By F. W. Burleigh
You would think that ISIS had reached the limit of its ability to nauseate with its barbaric terror tactics such as beheadings and crucifixions and mass shootings of captured Syrian and Iraqi soldiers and the impaling of severed heads on the spikes of a wrought-iron fence. But it has not reached its limits, and there may never be a limit. The evidence is in a 16-minute video the so-called Islamic State released on Nov. 16.
This appears to be a recruitment video since it touts the blood-soaked history of ISIS, and the centerpiece is more blood soaking. At the eight-minute mark, it documents the simultaneous beheading of 19 captured Syrian pilots and military officers who have been marched out to the desert in front of 19 executioners and forced to their knees. Their hands are cuffed behind their backs, and they are wearing a harness of sorts under their blue shirts with a grip that projects from behind their necks. The grip gives the executioners total control over them.
These ISIS types know how to edit film. The camera dwells on the faces of the condemned to show the shallow breathing, the eyes flitting nervously. In some of the faces is the look of resignation and of hope it will be over quickly. Suspense is built as the executioners begin tapping their honed combat blades against their fingers. When the signal comes, the killers shove their victims face down to the ground, pull the heads back by the hair, and 19 men simultaneously carve through 19 necks.
It only takes a few seconds in the practiced hands of their leader, the black-clad Jihad John, already infamous for his videotaped beheadings of James Foley, Alan Henning, and Steven Soltloff. It’s longer for the others. Dawn Perlmutter, an expert in ritualistic crimes, sees them as first-time beheaders. This is a graduation ceremony from jihadi prep school, an induction ceremony. Armies train soldiers to kill in combat. ISIS gives hands-on experience butchering captives. Through this act they earn the status of made men of Allah, goodfellas in the cause of spreading the religion of Muhammad. And certainly a spot in paradise.
Islam is like the Mafia. Getting initiated into the Mafia is done by killing someone on the padrino’s orders. Through the act of murder the killer becomes a full member of a crime family with all the privileges and benefits—a made man, a man of honor, a man to be feared and respected. In addition to gaining the protection of his brethren, for a wiseguy it makes murder easier the next time, and the third time even easier than before until killing becomes so easy it’s like swatting flies. A lot of people need to be murdered in the underworld, and it needs made men who can be relied on to get the job done.
The same for the initiates into killing for the cause of Allah: The next killing will be easier than the first, and the third easier than the second, and soon it will become so easy that shooting lines of captives who have been made to lie face down in a shallow trench will be all in a day’s work. There are a lot of people who need to be killed in the cause of Allah, and like the Mafia, Islam needs people who can be relied on to get the job done.
For Islam, there is nothing new in this. There is never anything new in Islam. It always follows a pattern set by Muhammad, the terror mastermind of 7th century Arabia. He made frequent use of beheading to spread fear in order to impose his religion on people who rejected him. That was always the purpose of terror for him. It was the primary weapon for bringing people under his control.
Muhammad had a knack for turning people into killers. He sometimes asked for volunteers to assassinate people who offended him, but at other times he ordered believers to do the deed. As members of his cult they had to obey out of fear of being accused of hypocrisy—insincere belief—if they didn’t comply. They had to demonstrate their faith in Allah and his messenger by the act of murder. In return for the shedding of blood he promised both the reluctant and the eager alike upscale digs in paradise and the company of dark-eyed virgins. Not even the Mafia goes that far.
For an example, go back 14 centuries to the ditch where Muhammad beheaded an entire tribe of Jews, as many as 900 men and boys. The boiled down story is that in essence they were slaughtered for telling him to take a hike when he demanded they accept him as their prophet. The victims were brought to the edge of a trench five or six at a time and two of Muhammad’s first cousins—already made men of Allah many times over—chopped their heads off. He sat nearby and watched.
On this occasion, he ordered 24 men to join in the butchery. Perhaps his cousins were fatigued. At a rate of one per minute, it would have taken a full 15 hours to behead 900 people. When there were only 12 Jews left, he ordered two dozen men of an Arab tribe that used to be allies of the Jews to finish off the remaining men. More made men of Allah. More killers to advance the cause of Allah.
Islam needs killers. Muhammad concocted a religion by taking beliefs from other religions and cobbling them together with a claim he got his stuff from Allah. What he created offered nothing to anyone with a lick of sense. He only succeeded in imposing his brand because he was more vicious than anyone who opposed him. “Kill! Kill!” was his battle cry on raids against enemy caravans and villages and in pitched battles. His made men kept up the ferocious killing until his opponents were either dead or switched sides to keep from becoming dead.
It continues today. The caliphate has been resurrected, the call to jihad has been issued. Wannabe killers from all over the world are flocking to the cause of following in the footsteps of Muhammad, itching for the opportunity to become made men of Allah with all the privileges and benefits. On November 16, the world was given evidence in the form of 19 heads that another batch of wannabes had just been inducted into the ranks of the made men of Allah.
Soon there will be armies of such men.
F. W. Burleigh is the author of It’s All About Muhammad, a Biography of the World’s Most Notorious Prophet. The Introduction and a sample chapter can be found at www.zengabooks.com.