By employing the grisly method, the Islamic State group aims to show radicals that it is unflinchingly carrying out the most extreme strains in Islam — a sort of “ideological purity” the group boasts distinguishes it even from other militants. The punishment “will protect the Muslims from treading the same rotten course that the West has chosen to pursue,” IS proclaimed in its online English-language magazine Dabiq.
The Quran tells the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom — and sodomy in Arabic is known as “liwat,” based on Lot’s name.
Men having sex with each other should be punished, the Quran says, but it doesn’t say how — and it adds that they should be left alone if they repent. The death penalty instead comes from the Hadith, or accounts of the sayings of the prophet Muhammad. The accounts differ on the method of killing, and some accounts give lesser penalties in some circumstances.
The Islamic State group bases its punishment on one account in which Muhammad reportedly says gays “should be thrown from tremendous height then stoned.”
Before IS, the method was rarely used, though other militants have targeted homosexuals for death. During their rule in Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban had their own method: The victim would be put in a pit and a stone wall would be toppled on top of them.
Most moderate Muslim clerics ignore the death penalty provisions, even as they fiercely denounce homosexuality. Across the Arab world, homosexuals have been arrested and sentenced to prison on charges linked to “debauchery” — and sometimes lashed in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Omar, the man who watched the killings in Palmyra, said he remains shaken.
It began when IS militants blared on loudspeakers for men to gather. Then a black van pulled up outside the Wael Hotel, and Mallah and Salamah were brought out.
The first to be thrown off was Mallah. He was tied to a chair so he couldn’t resist, then pushed over the side.
He landed on his back, broken but still moving. A fighter shot him in the head.
Next was Salameh. He landed on his head and died immediately. Still, fighters stoned his body, Omar said.
The bodies were then hung up in Palmyra’s Freedom Square for two days, each with a placard on his chest: “He received the punishment for practicing the crime of Lot’s people.”
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