ISIS Goes Medieval on Gays

Upon seeing pictures of a gay man thrown to his death by masked jihadis in Iraq, I thought—as a gay man, myself—‘There but for the grace of Allah go I.’

01.19.15 8:47 PM ET

Here are images that pious Muslims ought to find more “offensive” than those of the Prophet Muhammad. 

High above the Iraqi town of Mosul, masked members of the Islamic State throw a man off a building ledge. A crowd below gawks like spectators at a sporting event. They listen intently as a masked jihadi, his face covered by a balaclava, reads out the accused’s sentence like a carnival barker. For committing the eternal crime of the “people of Lot”—a Koranic euphemism for sodomy—the doomed man will he hurled to death. In the last photo, his corpse is splayed out across the wet concrete. 

Upon seeing the pictures of this ghastly crime, I got a pit in my stomach, and not just because I’m afraid of heights. As a gay man, I thought, there but for the grace of Allah go I.  

This was but the latest in a series of grisly punishments meted out by the religious movement-cum-government to people who are gay or merely suspected of being gay and unfortunate enough to live under its expanding rule. Over the past year, Islamic State has routinely murdered gays through stoning or throwing them off buildings. 

The pictures of ISIS fighters throwing gays off rooftops are far more injurious to the reputation of Islam than anything produced by European satirists. And unlike a few cartoons depicting the founder of Islam, they’re actually worth fighting over.  

A thread links these atrocities to this month’s murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris, beyond the fact that the culprits in both cases are Islamist fanatics (if of different sects—the murderous Kouachi brothers were trained by al Qaeda, an ISIS competitor). The more salient commonality pertains to the victims, executed solely because of irrevocable traits: Jewishness and homosexuality.

Elsewhere in Paris, terrorists murdered cartoonists at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo over images they had drawn of the Prophet Muhammad. The office had been firebombed in 2011, and the paper’s editorial director Stéphane Charbonnier eerily predicted that the paper might be attacked again if his staff continued to print depictions of Muhammad. Simply put: Had they not published the cartoons, they would not have been killed. 

There was no such choice for the Jews slaughtered the following day at the Hyper Cacher market. They were murdered simply for the crime of being Jewish. Likewise at the Hebdo office, the terrorists singled out a Jewish woman for death, having expressly spared every other woman in the office from a similar fate. 

None of this is to say that the assassinations of the Hebdo cartoonists were any less sinister than those of their Jewish compatriots, or that they had brought their deadly fate upon themselves by acting "irresponsibly" or by "insulting Islam,". On the contrary, they died in the service of a sacred cause, that of free expression. 

In Iraq, no expression is necessary as cause for atrocity. Gay men are hunted down and killed like rats solely owing to the fact that they are gay. We have become so inured to the persecution of gay people in Muslim lands (the majority of which legally proscribe homosexuality, a handful by death) that we lose perspective. The eliminationist nature of these crimes—murdering people because of who they are, whether French Jews or Iraqi gays—goes a long way towards explaining the ideology of radical Islam and how western civilization must confront it. Islamic fascism is a malevolent and murderous phenomenon which cannot be appeased in any way, shape or form.

Life for gays in Iraq was already difficult before the emergence of the Islamic State last year. "Members of our organization and the gay men and women we interviewed have said consistently that, under arrest, they have been forced to give names and addresses of other homosexuals or suspected homosexuals,” two activists for Iraqi gay rights organizations wrote for the BBC in 2012. "Taken together, this is why we believe the Ministry of the Interior tracks sexual minorities with the aim of eliminating them.” The murder of gays, once a bureaucratic task, has now become an evangelical one. 

Again and again, oppression and murder predicated solely upon their victims' identities provides ultimate clarity about the nature and intentions of radical Islam.