The shocking video of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive by ISIS provoked widespread anger throughout the Middle East, uniting traditional foes in condemnation. Even some figures who sympathize with ISIS’s cause, including the Jordanian Salafist leader Abu Sayyaf, condemned both the method of Kasasbeh’s killing and the way it was publicized.
Now ISIS is defending itself in the latest issue of its official English-language magazine, Dabiq, in what seems like a sign that the terrorist group knows it overreached. An article on “The Burning of the Murtadd (Apostate) Pilot” fires back at critics like Sayyaf, who it says are only “masquerading as supporters of the mujahidin” but are “always amongst the first to speak out in any case where the mujahidin display their harshness towards the crusaders.”
It then justifies the burning on eye-for-an-eye grounds:
In burning the crusader pilot alive and burying him under a pile of debris, the Islamic State carried out a just form of retaliation for his involvement in the crusader bombing campaign which continues to result in the killing of countless Muslims who, as a result of these airstrikes, are burned alive and buried under mountains of debris.
It also includes several scriptural examples of enemies of Islam being burned to make its case that ISIS had “followed the footsteps of Allah’s Messenger … in his harshness towards the disbelievers.”
It’s obvious that the creators of Dabiq follow Western media coverage pretty closely—one of the more unexpected features in the latest issue is a near-reprint of an article from the Independent by journalist Patrick Cockburn—but they’re less concerned with how the Crusaders view their actions than how they’re perceived by the potential recruits reading their English-language propaganda. Still, compared with a lot of the material the group has put out, the latest issue, which includes an article called “Responding to the Doubts,” affirming that the group does in fact have a “good opinion” of the “crusher of the Americans” Osama Bin Laden despite what al-Qaida might tell you, feels awfully defensive.