By Ryan Mauro:
The Islamic State has released a video of it beheading 21 kidnapped Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. The film is the most prophecy-centric one yet and comes one day after a suspected Islamic State supporter killed two people in a terrorist attack in Denmark.
Justifying the Execution of Christians
The video is titled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” These Christians were working in Libya. They committed no crime. They are not known to have personally done anything against any Islamists. They were punished for, as the Islamic State put it, being “followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”
The Islamic State seems to be referring to the Coptic Christians’ support for the Egyptian government led by President El-Sisi that is fighting an Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt also banned the Muslim Brotherhood and repeatedly emphasizes that the Islamic State and the Brotherhood are different manifestations of the same Islamist enemy.
The video states that the beheadings are retaliation for the Coptic Church’s treatment of Camellia Shehata, the wife of a Coptic priest who disappeared in 2010. She was rumored to have converted to Islam and afterwards to have been kidnapped by the Church. Deadly sectarian clashes followed.
She later resurfaced and appeared on video stating that she did not convert and remains a Christian. She denied that her statement came under pressure or torture by the church. The Copts say she briefly disappeared because she left her husband.
The objective of the Islamic State is to justify murdering Copts by claiming that the church is waging a war on Muslims, making this atrocity a defensive action. The Islamic State may also be trying to undermine international support for Egyptian Copts by drawing a moral equivalence between the church’s treatment of those who leave the faith and Islamic (sharia) law’s own death penalty for apostates.
The captives were guilty of no crime themselves. Take a look at the terminology of the “nation of the cross.” Islamists like the Islamic State view all Muslims as part of a single nation called the ummah. The Islamic State likewise views Christians as part of a single nation, the “nation of the cross.” To be at war with any Christian is to be at war with all Christians.
Dawah and the End Times
As the Islamic State beheads the Christians, text appears in English saying that they “die upon their paganism.” This sentence has two purposes: to justify killing Christians under sharia law and to criticize Christianity as being polytheistic by believing in the Trinity.
A centerpiece of the video is to position the Islamic State as pro-Jesus even as it kills Christians. The Islamic State says it is fulfilling prophecies to trigger the “second coming” of Jesus, a prophetic event commonly held in both Christianity and Islam, though with widely varying interpretations.
“Jesus, peace be upon him, will descend, breaking the cross, killing the swine and abolishing the jizya [tax on non-Muslims],” the English-speaking Islamic State member says to the camera.
Here, the Islamic State is citing an apocalyptic Islamic prophecy about Jesus appearing with the Mahdi, the Islamic messiah, to vanquish Islam’s enemies. According to this prophecy, Jesus will authenticate the validity of Islam and disprove Christianity by destroying a cross. Sometime after he reappears, the entire world will become Muslim, and so the jizya tax on non-Muslims will no longer be needed.
This is not a fringe interpretation of the prophecy only held by Islamic State. Other Islamists like Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood also refer to it.
The Islamic State narrator’s statement about the group taking over Dabiq in Syria is another way of saying the group is fulfilling prophecy. There is an Islamic prophecy about a final apocalyptic war that says that the “Romans”—which Islamists say are the Americans and Europeans of today—will land in Dabiq to avenge the capturing of Romans. That is why the Islamic State beheaded Peter Kassig there.
The prophecy says a ferocious battle will begin at Dabiq and, after heavy casualties, Muslims will come together behind the jihadists at Dabiq and defeat the “Romans.” Turkey is then conquered by these Islamic forces. Shortly thereafter, the Mahdi and Jesus will arrive on the scene.
Read more at Clarion Project