Notorious jihadis finally captured

Two of ISIS’ infamous ‘Beatles’ gang have been giving interviews this week. Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were captured in January trying to flee war-torn Syria. Associates of Jihadi John, they are allegedly responsible for the torture and execution of non-combatants, including Western journalists and aid workers.

Unrepentant

What is striking about the interviews is that the two men are unrepentant. They do not deny being members of ISIS, nor do they deny that people were brutally executed by ISIS. However, they do not confess to their own alleged crimes. Interestingly, they claim to have joined ISIS for religious and not political reasons. El Shafee Elsheikh describes being “religiously aligned” to ISIS. This contrasts with the notion often asserted by Western politicians that ISIS is a political entity that has ‘nothing to do with Islam’. For Kotey and Elsheikh, ISIS has everything to do with Islam, however misguided that belief may be.

Awaiting punishment

The two men have demanded a fair trial in the UK. They have also criticised the British government’s decision to strip them of their citizenship. They claim lack of citizenship will expose them to rendition and torture. There is some truth in what they say. The Iraqi government has detained 19,000 people accused of being ISIS members, sentencing 3,000 to death. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for an acceleration of these executions. The UN has warned that this approach could lead to “gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice.”

An eye for an eye

In a part of the world torn apart by sectarianism and violent recrimination, forgiveness is scarce. Meeting some of ISIS’ victims in person has been very humbling. It is very easy to bang the drum for retribution from the comfort and security of a Western capital. Just this week, MPs in Westminster (most of whom have never been near a war) have been urging for airstrikes in Syria. Dropping very large bombs in that country is, according to one MP, “the right thing”. But what of those killed in these airstrikes? What of their families? Will they not in turn demand some form of retribution?

Christian forgiveness?

There must be justice, particularly for those who have suffered at the hands of murderous fanatics. But surely we must find a path of forgiveness? As one Iraqi refugee man told us when we spoke to him in Jordan: “Jesus Christ tells us to love our enemies; this is what Iraqi Christians will do.” Jesus also said: “Pray for those who persecute you.” Perhaps we should begin with that.

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