Rodin’s ‘The Jihadist Thinker’
“Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads. Then when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives and render either generosity or demand ransom, until the war lays down its burdens” – The Quran, Book of Muhammad, verse 4 (47:4)
Don’t challenge me on the accuracy of this translation of a verse from the Quran. I have not read the Quran (and I don’t intend to). I checked three different webpages before I got this sura off the internet. Like this one, there are reported to be numerous other places in the Quran where similar exhortations against non-believers are depicted.
It is said that a little knowledge about anything can be dangerous. Maybe so, but the above excerpt does appear pretty graphic. It presents a picture of God urging men to kill in his name, exhorting the faithful to ‘strike off’ the heads of infidels on the battlefield. The oft-repeated Islamic intonation, Bismillah ir rehman ir Rahim, means ‘In the name of God, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful’. Mercy is an act of forgiveness, shown to the wrong-doer. I suppose that God likes to be picky sometimes about whom to shower his mercy on.
Then there is the ‘tie up the remaining captives’ bit, where you are left with a choice of either letting them go (‘render generosity’??) or demanding a ransom for their release. In Islam’s eyes, both alternatives appear equally reasonable. Let them go or, hey, we need more guns, so ransom the sods, infidels are not human beings, just commodities to cash in on.
Two very disparate choices – show mercy or cash in. The practice of literally paying for a crime is law in most Islamic nations. If you are well-heeled and you kill a guy, you can get off the hook by simply paying his family a court-mediated sum of money. If you happen to be broke, you are history. You would be looking at parts of you being chopped off at best. Similarly, extracting a ransom for a captive infidel is also very legal. Heck, when did they ever make sense to anybody?
Now let’s turn to the word ‘battlefield’. That could mean anything, not just those pre-arranged open grassy meadows ringed by tall trees, where battles were fought in ancient times. In ideological terms, an Islamist sees the whole world as a battlefield, where every human is involved, in a clear-cut for-us-or-against-us format.
And then there is the term ‘strike off their heads’. The tone implies doing something that shall detach the head from the rest of the body. The human head being attached to the torso with bone, tissue and ligaments, the only way it can be struck off is by chopping it off at the neck, with an extremely sharp blade.
Beheading is mandated by other religions – Christianity, for one. Take a look at this excerpt from the Bible, where God commands King Saul to slay the Amelekites –
“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them. Put to death their men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys….” – The Old Testament, Book of Samuel 15:3
I don’t know exactly what the Amelekites did to piss God off so bad. Children and infants? Camels and donkeys? God sounds like an out-of-control Grand Knight of the KKK (or maybe Dick Cheney). Maybe the Amelekites attacked the Israelites in the wilderness where they had followed Moses and Moses, like all Prophets before and after, was simply TLWIP (the lord’s work in progress). And we have all read right through primary school how the Israelites were his chosen ones, remember? Chosen for what? To have the shit kicked out of them at Bergen Belsen maybe?
Sure, in both cases, in Islam as well as Christianity, those exhortations to slaughter must have been in context with specific situations, but they set a precedent. Indeed, Holy Scriptures are nothing but that – setting precedents to follow. Holy Scriptures urge us to do those exact same things if we find ourselves in similar circumstances. They show the way and the method.
There is however a subtle difference between the two religious practices. To Christians, the term ‘beheading’ is a metaphor. Christians organize themselves far better, having technology on their side. Christians are the Henry Fords of religion. To them, slitting a throat here and decapitating a head there, is cost-ineffective. Everything has to happen in a grand scale. A thousand years back they did pretty much the same thing, sitting on horses and calling it a Crusade. Today they stand on aircraft carrier decks and sing ‘God bless America’ and call it a liberation.
Then we have this gent who has got himself the nickname Jihadi John. Jihadi, since he is an ISIS looney and John, since he is believed to be British. From the tone of his voice in those beheading videos, he seems to be enjoying what he is doing. He has pedigree. I read somewhere that his Dad had been chums with Bin Laden and had an active hand in the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Kenya. Junior was a rap artist before he was ‘born again’ and joined the ISIS and that makes me dislike him even more. I hate rap music.
But I can’t help feeling that those beheadings were faked. The hostages do not seem terrified enough, their voices quite calm, flat and level. Besides, no one has seen the actual moment of the beheadings, the videos conveniently terminating just prior. As if the ISIS are guys who brim with a fine sense of propriety. Then there were the western security agencies, falling over each other to confirm the authenticity of the videos. Something stinks here. Is this an effort to find a way to finish what was started in Iraq in 2003?
During the dark and middle ages, decapitation as a form of punishment was the rule rather than an exception. King Henry VIII had particularly itchy fingers. He had two of his six wives beheaded, not because of any sense of jihad. He just wanted fresh p—sy all the time, that’s all. Mark Twain’s Huck Finn was spot on….
“…..He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next morning. And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs. ‘Fetch up Nell Gwynn,’ he says. They fetch her up. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head!’ And they chop it off. ‘Fetch up Jane Shore,’ he says; and up she comes. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head’ – and they chop it off….”
If you would like to know more on King Henry VIII, here is one of my earlier posts, which you might find particularly enlightening…..
Decapitation has been a favored method of killing even in Hinduism, which Hindus hasten to assure us, is a pacifist religion. It even goes a step further – unlike Christianity and Islam where God only exhorts and then stands back, Hindu Gods are hands-on.
The James Bond / Rock Star of Hinduism, Lord Krishna, the most revered of all Hindu Gods has his own version of the Walther PPK. It is a sparkling, spinning disc with 108 sharp teeth on its periphery.
Lord Krishna has the disc spinning on his index finger, locating it through a hole in the middle. Being an engineer, I’m guessing that the hole has a 3/8 inch countersink so it won’t just slide down his finger and lop of the other four. He calls the disc the Sudershana Chakra and in the epics, he was very liberal when using it on Hinduism’s own bunch of infidels, the non-Vaishnavites. All he had to do was swing his arm at the ‘bad’ guy and the Chakra whirred off in a wide arc, connecting with the poor sod’s neck on the way and slicing it clean off.
Lord Krishna and his Sudarshana Chakra. Through all the mayhem, he never ever drops that beatific smile of his, in a sort of ‘I may be slicing and slashing but I’m really a nice guy’ demeanor (Image courtesy:Wikimedia)
Since I have always seen Lord Krishna with his Chakra spinning on his finger, I suspect it behaves like a boomerang, slices the bad guy’s head off and zips back to his finger (unless he has a secretary with a pouch of refills). Also since I have never seen amputated fingers on Lord Krishna, I must assume that the Chakra has a docking radar, like the one that the Soyuz uses before it docks at the ISS.
Beheading and letting the head roll away ignominiously in the dirt or sticking it to a spike, is the ultimate symbol of triumph, especially in asymmetric conflicts, between unequal antagonists, as in the case of the ‘war on terror’.
If you are holding your breath for when the next westerner is going to be beheaded, you won’t have to wait long.
Beheading is a contagious disease.