Monday, February 16, 2015

ISIS Beheadings: Hotwiring the Apocalypse One Christian Martyr At A Time

What the mass beheading of 21 Copts in Libya tells us about the Islamic State

by Timothy R. Furnish
Mahdi Watch, February 15, 2015

The Coptic Christians immediately before being martyred for Christ.
Major news outlets are reporting, today, the mass beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians by the Islamic State affiliate in Libya.

The Ottomans beheaded tens of thousands of Georgian
Christians who stubbornly, and heroically,
clung to their Christian faith.
In my 2005 Middle East Quarterly article, “Beheading in the Name of Islam,” I wrote that “the purpose of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of opponents in order to win political concession[s].”  Then I went on to spend much of the article explicating the legitimately Islamic roots (Qur’anic rubrics, precedents by Muhammad, examples from Islamic history, exegesis by Muslim scholars) of decapitating  “non-believers”—especially Christians, the primary political and military adversaries of Islamic expansion over the last 14 centuries.

The Islamic State has upped the ante with its regular beheadings of Christians by IS central and, now, its far-flung branches.  Seen in light of incessant calls for recruits, and even more vociferous citations of apocalyptic hadiths—both of which are clearly explained in the many issues of “Dabiq” magazine—I now think that ISIS cares not one whit about political concessions.  Rather, it chops off Christians’ heads for three primary reasons: 1) to reinforce its literalist Islamic credentials;  2) to win over young Muslims, particularly men, and persuade them of Islamic State’s power and dedication; and 3) to provoke the “Christian” West, particularly the United States (the world’s most populous Christian nation), into deploying ground troops—which ISIS is certain it will defeat, based on the group’s adherence to this eschatological hadith.

Metrics indicate that Christians, despite being the world’s largest religious group, are the most-persecuted—and particularly in majority-Muslim areas.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who had read the Qur’an, the biographies of Muhammad, or studied much Islamic history, because all three are rife with bitter condemnations  of Christianity, as well as examples of deadly attacks upon Christians.   

(Stylized) Ottomans (again!) beheading 800
Catholics in Otranto (Italy) who refused to convert. 
And Islamic civilization is unique today in that it is the only one on the planet in which violence against non- adherents (or, sometimes, even differing brands of its own devotees) is justified by both state (Sunni and Shi`i)  and non-state actors (ISIS, al-Qa`idah, Boko Haram, TTP, Kata’ib Hizbullah, etc.).   Beheading, which seemed so horrifically novel 13 years ago when AQ used it to kill Daniel Pearl, is now a rather routine instrument in the Islamic terrorist toolbox against such.  Muslim authorities, for all their condemnations thereof, will find it difficult to lock this dreadful chest, considering its hallowed tradition in Islamic thought and praxis.   That leaves the option of sending beheaders to meet Allah—or, much more likely, Iblis.  President Obama seems content to simply, gradually “degrade” the Islamic State.  At least we might take some solace in thinking that this minimalist approach will allow Islamic beheadings to create more Christian martyrs.   But they, and we, would probably be better off if the most powerful man in the world were less loathe to wield the sword of punishment