21 orange jump suits.
And, at the end of the sickening but slickly-produced, five-minute video, 21 heads resting on 21 bloody corpses.
It’s a brutal, savage and murderous atrocity, carried out in the name of Allah, the ‘merciful’, supposedly for the benefit of mankind.
It’s a similar story with another video that surfaced a few days earlier. This time it went for over 20 minutes, but at the end of it a Jordanian pilot is burnt alive. Inside a cage.
These Islamic State videos are striking for two reasons.
Firstly, there is the sheer blood-lust. These videos don’t just portray an execution. They are the ‘artworks’ of those who revel in cold-blooded murder for its own sake. It’s as if the Islamic State killers are disciples of a psychopath.
Actually, they are disciples of a psychopath. For instance, these barbarians follow in the footsteps of a ‘prophet’ who ordered the decapitation of 700 Jewish men while their wives and children were forced to watch on as the blood flowed. And they believe that in order to be perfect too, members of the Islamic State should re-enact Mohammad’s life down to every last gory detail.
So the Islamic State is not just making this up as it goes along. It has a well-rehearsed blueprint to follow. If you want to know what the Islamic State will do, just go and read Mohammad’s life. There should be no surprise to this at all.
Secondly, these videos are very well produced, choreographed and rehearsed. It’s clear that they are staged and many elements of them are not ‘live’.
The Islamic State media team has a production requirement: the victim about to be executed must be calm enough to be coherent. In all the videos released to date, none have shown a person overcome with emotion in the face of imminent death. Whenever a victim has spoken, he has been remarkably collected, considering the brutal last few moments waiting for him. It’s highly likely that the victim has been forced to give their speeches over and over again until it has become almost second nature. That way, the editors can cut the ‘best’ footage at their leisure after the bloody deed has been done.
It also means that the victim probably did not know for sure if they were giving their last speech, or if another rehearsal of their execution was to come. It’s not enough to destroy the body; the mind must be tortured as well.
Why would the Islamic State do this?
The answer is simple. The Islamic State can’t get its message out if the victim is an emotional wreck and any sign of obstinance, refusal or defiance simply cannot be tolerated. An ideology that feasts on fear cannot allow any indication that the fear has been conquered.
These videos are declarations of war on the West, but they no longer come only from the battlefields of Iraq and Syria. Affiliates are popping up all over the place, hence this latest video from Libya declaring that Rome (and the centre of Christianity) is very much on the target list.
Another of these places is Afghanistan. The Islamic State flag is now flying less than 100 km from Tarin Kowt, which 41 Australians died to free from Taliban rule. You can bet your bottom dollar that any gains made in Afghanistan are going to be short-lived.
These videos are also very effective calls to arms. They give ideas and directions to the most decentralised army in the world. In fact, it is so decentralised that it’s hard for many to recognise this army at all.
But it is there and that is why civilians have been dying in Paris. And Sydney. And London. No Western city can claim that it is prepared to defend itself against attack from the enemy growing within.
It’s time our political, military and security leaders started understanding this.
We are not dealing with any type of military force that we faced in the wars of the 20th Century.
We are not dealing with a nation state.
We are not dealing with an organised command and control structure.
We are not dealing with a centralised campaign.
If fact, we are not really dealing with any organisation at all.
The names of our enemy come and go. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State; who cares what it’s called as long as you understand what it is.
And the only way you can do this is by understanding what we are dealing with.
We are dealing with a totalitarian but fragmented ideology.
There is no ‘one’ Islam. There is no Islamic ‘Pope’. That’s exactly why no Muslim has the authority to say the Islamic State is wrong. Plus there’s the little problem of logic. Condemning the Islamic State is condemning Mohammed too. And it can’t be done with the Islamic texts anyway because they condone the barbaric atrocities we have been witnessing recently. This explains why you hear ISIS killers quote from the Koran when they kill, but you don’t hear Australia’s Grand Mufti quote from it when he “tsk tsks” back at his brethren.
Yes, most victims of Islamic violence are Muslims. But so what? All this says is that a violent ideology is at war with itself. Throwing this fact out there does not in any, way shape or form somehow transform Islam into a peace-loving religion. In fact, the rest of us apostates should be thankful for this small mercy while the various Islamic sects sort out the heretics within.
Most importantly for security here in Australia, we are dealing an idea that has shown a powerful propensity to propel people to act of their own initiative, while at the same time demonstrating that ‘moderate’ Islam is no anti-dote for ‘extremism’. Rather, it is like the culture in which a virulent disease spreads and grows.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was not quite right when he said recently that a victim, a mobile phone and a knife is all that is required for an atrocity. He forgot the most important element of all.
There must be a person willing to carry it out.
Right now, in Australia, there are 500,000 Muslims. Sure, the vast majority of them would not take part in this type of behaviour.
But they are also represented by the Grand Mufti. And less than six months ago, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed wrote to Federal parliament complaining that laws prohibiting the advocation of terrorism infringed his religious beliefs.
It is not very comforting to consider that there has been no backlash from the Islamic community against Australia’s Grand Mufti for his letter. No Muslim organisation has called for him to resign for so publicly conceding that advocation of terrorism is part and parcel of Islamic belief.
And these are the moderates we hear about so often. These are the people who apparently will save us from the extremists.
Good luck with that.
These videos should not be watched carelessly. But they should be watched carefully. They tell us who we are dealing with and what to expect here in Australia.
And every time another incident occurs in the West carried out by a supporter of the Islamic State, it should tell us that our problem is not one of addressing the spread of Islamic State propaganda on social media, or knives, or mobile phones. Instead, our problem is answering why we allowed a minority who follow a dangerous ideology to settle inside our borders.
The 21 dead Christians represent an exultant Islam, crowing that it has conquered Libya. Ignoring this threat won’t make it go away. It will just reinforce the belief that eventually places like Australia will be conquered too, and from within.