Beheading in the Qur’an

james-foley-isis A brutal act of inhumanity has spread like wildfire throughout terrorist organisations such as ISIS and Boko Haram. Images of western journalists kneeling in front of masked Jihads has become an all too common image in our headlines, its sad how it has become almost normal for us too see another man about to be decapitated.

Used as a form of bragging and propaganda, the harsh images are supposed to strike fear into the minds of everybody who opposes them. British and American media continue to report the barbaric act, fuelling the terrorists ambitions. But why do they behead? The men recently seen in Islamic State videos are reportedly grown in Britain and the US, so how have they got the nerve? Bought up in a civilised society, when did they become so psychotic? They must be victims of extreme brainwashing techniques and genuinely believe what they are being told, they must have no doubt.

Beheading was a internationally used form of punishment many years ago but was abandoned by all except very few. It is still a legal form of execution in Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, however, Saudi Arabia are the only country where the method is still used. Amnesty international reportedly counted 73 executions in Saudi in 2013, a majority of which were public be-headings.

Using be-headings as a form of capital punishment is very different to how the Islamic state militants we see use it. They claim there use of the callous technique is justified, they claim they are following the words of Allah, and in a round about sort of way they are. There are many different interpretations of the Qur’an, one Muslim may interpret it different from another, perhaps one more extreme then the other. Surat Muhammad, the 47th Sura of the Qur’an says “When you encounter the unbelievers on the battlefield, strike off their heads until you have crushed them completely; then bind the prisoners tightly.” or a different translation reads “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks.”

Having read these two passages, to me they sound violent, however many scholars think they are simply just translated out of context. One may interpret them different to another and those who adopt a more violent view of Islam will see this as justification for beheading.

One of the first modern instances of using beheading as an act of terrorism was in the First Chechen War when Yevgeny Rodionov was executed for refusing to convert to Islam after being abducted. It is now commonly used by Islamic extremists all over the middle east. I suspect that the real reason organisations so widely known to us all such as ISIS carry out be-headings is to install fear into us, and the people who wish to fight them. If a Kurdish fighter, who is not particularly well paid, learns that his fate may be decapitation, then perhaps he might be discouraged to fight. Fear is a powerful weapon. The Islamic state knows every video will be put onto Western Headlines, and this is why they will continue to do it. The way they film there be-headings for all of us to see says a lot about the reasons why they do it. Propaganda for future potential Islamic state militants and scaremongering for westerners.

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Caracas – A City deadlier than Baghdad?

OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATIONS IN CARACAS

Separated from the Caribbean sea by an arduous mountain range, lies a city who’s population has grown vastly since the 1970’s, from just over 2 million, to now well over 3.5 million, forcing its less privileged out into the encompassing hills, largely known as the ‘barrios’ (slums), where crime is rife and poverty is high. The quality of life is ever decreasing, these barrios are now home to over 50% of Caracas continuously increasing population.

After dark in Venezuela’s capital city the streets are often bare. Night time curfews, when put in place, are largely observed. Travelling by armoured car on a night out would be considered normal, armoured guards will be standing at the entrance to malls – the only place you could find a bar. All this seems a little extreme but when you consider the murder rate per 100,000 citizens is almost double that of USA’s most dangerous cities, and in 2012 surpassed what is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth – Baghdad – then perhaps all this is not enough?

Caracas has been stamped the second most dangerous city in the world coming in just after drug stricken San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The Venezuelan government claim the murder rate fell by 18% in 2013, although this figure is widely believed to be much lower.

However, do not be fooled by the facts and figures, Caracas, located in the central north region of Venezuela, 25km from the port of La Guairá is a sophisticated city, home to millions of Mestizos (of mixed European, Indian and African ancestry) with a tropical climate, warm days and cold nights, throughout the year. The city has a feel about it that says we are unbreakable, it has a high moral, for a city with so many problems, and a reputation not to be desired, its residents are holding it together. Citizens of areas where crime is on the rise, are becoming more and more afraid of venturing out after dark due to the ever increasing risk or armed robberies and kidnappings. However a running group called Running Venezuela are fighting back. With well over 300 members, Running Venezuela runs all over the city throughout the night in a bid to take back the city after dark, and to urge people to show unity and gallantry in the face of adversity.

slums

So why are the crime rates rising? The responsibility lies deep within the slums, high up in the hills, poverty stricken, with little opportunity, drug traffickers and armed gangs rule. Low level drug dealers are commanded by higher level cocaine traffickers from neighbouring Columbia. Selling and moving drugs is considered a sure way of making money in the barrios.

However they are not the only culprits that have made Caracas’s crime rate soar above the rest. It is commonly known, and even admitted by the Venezuelan government themselves, that approximately 20 percent of Venezuelan crime, is committed by the police themselves. Kidnappings have become an every day occurrence in the city, professional kidnappings, in co-operation with the police, or even committed by the police, are a fear for every foreigner who visits the city. Many go unrecorded simply because the police are not trusted. In 2012 alone there were 513 recorded kidnappings in the city, the true figure is believed to be in the region of over 2000, that’s 1500 unreported kidnappings in one year.

Statistics aside, I may have painted a somewhat, gloomy picture of one of Latin Americas most contemporary, cutting-edge cities. With a time-honoured charm and long established community spirit that is much to be desired. In the face of villainous treachery and deep rooted corruption a city flourishes, with an always increasing population. Museums, bars and restaurants, shopping malls and entertainment venue’s are becoming ever more popular, a city with many problems yet to overcome, perhaps the future is bright, brighter then it may seem on the outside.