Perhaps the fighters of the Islamic State were feeling upstaged by Al Qaeda, the other name-brand Islamic terrorists who gained such notoriety for the killings in Paris last week. Maybe the ISIS people thought it was time to grab a little attention for themselves.
Whatever. In the last few days, ISIS has taken three actions.
The first was an online posting of pictures of two Japanese prisoners kneeling in the now-familiar orange jumpsuits with a black-clad, hooded thug. ISIS has made an offer to the Japanese government: Pay $200 million or watch their citizens die.
Then came two actions out of Mosul, the Iraqi city now held by ISIS:
-- Two men were thrown to their deaths off a tower block. According to the terrorists, the men
had engaged in homosexual activities.
-- Thirteen teen-aged boys were executed by machine guns and their dead bodies left on the street,
their families forbidden to collect and bury the remains. According to the terrorists, the boys' offense was watching a televised soccer match between the Lebanese and Iraqi national teams.
Both killings were said to be punishment for offenses against Sharia law, which takes its restrictions from the Koran and sometimes the Hadith, another ancient text. I am not well-versed in Sharia law, although I have read of thieves' hands being amputated and female rape victims being stoned for their offenses.
It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Sharia law does not condone homosexuality. If I were gay and living in Mosul, I would be most circumspect. But, you know what? I don't necessarily believe the two defenestrated men were gay. Sharia law, at least as practiced by the Islamic State, doesn't appear to have a particularly careful justice system.
As to the offense of watching a soccer match, I am puzzled. The match was between two Muslim countries' teams, so I'm guessing not all Muslim people are opposed to soccer. (In fact, I read this morning that sports training has been supported by some Islamic groups, the better to train fighters to pursue jihad.) Perhaps the Islamic State is resentful because it does not have its own national soccer team. Maybe watching television is against Sharia law, but it is hard to believe that Sharia's codifiers anticipated TV when writing their rules more than 1,000 years ago. And, even if they did, why is the Islamic State employing even newer technology to broadcast its bloody executions? I don't see it.
Time to leave the kidding aside. I imagine the horror of the 13 boys' families and of the relatives of the two allegedly gay men killed. I imagine the dread the people of Mosul feel living every day with the boot of ISIS on their throats.
Above is a map of Syria published today in Britain's Daily Mail newspaper. It shows the spread of ISIS from August 2014 (in green) to January 2015 (in a reddish tone.)
I am not naive enough to believe our country can fix something as screwed up as Syria is now. But I mourn for those who are suffering. As a human being, I wish I could help them.