Six messages, one video

Six messages, one video
Comment: The latest IS video outrage contained at least six messages that the world should take note of, says Abdallah Hendawi.
3 min read
20 Apr, 2015
The latest IS video was as much about its confidence as it was slaughter [Getty]

A 29-minute video was released on 18 April by the Islamic State group (IS, formerly Isis) titled “Until There Came to Them, The Clear Evidence” purporting to show the killing of Ethiopian Christians by Islamic State group militants in Libya.


Unlike its previous videos that usually focus only on a grislier propaganda, this video devoted nearly 25 minutes out of a total of 29 to elucidate at great length the vision of the Islamic State vis-à-vis Christians living in the ‘Caliphate’. The postulations ranged from elucidating the rights and responsibilities of Christians as well as providing religious rationalisation for the use of excessive violence against Christians who refuse to convert to Islam or decline to pay Jizyeh (a tax on non-Muslims) all the way to interviewing Christians who – after God knows how much coercion - declared their bliss and contentment under IS rule.


Beside the butchery, this atypical video seemed designed to send important messages that could include – but are not limited to – the following:


  1. First of all, the fact that the video was broadcast from Raqqa, the IS group’s de facto capital, together with an interview with Anas al-Nashwan, a leading figure, confirms the incorporation of Libya’s militants to IS, which had been previously met with scepticism.


  1. The beheading of Egyptian Copts in February was believed to have taken place in the coastal city of Sirte. This time, the massacre took place in two new spots in Libya including one in the east where the secular general Khalifa Haftar is ostensibly in control. This suggests Egyptian airstrikes against IS have been ineffective and that IS is rather expanding its reach in Libya.


  1. The video included footage from multiple locations in Syria, Iraq and Libya and seems designed to show how easy it is for IS to roam the region without hindrance. A video narrative that cuts and swings every now and then from Syria to Iraq to Libya is a demonstration of the frontier-less identity of the ‘Caliphate’ that recognizes no Western-drawn borders between its Muslim citizens; a principle that IS has been using to recruit new cadres from far and wide.


  1. The video portrays a quite elaborate system of government institutions that includes courts operating under Qur’an-inspired laws, police, army and media. IS is no longer an amateur organisation, it is acting as a state; officials are addressing their non-Muslim ‘citizens’ and guarantying their rights are protected as long as they respect the law.


  1. The choice of Ethiopian Christians is particularly striking. Ethiopia has been a longstanding adversary of al-Shabab, a group IS has been trying to team up with. A coalition the two militias, will help IS make use of al-Shabab’s capabilities to recruit more African fighters; a dexterity that al-Shabab has been known for. Al-Shabab will benefit financially and logistically in return. 


  1. This video sounds an alarm – perhaps a final one – on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Libya.


Other messages may have been embedded in this sophisticated video. But the above alone give a good sense of where IS is headed. The six messages also suggest that there needs to be urgent and rational collaborative action from the international community to – if not end – at least limit the growing calamity before it is too late.  


The video was not primarily about killing Christians, Ethiopian or other. It was primarily about IS confidence.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.