The execution of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic extremist group ISIS—after being kidnapped in Syria by alleged “freedom fighters” and thus exposing the folly of supporting “rebels” there—demonstrates just how evil religious fundamentalism is. Executions—often by beheading, as was the case of Foley—is a typical “punishment” for what groups like ISIS mete-out for anyone who dares oppose their methods and philosophy. Foley is merely the first American to be killed in this fashion by ISIS, who threaten to kill a second captive American journalist if the U.S. doesn’t cease its air bombing campaign in support of the Kurds against ISIS in northern Iraq.
It is a difficult question if the U.S. should allow policy to be held “captive” to extremists who threaten to undermine the entire U.S. interest in the region. This isn’t about simple prisoner swaps; if that had been the case, the journalists would have been freed long ago, as has been Israel’s experience when its soldiers are held hostage. This about private citizens being held in the hopes of shifting the fortune of war in their favor.
I have always been “fascinated” about how Islamic extremists “justify” cold-blooded murder and right themselves with their “god.” All Muslims, of course, believe that their religion is the “third” and “final” act of the God of Judaism and Christianity; then again, Christians and Jews view the founder of Islam as little more than a megalomaniac (like the Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism) with visions of grandeur. However, most Muslims would prefer to live and let live; most people in the West have seen the violent and intolerant side of Islamic society and want no part of it (there is enough violent crime in the West without adding religious violence to the mix).
However, the Islamic extremists tend to see Muslims who prefer to live their lives without undue complication as little more than apostates: You are not a true “Muslim” unless you prove it by action, and this goes far beyond saying daily prayers. According to the extremists, violence and murder against non-believers and “apostates” is “required” action, justified by the following statement in the Koran:
O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends: they are friends of each other; and whoever among you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.
In Christianity (or at least in the Catholic faith), the taking one’s own life is regarded as a sin. In Islam, suicide is also frowned upon, and thus suicide bombing must be justified—or rather, “reinterpreted” as “martyrdom.” Thus passages in the Koran that tell of the promise of “paradise” if a person slays Islam’s enemies and is slain in return—even if the person carrying out the act does not know if the act is just or not. It is not up to him or her to make that “determination,” but Allah. But it seems that Allah works in “mysterious” ways—through the mouth of radical clerics who may be speaking from “voices” they hear without their own psychotic conscious. Interestingly, while suicide is frowned upon in the Koran, those who resort to it claim that its “purpose” is to raise the awareness of the “righteousness” of Islam; to almost all non-Muslims, it has the opposite effect—showing only madness.
While the Israeli military has been condemned for civilian deaths in the Gaza strip, killings of innocent civilians by the hundreds seems to be a daily routine in Iraq and through-out the Middle Eastern world. How is this justified by extremists? Jihadists claim that old men, women and children are “fair game” because they are part of the same flesh as that as the men who would presumably oppose them in conflict. Also, it is asserted by extremists that it can’t help but kill innocent civilians in public places where crowds normally gather, if they seen as “human shields” protecting their “enemies.”
Again it should be pointed out that all of this is subject to a very narrow and subjective “interpretation” of the Koran that most Muslim (presumably) do not necessarily agree with, but are nevertheless loathe to criticize because of threat of being seen as “apostates” and “friends” of unbelievers, and thus subject to “punishment.” Of course, the West went through a similar period during the Inquisition and witchcraft craze, but modern times intervened. The interpretation of the Koran, on the other hand, has evolved with the modern world, and continues to be used as an excuse to justify the worst excesses in human nature.