The ISIS Resident Evil is Evolving: Three things to understand from the recent ISIS video

February 4, 2015
The ISIS Resident Evil is Evolving: Three things to understand from the recent ISIS video
Amaryllis Georges
Amaryllis Georges Terrorism & Human Rights Researcher

The recently circulated ISIS video showing Jordanian pilot Moath al Kasasbeh confined in a cage and burnt alive is the most graphic and gruesome one to date. The analysis of the video’s content, discourse and implications are vital to the study of the group and its evolution and motives.

1     Expertise and use of propaganda

Out of all the videos produced by ISIS this 22 minute execution video borrows Western high production values. It is expertly directed, with multiple camera angles, advanced graphics and is highly orchestrated, utilizing Hollywood pseudo-realism. Attention has been paid to the script preparation – the Jordanian pilot gives a lengthy confessions and retelling of the events that have lead up to his execution. Significant attention has been placed on cast selection and role playing with Lt. Moath al Kasasbeh shown in despair as his armed executioners observe from a distance. The set where the action takes place and the props used are carefully thought through – while previous beheadings took place in the desert with little to no distractions, this execution shows remnants of buildings and a cage, from which the pilot burns. This theatrical minute by minute stage management is unique for an ISIS execution video and the culmination of the drama is personified, with great emphasis placed, for the first time, on the emotions – anguish, fear, physical pain – of the victim.

2     Variance in method of execution

It is not uncommon for IS to murder Muslims. In fact the majority of its victims are Muslim. This is the very first video ISIS has circulated, which does not include shooting or beheading its victims. If the previous brutal beheadings were intended to produce theatrical media worthy attention, then the burning of the Jordanian pilot should be seen as an evolution of the organizations method of operation. We see that ISIS reserves death by fire for Muslims that have joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. The video deliberately illustrates Moath al Kasasbeh and his fellow comrades as apostates and therefore deserving of the worst kind of death. It is a departure from the norm. We are now seeing an evolution of the rules of engagement. It should be noted that Islam forbids the burning of any human, whether dead or alive, Muslim, Christian, or Jewish. Al-Isra’ 17: 70 states that burning a human being is a blatant disregard of the honor owed him or her as per the Divine will. In one of his hadiths, Prophet Muhammad said, “No one is entitled to punish with fire except the Creator (God) of the fire” (Abu Dawud, Sunan, No. 2673).

3     What they hope to achieve and who is ISIS targeting?

From the onset the terrorist group has attempted to grasp the attention and imagery of the West and we see this in the way it has gone about with these killings. They are designed to shock and traumatize. Yesterday’s video did more than that. It set loose an intensity of savagery and viciousness that is unseen and unheard of. This style works for the terrorist organization and has delivered the effects ISIS has hoped to realize. Governments may not, and rightly so, negotiate with terrorists and succumb to their ransom demands but what ISIS achieves through such revolting propaganda videos goes beyond that. The video is designed to be ghastly and menacing to kuffar (nonbelievers) and enthralling and calling for all mu’miniyyn (believers) to wage jihad. In fact, the video closes with the pictures, names, and addresses of the other Jordanian pilots who participated in the campaign along with a reward to whoever kills a crusader pilot and wishes to be liberated from hellfire. The video is specifically designed to summon foreign fighters to join its cause. But more importantly it sends a clear message to all Arabs wishing to join the anti-ISIS coalition. Contrary to views that deem such brutality as unsustainable, it should be noted that ISIS is clearly not targeting Obama or King Abdullah II or the world. This video is intended to strike fear in the hearts and minds of pilots embarking on air strike missions against ISIS and to deter them from taking part in the US-led coalition. According to ISIS, if you oppose them and their actions you oppose Islam itself and therefore, Muslim or not, your blood is lawful.