, despite its claims to a righteous cause, is nothing more than a crude extortionist group that sees human life merely as expedient currency for its cause.

Prior to the beheading, the al-Qaida splinter group had asked for a million Euros (about $1.32 million) to spare Foley, a ransom payment officially anathema to US policy.

Foley, who freelanced for the US-based online news outlet GlobalPost, was last seen being forced into a vehicle by gunmen on Nov. 22, 2012, in northwest Syria, near the border with Turkey. He was, his parents said, “trying to expose to the world the suffering of the Syrian people.”

But an expose of its brutal tactics was something that Isis couldn’t abide.  The masked executioner ironically bared the group’s shadowy nature.  Despite its swagger, Isis must cower in the dark if it were to keep hidden its brutal agenda.   An independent media that could have helped publicise its cause was instead feared and silenced lest it speaks the truth.

In effect, what the video actually conveyed was that Isis would rather decapitate the truth and still the voice of free expression than allow it to speak out against the group’s murderous spree on hapless civilians.

Isis had used Foley and another journalist in captivity, Steven Sotloff, to bring home its message of hatred, brutality and the need to terrorize people to enlist them to its cause.  Indeed, the public execution meant to cow independent media into becoming a meek mouthpiece had in fact alienated the free world.

Even what could have been its traditional allies—fellow Muslims—have steadfastly dissociated themselves from this fringe group and its barbaric acts.

“We strongly condemn this gruesome and barbaric killing as a violation of Islamic beliefs and of universally accepted international norms mandating the protection of prisoners and journalists during conflicts,” said the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the United States’ largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, of the Foley  beheading.

“The Geneva Conventions, the Quran—Islam’s revealed text—and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad all require that prisoners not be harmed in any way. There can be no excuse or justification for such criminal and bloodthirsty actions,” CAIR said.

Agreed the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA): “Isis actions have never been representative nor in accordance to the mainstream teachings of Islam. This act of murder cannot be justified according to the faith practiced by over 1.6 billion people.”

According to Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheik Abdulaziz Al al-Sheik, extremism and the ideologies of groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida are Islam’s No. 1 enemy, with Muslims being their first victims.

With Foley’s execution, Isis had hoped to tell the world how unstoppable it was and how implacable its lust for power.  Join us and conquer, was its triumphalist message.

But with even fellow Muslims shunning it, Isis’ message has become hopelessly garbled in hubris, and its cause irretrievably mired in empty rhetoric.


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