A young man is pinned to the ground, his head is twisted and a knife held against his throat. In a few minutes the head is severed and held up for display to the public chanting loudly, “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).
The video of this gruesome public execution of an apostate — the victim had converted to Christianity from Islam — somewhere in Tunisia was recently shown on Egyptian television by Tawfik Okasha, the host of Egypt Today, and it has gone viral on the worldwide web.
I came across it in reading a column by Raymond Ibrahim for the Gatestone Institute out of New York. Ibrahim is of Egyptian-Coptic ancestry, fluent in Arabic, worked as a translator for the Library of Congress and is the editor of The Al Qaeda Reader. There is some dispute about how recent this video is of the public execution of a Muslim condemned as an apostate. But aired on Egyptian television, it was an illustration of the immense regression of Arab-Muslim societies in our time.
The video is chillingly frightful and unbearable for any normal person to watch. I turned it off in horror. I am certainly not alone in my reaction, nor in feeling revulsion and disgust at the silence of Muslims around the world, by which they give legitimacy to crimes committed in the name of Islam.
While such abominations as the public execution of an apostate — or stoning of adulterers, hanging of homosexuals, lashing of individuals for conduct deemed inappropriate, etc. — are justified by Islamists and their apologists on the basis of Shariah, the silence of Muslims in the West contributes to the view spreading among non-Muslims that Islam itself is the problem.
In killing the young Tunisian for apostasy, the irony is appalling. It was another young Tunisian, who set himself ablaze in despair more than a year ago, that sparked the so-called Arab Spring.
It is now increasingly obvious that despots of the Arab-Muslim world, even those as despicable as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, had an unblinkered understanding of their people. Their despotism reflected the nature of their societies.
The Shariah penalty for apostasy is death. If in the past there was reluctance on the part of Muslim judges and rulers to institute such a penalty, it had to do with the slow evolution of traditional Muslim societies away from the primitive circumstances of the seventh-century origin of Islam. But under the weight of modernity, traditional and post-colonial Muslim societies crumbled. The general failure of these societies to make progress out of their closed tribal circle has left them a political wasteland. In such circumstances, Islamists — irrespective of their sectarian differences — are agreed that return to “authentic Islam” means implementation of the primitive seventh-century values read into the Shariah as incontrovertible, divinely ordained Islamic laws.
The result has been Muslims by birth or conversion have been made captives of Shariah — devised by fallible men in the 9th and 10th centuries — on the pain of death.
The world watches, and the burden is on Muslims of reforming Islam, or remaining bound like sheep for slaughter to a primitive legal-political system of totalitarian control disguised as religion.