ISIS Violence

ISIS’s Gruesome Muslim Death Toll

The group’s killing of Westerners gets attention. But ISIS has killed far more Muslims, and publicizing that fact would harm it more.

10.07.14 9:45 AM ET

Last Thursday, the United Nations released a report that could provide us with one of the keys to defeating ISIS. Unfortunately, it received almost zero media attention.

What makes this 26-page report (PDF) so powerful is that it describes to us the gruesome circumstances in which ISIS has killed fellow Muslims. We are talking beheadings, killing of women for objecting to ISIS’ policies, and executing Sunni Muslim clerics for refusing to swear allegiance to ISIS.

Why is this important? This information can hopefully help dissuade other Muslims from joining or financially supporting ISIS. And it may even persuade other Muslim countries to join or increase their efforts in fighting ISIS. The reason being that slaughtering fellow Muslims is seen as universally wrong across the Muslim world and as a violation of Islamic values. In fact, Al Qaeda has even publicly criticized ISIS for this very conduct.

Now the report also details ISIS’ horrific actions against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities. But these events—along with the grisly beheadings of American journalists and Western aid workers- have been covered extensively by our media.

The killing of Muslims has not, and part of the reason may be because we lacked facts surrounding those events. After all, ISIS releases videos of its gruesome actions that it wants the world media to discuss but doesn’t publicize events it understands can hurt its cause.

This report changes that. It provides us with evidence we were missing about the specifics of ISIS’ actions towards Muslims. This investigation, undertaken by UN’s Human Rights Office together with the UN’s Assistance Mission for Iraq, conducted more than 500 interviews with witnesses and visited locations across Iraq to examine how many civilians were killed in Iraq between July and September of this year.

What did the UN find? ISIS had “carried out attacks deliberately and systematically targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, with the intention of killing and wounding civilians.” The UN concluded that in the first eight months of 2014, at least 9,347 civilians had been killed and at least 17,386 wounded. While all these deaths are not attributable to ISIS alone, ISIS is identified as the primary actor. (The report also documents what could be considered war crimes committed by the Iraqi military.)

Here are a few examples from the report to give you an idea of the way ISIS has methodically slaughtered Muslims:

-On September 5, ISIS executed three Sunni women in Mosul. What was their “crime”? They refused to provide medical care to ISIS fighters.
- On September 9, ISIS executed a Sunni Imam in western Mosul for refusing to swear loyalty to ISIS.
- On August 2, a man from the Salah ad Din province was abducted and beheaded for refusing to swear allegiance to ISIS.
-On August 19, a female Muslim doctor south of Mosul was killed for organizing a protest to object to ISIS’ mandate that female doctors cover their faces with religious veils when treating patients
-On August 31, 19 Sunni Muslim men were executed in Saadiya for refusing to swear allegiance to ISIS.
-On July 22, a Sunni Imam in Eastern Baquba was killed for simply denouncing ISIS.
-On September 9, ISIS executed two Muslim women by shooting them in the back of the head. Their exact “crime” was not known.

And the list goes on from ISIS slaughtering 1,500 Iraqi soldiers in June to blowing up numerous Sunni mosques because apparently the leaders of those mosques refused to swear loyalty to ISIS.

Here’s the thing: The leaders of ISIS are very aware that the killing of fellow Muslims—especially Sunnis- could hurt their cause in attracting support from the Sunni Muslim world. In fact, ISIS is so concerned about the possible backlash that the group’s leaders addressed this subject (PDF) in the latest issue of its online magazine.

In between its threats against Obama and promises of a great life for Muslims in their new so-called caliphate, ISIS offered justifications for killing fellow Muslims. For example, they claim that some Muslims ambushed ISIS fighters, took them hostage and “and then tortured, amputated, and executed prisoners.” They even alleged that some of the Sunni Muslims they killed were “drowning” in alcohol and drugs and had more than four wives.

But when you read the details of the UN report, you realize the common thread in ISIS’ killings of Muslims has nothing to do with Islam. It has to do with absolute power. It doesn’t matter if you are a Sunni cleric or a Christian woman, your choice is to submit to ISIS or die.

I wish the media would give more coverage to ISIS’ crimes against Muslims. The publicity would hurt the group’s cause tremendously, and it could also make the case to my fellow Americas that this fight is not Islam versus the West. Rather, it’s everyone who doesn’t want to live under ISIS’ brutal dictatorship versus ISIS.

And those Muslims who gave their lives fighting against or refusing to give into ISIS in our common struggle should be recognized in the media for their bravery. It would be very powerful to see images in our media of the Muslims killed by ISIS, not just Westerners.

Going forward in our war against ISIS, sadly we will likely see more gruesome acts perpetrated by them against Americans. These acts will understandably receive extensive media coverage.

But that is only one part of the story in our fight versus ISIS. The Muslims being slaughtered by ISIS on a daily basis is the other, bigger part. And it’s this other part of the story that might just hold the key to defeating ISIS.