Over the last couple of weeks, ISIS (Islamic State) has continued to make headlines by gaining territory in Syria, decapitating two Japanese journalists and releasing a highly-produced video showing the burning alive of Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kassasbeh.
In addition, a report released on Wednesday by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said it had received reports regarding ISIS of “several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive.”
As questions about ISIS, radical Islam and the world’s response continue to grow, I thought we should address a couple of issues:
Does the Koran condone burning people alive?
With all the atrocities being committed, it seems that the horrific burning death of Jordan’s pilot has managed to gain the world’s attention – and collective horror. The title of the video showing the burning of the pilot alive is entitled, “Healing the Believer’s Chests.” The title of the video, according to the Observer, comes from the Koran 9:14, “fight them and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you over them, heal the breasts of Believers.”
In general, according to the Observer, burning someone alive is reserved for someone who has betrayed Islam – and that is what ISIS believes the young pilot from Jordan has done.
But many Muslims say that burning one’s enemies or prisoners of war is prohibited by Islam. The head of Sunni Islam’s respected university, Egypt’s Al-Azhar, described the ISIS militants as “enemies of God and the Prophet Mohamed.”
Is Islam a radical religion?
I know a lot of Muslims. Some are good friends. Some have worked for me and contributed in meaningful ways to my organization. These people and the vast majority of other Muslims are not radicalized or violent. They want peace and they exhibit tolerance for a world that holds many beliefs and viewpoints.
But it would be naive to think that there is no radical, extreme element in Islam. And I don’t think it’s just a “few fringe” people. It turns out that “radicalism” is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. After all, for some Muslims, it’s just about being faithful and obedient to what God’s Word (the Koran) has prescribed. Ahmed al-Tayed, grand imam of Al-Azhar University, says that ISIS deserves “the Koran-prescribed punished of death: crucifixion, or the chopping off of their arms.” He goes on to say, “Islam prohibits the taking of an innocent life.”
But many lives have been taken in the name of Islam, and not just by ISIS. (I think of the recent murders of Charlie Hebdo employees in Paris, suicide bombings in Afghanistan, the murder of children in Pakistan by the Taliban, the kidnappings and abuse of children by Boko Haram and much more.) Who is deciding who is “innocent or who is guilty?” ISIS didn’t view the Jordanian pilot as “innocent,” since his plane was shot down during a bombing raid.
There are a large number of people in Muslim-majority countries who believe that their nation should be run as a “theocracy” – a country governed by the principles of God, as laid out in the Koran. The rub comes when that “final source of truth” is interpreted. And there are many different views on how the Koran and the Hadith would or should be interpreted and applied.
A Pew Research Study in 2013 reveals some of the thinking inside the Muslims faith. Here are just a few of the responses to the survey: (For the whole survey, click here)
Percentage of people who say that Sharia Law should be the “law of the land.”
- Malaysia: 86%
- Afghanistan: 99%
- Pakistan: 84%
- Iraq: 91%
- Egypt: 74%
- Jordan: 71%
Percentage of people who say that corporal punishment should be applied to thieves. (Of those who believe Sharia Law should be the “law of the land.”)
- Malaysia: 66%
- Afghanistan: 81%
- Pakistan: 88%
- Iraq: 56%
- Egypt: 70%
- Jordan: 57%
Percentage of people who say that the death penalty should be applied to those who leave Islam. (Of those who believe Sharia Law should be the “law of the land.”)
- Malaysia: 62%
- Afghanistan: 79%
- Pakistan: 76%
- Iraq: 42%
- Egypt: 86%
- Jordan: 82%
How should the world respond?
The big question being thrown around now is “Whose war is this?” Is it a US war? A Western war? A Regional war? A Muslim war? In the middle of unspeakable acts of cruelty and immediate danger to Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities, people are somehow bringing up the Crusades and the Inquisition as if to say, “all religions have had their problems.” And then there’s the favorite “blame-based” argument: “…if the US had never gone into Iraq in the first place…”
Well, you can’t unscramble an egg – what’s done is done. And referencing the bad behavior of groups that happened hundreds and thousands of years ago is childish as a deflective-based argument. The question now should be” “What can we do to stop these monsters from continuing their killings, torture and abuse in the name of Islam.” And like it or not, they are doing it in the name of Allah, in the misguided attempt to please him. But for now, it is everyone’s war.