Brandon Martinez / Non-Aligned Media
Islamic State butchers have released perhaps their most macabre execution video to date. Like other ISIS massacres this one is shot in cinematic style resembling a modern horror film. It depicts a white-robed executioner slashing the throats of prisoners as they hang upside down from the ceiling like pigs in a slaughterhouse, their blood draining out of their bodies like cattle.
The high-quality cinematic style of the video will cause some to question its authenticity, but post-production graphic enhancements and added effects does not prove that the original acts did not occur. For every Hollywood-style video ISIS produces, you can find 50 cell phone filmed executions on liveleak.com which are undeniably and shockingly real. One of the latest being the beheading of a 12-year-old boy in the back of a truck. ISIS and aligned groups operating in Iraq and Syria have built up an astoundingly robust résumé of unspeakable violence and terror, bordering on genocide. According to Alex Newman of The New American they are guilty of,
attempted extermination of Syrian Christians and non-Sunni Muslim sects, the beheading of priests, slaughter of civilians, cannibalism directed at enemies, sexual slavery, the looting of churches and homes, wanton torture, crucifixions, terrorism, mass murder, and a seemingly never-ending stream of horrific war crimes.
These psychopaths make history’s worst serial killers and bloodthirsty gangs look like amateurs. ISIS is working overtime to earn its reputation as the most barbarous, extreme and bestial terror group ever to exist. Their sadistically creative stone-age methods of execution rival the depraved imaginations of scriptwriters and novelists of the horror genre.
Besides the perennial beheadings and shootings, ISIS has killed prisoners by drowning them while locked in cages, burning them alive, decapitating them with explosives, hurling them off of rooftops, blowing them up with rocket launchers, dipping them in pools of nitric acid, boiling them alive in pits of scolding hot tar, chainsawing them in half, as well as stoning and crucifying them. At least three of these horrific methods – beheading, stoning and crucifixion – are officially used by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – where Wahhabism is the official religion – to put down its prisoners convicted of capital offenses which includes such “crimes” as adultery, apostasy, and sorcery, in addition to murder and drug trafficking.
The Koran says that in times of war Muslims must not “exceed limits” or mistreat prisoners. But Salafi Islamists will point to other verses to justify their villainous behavior, such as the passage which calls upon Muslims to “strike the necks” of unbelievers.
Salafi Islamists are extremely selective with their reading and interpretation of Muslim holy texts. They simply search out for and remove context from passages that they think can be used to justify wanton slaughter of “unbelievers,” which includes all non-Muslims and virtually any Muslim of a non-Salafi/Wahhabi derivation. They ignore all passages that speak of peace and coexistence with non-Muslims, eschewing the Koranic teaching that there is “no compulsion in religion”. But insofar as the Koran is, like all ancient “holy books,” open to interpretation and does contain numerous passages that seem to implore or sanction violence against or subjugation of “unbelievers,” the problem posed by those criminals using the book to justify acts of brigandry cannot be written off merely as a “misreading” of a text that can be understood differently by those interpreting it.
ISIS doesn’t seem all that interested in coercing religious belief onto those they capture in battle though, which is why they simply mass murder their captives instead of trying to convert them. ISIS even kills scores of its own members who have become disillusioned with its dystopian revanchist “cause” of resurrecting an exclusivist quasi-“Caliphate”. In this sense ISIS is acting more in line with a Latin American narco-gang or an African paramilitary death squad, despite the veneer of religious authority.
While there is no question that, as part of a failed policy of regime-change in Syria, Western and allied intelligence agencies were instrumental in the formation and subsequent rapid growth of ISIS and its extremist allies across the region, there is also no denying that many of the rank-and-file foot soldiers of these groups have a genuine ideological belief that transcends any of the geopolitical factors that led to their rise. Affirming this view, top Saudi Wahhabi cleric Aadel Al-Kalbani stated that groups like ISIS are a direct by-product of Wahhabi-Salafi teachings. Intelligence agencies, the cleric noted, didn’t “invent” the religious ideas that motivate groups like ISIS but merely hijacked it for their own purposes. “[Intelligence agencies] exploit what already exists. So they exploited who was adopting this thought, and Daesh has adopted Salafist thought,” he said.
Some of the fighters in ISIS are indeed soldiers of fortune and mercenaries mainly interested in power and money, but others are surely true believers. The fanaticism that drives the suicide terrorism of Salafi militants in places like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia and elsewhere cannot be rooted in much of anything other than a deep-seated religious belief that “martyrdom” will be rewarded in the afterlife. The Salafi “cause” of dethroning the “apostate regimes” of countries they are currently waging war in is based purely in their religious belief that “man-made laws” are illegitimate and that “divine law” (Sharia) must be implemented.
The ferocious military campaign of Salafist insurgents in Syria cannot be rooted in genuine grievances with the Assad regime because they are themselves committing worse and more frequent atrocities than Assad’s forces. Political, economic or humanitarian grievance against Assad certainly can’t be the motivation of the thousands of non-Syrian foreign combatants that have flooded the Syrian battlefield having not lived a single day of their lives under Baathist rule. Their reasons for fighting are, undeniably, religious.
However, while the medieval monsters of ISIS are doing their best to discredit the concept of a “Caliphate,” other less extreme Islamist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and some branches of the Muslim Brotherhood similarly seek the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate, or “Khilafah,” but advocate a non-violent political and democratic approach to accomplishing this goal. Activists from these groups argue that a united Ummah (collective of Muslim peoples) is the only thing that could sufficiently counteract and deter Western/Israeli imperialism and neo-colonialism in the Islamic world. According to this line of thought a Caliphate like that of the Ottomans would be a necessary power bloc to balance out an US-led unipolar world where a handful of powerful countries and institutions dominate the planet.
This pan-Islamist idea of a unified Muslim world under an inclusive Caliphate runs counter to the exclusivist and sectarian-based quasi-Caliphate of groups like ISIS which are pursuing a genocidal religious “cleansing” project, seeking to purge non-Wahhabi currents from the Islamic world. But if history is something to go by, an Islamic Caliphate even if established initially as a deterrence to Western aggression could quickly become expansionist itself, like the Caliphates of yesteryear which made numerous incursions into Europe and conquered the Iberian Peninsula. Salafists especially point to these historic glory days of Islamic hegemony as inspiration for their revanchist objectives today.