Please do not watch this video unless you have a very strong constitution, and please ensure that no children are present while you watch it.
When I first saw this clip, I was shocked, offended, and disgusted. However, once these emotions dissipated, I began reflecting upon the ways in which this horrible behaviour is supported by the Quran and various Islamic hadith. For evidence of the halal nature of this behaviour, you may wish to read this comprehensively sourced essay on ISIS and Islam. But my thoughts didn’t stop there, for I also began to think about how religion has proven itself to be the great poisoner of human empathy. In this regard, there was a study performed by social psychologist Brad Bushman and a number of his colleagues at the University of Michigan, which demonstrated that ‘exposure to violent scriptures may induce extremists to engage in aggressive actions.’ What’s most interesting about the findings of Bushman’s study was that, according to Bushman, “Even among our participants who were not religiously devout, exposure to God-sanctioned violence increased subsequent aggression. That the effect was found in such a sample may attest to the insidious power of exposure to literary scriptural violence.”
The thing in this graphic video that caused me to think about religion’s power to subvert the natural empathy of its adherents, is the seemingly self-reassuring screams, “Allahu Akbar!”, almost as if the men performing and watching this brutality knew that what they were doing and seeing was wrong, but that they were, perhaps, using this repetitious and trance-inducing chant to thwart their inherent compassion and sympathy for their victim. This thought in turn led to another, a memory I have of a verse in the Qur’an I had read a number of years ago when I first began studying Islam, and I will now end this short blog post with both this verse and the video.
Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know. Qur’an 2:216