A man purported to be Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh is seen standing in a cage in this still image from an undated video filmed from an undisclosed location made available on social media on February 3, 2015. Islamic State militants released the video on Tuesday purporting to show Kasaesbeh being burnt alive, and Jordanian state television said he was murdered a month ago. Reuters could not immediately confirm the video, which showed a man resembling the captive pilot standing in a black cage before being set ablaze. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Social media via Reuters TV

A man purported to be Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh is seen standing in a cage in this still image from an undated video filmed from an undisclosed location made available on social media on February 3, 2015. Islamic State militants released the video on Tuesday purporting to show Kasaesbeh being burnt alive, and Jordanian state television said he was murdered a month ago. Reuters could not immediately confirm the video, which showed a man resembling the captive pilot standing in a black cage before being set ablaze. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Social media via Reuters TV

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) The video released by the Islamic State of the immolation of Jordanian pilot Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh reached new heights of horror in the self-proclaimed Caliphate. And it raises the troubling question: what will the Islamic State do for an encore?

First Lieutenant al-Kaseasbeh had been held by the Islamic State since his F-16 went down near the Islamic State’s capital Raqqa last December. Though the video of his grisly death was released this week, Lt. al-Kaseasbeh might have been killed weeks ago. In response, Jordan immediately executed two jihadist prisoners.

The Islamic State has made grim theater of its war crimes. The beheading of American photojournalist James Foley established its trademark imagery, with a stark desert setting, a masked, black-clad executioner, and Foley in an American-style orange prison jumpsuit. Since then the Islamic State has released a number of similar videos, the latest showing the murder of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.

But the shock value of the videos was wearing off. Public beheading is a common enough form of execution in that part of the world. The plaza where executions take place in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh is known locally as “chop-chop square.” And western coverage of the execution videos was fading after the initial outrage last summer. Perhaps the Islamic State leadership thought that the world was tuning out, seeing the same scene, the same message and the same ghastly outcome. So they kicked it up to a new level of dreadfulness.

Being burned alive in a cage was only one possible fate for Lt. al-Kaseasbeh. Last December, in a video addressed to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a veiled woman representing “Muslim mothers” argued that beheading was too humane for the Jordanian pilot. She recommended that al-Kaseasbeh be subjected to a traditional Ottoman method of execution called the Khazouk in which the victim is impaled with a thick spike hammered up his rectum and through the torso. She felt that this would deter other foreign pilots from flying missions against the Islamic State. And we may yet see the Khazouk on Youtube.

The ritualistic, slickly produced, highly publicized execution videos are only one layer of the brutality of life under the Islamic State. Stoning is another common method of execution, particularly against women who are accused of infidelity, blasphemy or other often concocted crimes. Homosexuals may be hanged, stoned or thrown off buildings. In one recent case, a gay man was thrown off a seven story building in Raqqa, and when he somehow survived the fall, his ISIS tormentors finished the job by stoning him.

This week, the United Nations reported on the Islamic State’s practice of crucifying children when it wasn’t convenient to simply bury them alive.

Captured women and even girls as young as 12 are used as sex slaves. Some commit suicide rather than continue to submit to the ongoing torture. Random violence, ethnic cleansing and forced conversions, fuel shortages and disease spread by unclean drinking water, are all daily facts of life for people under the control of the Caliphate.

The execution videos show us that the Islamic State is not ashamed of what they are doing. They are proud of it. They want the world to know about it. They see themselves as fulfilling a religious duty by slaughtering people in the most gruesome way possible. The images of Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh’s horrible death are not the last we will see from the Islamic State, and probably not the most shocking. We can only imagine what would happen if the Islamic State got their hands on an American pilot. And we wonder what would constitute a proportionate response.

(James S. Robbins is author of “The Real Custer: From Boy General to Tragic Hero.” He wrote this editorial for USA Today.)


  1. The Quran, Surah 2:256 “There shall be no compulsion in acceptance of the religion.”

    Yep. You sure are right random internet commenter who has probably never read the Quran. These ISIS folks are surly following the commandments of Islam.

  2. The typical response of lie about Muhammad’s totalitarian fascist Orwellian double-Speak “Religion of Peace”. Shall I post the more famous quote from Muhammad about how his idolators must make war against all until everywhere worships Muhammad’s way or dies? Or how about Muhammad’s words instructing his brainwashed idolators to cut off the heads of those who refuse the religious dictator’s absolute rule?

    No, we don’t want or need another totalitarian world conquest bent crazy ideology let loose to snag unthinking people looking for blood to shed. Muhammadism feeds on bloodthirst now as the religion contains instructions for desiring bloodshed for the dictator’s quest to be another Moses but more like Attila the Hun in personal ambition.

    But it isn’t just Muhammadism that’s the problem: it’s all the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Pauline Christianity, and Muhammad’s throwback ideas. Chuck ’em all and look for real Spiritual Movement in our times instead of dragging dinosaur religious ideas into our new Age where they just screw up people’s minds trying to inflict ancient men’s ambitions to rule using God for cover on our modern world with high body count results.

    • Stephen, when you equate Mohammadism with Christianity the way you did, you do yourself a disservice. If you live in America, or Western Europe, you are enjoying a life which benefits from Christianity and its principles. It is known as Western Civilization. The reason nobody just walks into your home, and takes your possessions when you are not there, is not because they fear being arrested, but rather because they are behaving as a Christian. All the culture you enjoy is the deeply embedded culture that springs forth from the Christian life. But if man continues along his path of changing that culture, then you will indeed need to lock your home and alarm it, as people have never been afraid of the police, the way they are fearful of eternal Judgment.

  3. I am confused (not really)? To be crucified, or not to be burned alive, that is the question— Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind of Islamic religion to have Other suffer nail and sword of outrageous crucifixion, Or

  4. Ok, here it is happening right now on Religious News Service, censorship of religious news and censorship of Gnostic Christian theology. I can no longer post under my own name on RNS as my posts started disappearing trying to post them a few days ago and now all of them do. I tell it like it is and we see now that prophesy bearing always gets attacked by those protecting the powers that be from critical review. It is a shame you are being misled by RNS editors who I emailed yesterday and got my posts banned today. You know who I am by my celestial root Christianity theology. Which Pauline Christians at RNS I suspect are now censoring on this website comments.

  5. Greg, I work in “Indian Country” and have for the last two decades and your rosey picture of America isn’t that of the people I work for, helping them recover land stolen from them by your great “Christian” racist ancestors. And really, all those civil rights? Are you sure they come from Christianity or do they actually stem from Greek democracy ideas because Christians certainly for well over a thousand years inflicted a Christian dictatorship on most all Christian lands and Christians had to use Greek democratic principles to get out from under Pauline Christian domination.

    Also, Americans like you hold a great debt to Native American Iroquoi Confederation model for our form of national government. Until all Americans are treated in a Christ-like way with no excepts, our America isn’t Christian and has a long way to go yet. Or are you happy that 1% of Americans own all the rest of us as our nation is now a plutocracy where Mammon rules everything,

    • JoeBlow: it is very sad what happened to the Indians in America. It is one thing evangelizing them so that they might find eternal life, but it is another thing taking their land from them because they would travel seasonally and come back to someone building a house on their former property: very sad. That said, the America you know today, what we call a “civilized” country, is only civilized because of western values, and those are a remnant of western civilization, developed within Christian nations, something that will likely disappear very soon. We will soon have to watch everything we do, as thievery and fraud are becoming more and more the norm. Sadly, you cannot have a peaceful world apart from God. But that is what man is attempting to do.

  6. Greg, I agree with you but here’s the thing: Pauline Christianity as is has to go as it historically produces “Christians” who go out and kill people in the name of Christ being used by their government leaders. Paul single-handedly ruined Christianity with his commandment no less that Christians obey their established governors or face God’s condemnation. This is what lets unscrupulous government leaders to lead Christians into horrible wars and genocide because the other thing Paul did was to make Christians stupid by condemning seeking knowledge of God. Evangelical Christianity leads in America only because of this Pauline policy of letting stupidity lead Christian morality, stupidity that told Christians to bow down to Rome and chase off heretics of which my type of Christian believer was part of, the non-Pauline Christianity people branded as enemies and killed by the thousands in France in the Middle Ages and long before that chased out of the Roman Empire and all Gnostic texts burned and forbidden. But God resurrected the Gnostic Christian texts as the Gnostic Way is the only form of Christianity that will survive the coming End Times for Pauline Christianity and all Abrahamic religions using the Bible stories taken literally as foundational doctrine.

    Pauline Christians remain a danger to peace as they cannot be trusted to tell right from wrong as the millions of Evangelicals helped the Bushes push “Christians” back into wars killing innocent people by the thousands.

    I teach Celestial Torah Christianity and one proof of authenticity now is the fact that Celestial Torah Christianity is being censored by religious websites like this one catering to established organized religions and their speakers and writers. I can’t post under my own name now and have to resort to ruses to be able to voice my Christian beliefs.

  7. Oh, spoke too soon. RNS got the message–I won’t tolerate being censored without raising a fuss. Stephen Lewis is back to give the Other Side of Christian theology so desperately needed now as Pauline Christianity has lost its head and is another dead man walking to those who know Bible authority as is can no longer be used by any thinking believer in God.

    • Stephen:

      All things properly understood do not require drastic interpretation. A Christian must abide by the government insofar as that government laws do not require them to violate their conscience or religion. Must a person follow a communist dictator because he is the head of their government? In matters strictly of government, why not follow?You need to obey the speed limit; you need to pay your taxes, etc. But you should never comply with forced abortion. A little common sense must be applied.

  8. The Muslim community across the globe is showing its lack of spine by not rising up and exterminating these animals of ISIS. Call it what you wish – this is simple cowardice. These terrorists have to eat and sleep somewhere and their sympathizers are equally as criminal as the perpetrators of this atrocity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.