Truth in Media: Origin of ISIS

In this episode of Truth in Media, Ben Swann explores the origin of ISIS that has already been long forgotten by American media. Swann takes on the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by “inaction” by the United States government or by “direct” action.


The death penalty is in its final throes, but too many are still being executed – Clive Stafford Smith

History may be susceptible to few inexorable predictions. But we are on safe ground if we say that sacrificing a human being to the false god of deterrence, or for pure revenge, is not going to look civilised when we peer back from the 22nd century, any more than our own history books laud theSalem witch trials three centuries ago.

At one time or another, essentially every country has used capital punishment. Yet today, of the 195 states recognised by the United Nations, only 37 killer countries remain: just one in five. Of the rest, 102 have formally abolished, and 56 have either not executed for more than 10 years, or have imposed a formal moratorium. The death penalty is in its death throes.

However, just as a wild animal may be most dangerous when cornered, so the renegade states lash out. Pakistan is an example of this. Nine months ago, the moratorium imposed by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) six years earlier held firm. In 1979, the then PPP leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by the military regime; in other words, they had experienced the caprice of capital punishment first-hand.

At one time or another, essentially every country has used capital punishment. Yet today, of the 195 states recognised by the United Nations, only 37 killer countries remain: just one in five. Of the rest, 102 have formally abolished, and 56 have either not executed for more than 10 years, or have imposed a formal moratorium. The death penalty is in its death throes.

However, just as a wild animal may be most dangerous when cornered, so the renegade states lash out. Pakistan is an example of this. Nine months ago, the moratorium imposed by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) six years earlier held firm. In 1979, the then PPP leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged by the military regime; in other words, they had experienced the caprice of capital punishment first-hand.

However, the current PMLN government, led by Nawaz Sharif, has vowed to execute everyone on death row – which, at 8261 people, is more than in any other country. This is meant to deter the terrorists who had carried out the hideousPeshawar school massacre in December 2014. (All the “jihadis” had willingly died in the attack, so the deterrent value of executions seemed questionable even then.)

Yet Pakistan is an example of a country where deterrence works – for politicians at least. For months, the PMLN government had been discouraged from carrying out executions, by an EU threat to take away favourable trading status, which is said to be worth some $1.3bn dollars a year. They have also been deterred by the terrorists themselves. While those who were said to be extremists made up at least 13 of the 25 hanged in the first seven weeks of the gallows, on 11 February this year the terrorists apparently issued their own secretive threat of retribution: if any more of their number should be hanged, they would target the politicians and their families personally.

Naturally, the politicians did not admit anything publicly, but they stopped executions for a month. The 189 executions since 13 March have included not a single member of these proscribed groups. In other words, the pretext for execution is simply false, and yet Pakistan is executing a flood of those with nothing to do with terrorism – from schizophrenics, paraplegics and juveniles, many of whom seem to be innocent.

Iran is another country where a recent bloodbath on the gallows may be subject to western influence. Iran has recently doubled the rate at which it hangs people for narcotics violations and these are, overwhelmingly, small-time mules.Iinvestigations by Reprieve show that UK support for Iranian drug police directly enabled 2,917 hangings, and a western-funded UN drugs programme has helped to put the necks of more than two drug mules in the noose each day this year.

Another pretext for using the death chamber is common to conservative Christians and Muslims alike – that the death penalty is somehow mandated by God. Their take on the lex talionis (“an eye for an eye”) is itself dubious, as such countries impose death for many crimes, including drugs and blasphemy. InSaudi Arabia the new ruler, King Salman, has more than doubled the number of prisoners beheaded this year, and more than half have been foreigners who generally do not speak Arabic and have little chance of defending themselves.

The United States still has more than 3,000 people on death row, but only five states have managed to conduct 19 executions between them this year, down more than two-thirds on 1999, with public support waning. However, the battle is far from over. The US is less susceptible to international pressure, and the conservatives take their shibboleths seriously. Recently, some states have had trouble obtaining lethal injection drugs, for the simple reason that pharmaceutical companies do not want their product used to kill people. In a recent supreme court challenge, the conservative five-justice majority voted to uphold the lethal execution process, insisting that a prisoner who objects to a particularly gruesome and painful method of execution must help the state by suggesting an alternative way to execute him.

China may be the ultimate challenge for abolitionists. Like the US, the regime is not impressed by international pressure. Despite this, Chinese officials have stated that abolition will come sometime in the future, when the time is right. Yet, ironically, they have created the conditions for the internal backlash they fear from the Chinese people: the population remains strongly (95%) in favour of the death penalty for the simple reason that official propaganda says that executions deter crime, and the regime stifles dissent. When the regime allows meaningful discourse, the facts will inevitably create the moment for abolition.

For those of us in the trenches of this battle, it is cold comfort that history will place us on the correct side of the argument. I have watched while six of my clients die: two in the gas chamber, two in the electric chair, and two on the gurney. Each time, I have come out of the chamber, and looked up at the stars, wondering how such barbarism has made the world a safer or more civilised place. For today, there are just too many individual, living human beings systematically killed, all for no good reason.

Iraqi Kurdistan hangs 3, breaking death penalty moratorium

A Kurdish man and his 2 wives, convicted of abducting and murdering 2 schoolgirls, were hanged last week, the 1st judicial executions in the Kurdistan Region since a death penalty moratorium in 2008.
The hangings were announced by District Judge Abdulrahman Zebari, who had issued the death sentences in April 2014 at a court in Duhok city.
“The 3 convicts were hanged shortly after death sentences were signed by the Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani in accordance with protocol,” Zebari said.
The 3 offenders were convicted for the abduction and murder of 2 schoolgirls in 2011 and 2012.
Apart from terrorism-related cases, no other death sentence has been carried out since 2008, because President Barzani has imposed a moratorium by refusing to sign the execution orders.
The judge said the president was asked to make an exception and sign the verdicts for the 3 offenders, due to the gravity of the crime.
They were hanged for the deaths of 2 11-year-old girls, Avan Haji and Havin Hasan, who were kidnapped in Zakho before being abused and murdered.
1 of the girls was reported missing in November 2011 and the other in March 2012.
The male offender was initially investigated by police in 2012 but was released for lack of evidence, police said.
“It was through 1 of his wives that we could charge the man again and find evidence,” Captain Nashaat Sulaiman of the Zakho police force, told Rudaw.
“Initially, 1 of his wives came and complained that the man was beating her but then she revealed the bigger crimes concerning the 2 girls,” Sulaiman said.
The man was a construction worker and had 6 children from the 2 marriages.
Both his wives were also charged and sentenced to death “for complicity” and “because of the gravity of the crime,” the verdict read.
Kurdistan’s Supreme Court did not overrule the sentences, despite lawyers’ objections.
“There were growing public demands that we should respond to the cruelty with which the crimes were committed,” the judge said.
The number of inmates on death row in Kurdistan has grown to a record high as authorities continue to maintain a de facto moratorium on death penalty.
In the region’s 3 provinces, there are now 205 prisoners who have been sentenced to death. The number is higher than in any year since the 1990s, when the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) established its autonomous courts, virtually independent of Iraq’s judiciary.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and UN Special Representative for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov have urged Iraq to impose a moratorium on the death penalty and called on the Kurdistan region to abolish it permanently.
Source: rudaw.net, August 24, 2015

Read more: http://deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com/2015/08/iraqi-kurdistan-hangs-3-breaking-death.html#ixzz3jrk28r20

South African justice minister blocks Pistorius parole

August 19, 2015 (Reuters)

Oscar Pistorius will not be freed on parole this Friday because the decision to do so was made without the right legal basis, South Africa’s justice minister said on Wednesday, shocking the athlete’s family as they prepared for his homecoming.

The former Paralympics gold medalist had been expected to be released after serving 10 months of a five-year sentence for killing his model and law graduate girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the parole board had wrongly taken a decision to release Pistorius on parole before the athlete had served a sixth of his sentence, as required by law.

“It is therefore clear that there is no legal basis upon which such a decision was made … one sixth of a five-year sentence is 10 months and at the time the decision was made Mr. Pistorius had served only over six months of his sentence,” Masutha said in a statement.

“I came to the conclusion that the board had erred in sitting and considering his application for parole before the minimum period that he is required to serve under the relevant provision had lapsed,” Masutha said on Talk Radio 702.

The minister said he had received a petition from the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa opposing Pistorius’ release on parole, saying it flouted the rules.

Ulrich Roux, a prominent criminal defense lawyer, said the minister’s decision was “procedurally correct” but its timing was “bizarre”.

“The eyes of the whole world are on South Africa and this certainly isn’t a good reflection on our department of correctional services.”

The minister has referred the case to the parole review board, which has 14 days from Wednesday to consider whether Pistorius should be released or serve a longer period in jail, Roux said.

“They can also reach a decision earlier, where they can either agree with the decision made by the parole board or return it and advise the minister not to release Pistorius,” he said.

A family member said relatives had planned a “low-key welcome” for Pistorius on Friday. “We are shocked and disappointed that Oscar won’t be home this Friday,” the family member, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

Annelise Burgess, the family’s official spokeswoman, said: “We accept the decision by the Minister of Justice and are considering our options.”

Pistorius has admitted killing Steenkamp, 29, by firing four shots through the locked door of a toilet cubicle, saying he believed an intruder was hiding behind it.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said during sentencing the state had failed to convince her of Pistorius’ intent to kill when he fired.

Prosecutors want the verdict of culpable homicide, equivalent to manslaughter, changed to murder because they argue Pistorius must have known when he fired that the person behind the door could be killed.

The athlete, nicknamed “Blade Runner” because of the carbon-fiber prosthetics he used during his career on the track, was expected to be confined to the home of his uncle, Arnold, a high-walled manor in the leafy suburb of Waterkloof.


USA: Conservative pastor: “Stoning gays is the mindset of God”

The New Civil Rights Movement reports that pastor Ben Bailey of the Central Church of Christ recorded a video in which he suggests “the mindset of God” is strongly in favor of stoning gay people to death.
According to Bailey, God has “a definite standard and it is not the liberal mindset that we see today.”
The speech was part of his weekly “The Gospel of Christ” evangelistic program, which, according to the website, “seeks to teach and preach THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD.”
“God does not approve of homosexuality or gay marriage,” Bailey claims. “The scripture says … that is vile, unnatural and deserving of a penalty … It’s an abomination that under the Old Testament deserved stoning.”
“And so, is our God, the God of Bible, wanting us to go somewhere where it’s liberal, relaxed views and anything goes? No, that’s the effect of a very liberal society. And we need to make sure that such is not the idea or the mindset of God.”
Source: lgbtqnation.com, August 18, 2015


What Does Islam Say About Being Gay ?

July 28, 2015

ISTANBUL — On June 29, Turkey’s 12th Gay Pride Parade was held on Istanbul’s crowded Istiklal Avenue. Thousands marched joyfully carrying rainbow flags until the police began dispersing them with water cannons. The authorities, as has become their custom since the Gezi Park protests of June 2013, once again decided not to allow a demonstration by secular Turks who don’t fit into their vision of the ideal citizen.

More worrying news came a week later when posters were put up in Ankara with a chilling instruction: “If you see those carrying out the People of Lot’s dirty work, kill the doer and the done!” The “People of Lot” was a religious reference to gays, and the instruction to kill them on sight was attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. The group that put the posters up, the so-called Islamic Defense Youth, defended its message by asserting: “What? Are you offended by the words of our prophet?!”

All of this suggests that both Turkey and the Muslim world need to engage in some soul-searching when it comes to tolerance for their gay compatriots.

Of course this intolerance is not exclusive to either Turks or Muslims. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Turkey scores slightly better on measures of gay rights when compared with some nearby Christian-majority nations such as Russia, Armenia and Ukraine. Indeed, Turkey’s secular laws don’t penalize sexual orientation, and some out-of-the-closet L.G.B.T. icons have long been popular as artists, singers or fashion designers. Among them are two of the most popular Turkish entertainers of the past half-century: The late Zeki Muren was flamboyantly gay and the singer Bulent Ersoy is famously transsexual. Their eccentricity has apparently added to their popularity.

But beyond the entertainment industry, the traditional mainstream Islamic view on homosexuality produces intolerance in Turkey toward gays and creates starker problems in Muslim nations that apply Shariah. In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan or Afghanistan, homosexuality is a serious offense that can bring imprisonment, corporal punishment or even the death penalty. Meanwhile, Islamic State militants implement the most extreme interpretation of Shariah by throwing gays from rooftops.

At the heart of the Islamic view on homosexuality lies the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is narrated in the Quran, too. According to scripture, the Prophet Lot had warned his people of “immorality,” for they did “approach men with desire, instead of women.” In return, the people warned by Lot tried to expel their prophet from the city, and even tried to sexually abuse the angels who came down to Lot in the guise of men. Consequently, God destroyed the people of Lot with a colossal natural disaster, only to save the prophet and a few fellow believers.

The average conservative Muslim takes this story as a justification to stigmatize gays, but there is an important question that deserves consideration: Did the people of Lot receive divine punishment for being homosexual, or for attacking Lot and his heavenly guests?

The even more significant nuance is that while the Quran narrates this divine punishment for Sodom and Gomorrah, it decrees no earthly punishment for homosexuality — unlike the Old Testament, which clearly decrees that homosexuals “are to be put to death.”

Medieval Islamic thinkers inferred an earthly punishment by considering homosexuality as a form of adultery. But significant names among them, such as the eighth-century scholar Abu Hanifa, the founder of the popular Hanafi school of jurisprudence, argued that since a homosexual relationship did not produce offspring with an unknown father, it couldn’t be considered adultery.

The real Islamic basis for punishing homosexuality is the hadiths, or sayings, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. (The same is true for punishments on apostasy, heresy, impiety, or “insults” of Islam: None come from the Quran; all are from certain hadiths.) But the hadiths were written down almost two centuries after the prophet lived, and their authenticity has been repeatedly questioned — as early as the ninth century by the scholar Imam Nesai — and they can be questioned anew today. Moreover, there is no record of the prophet actually having anyone punished for homosexuality.

Such jurisprudential facts might help Muslims today to develop a more tolerant attitude toward gays, as some progressive Islamic thinkers in Turkey, such as Ihsan Eliacik, are encouraging. What is condemned in the story of Lot is not sexual orientation, according to Mr. Eliacik, but sexual aggression. People’s private lives are their own business, he argues, whereas the public Muslim stance should be to defend gays when they are persecuted or discriminated against — because Islam stands with the downtrodden.

It is also worth recalling that the Ottoman Caliphate, which ruled the Sunni Muslim world for centuries and which the current Turkish government claims to emulate, was much more open-minded on this issue. Indeed, the Ottoman Empire had an extensive literature of homosexual romance, and an accepted social category of transvestites. The Ottoman sultans, arguably, were social liberals compared with the contemporary Islamists of Turkey, let alone the Arab World.

Despite such arguments, the majority of Muslims are likely to keep seeing homosexuality as something sinful, if public opinion polls are any indication. Yet those Muslims who insist on condemning gays should recall that according to Islam, there are many sins, including arrogance, which the Quran treats as among the gravest moral transgressions. For Turks and other Muslims, it could be our own escape from the sin of arrogance to stop stigmatizing others for their behavior and focus instead on refining ourselves.

Mustafa Akyol is the author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.”

Sharia law and the death penalty: Penal Reform International

July 22, 2015

This report is designed for non-experts who want to understand more about Sharia law and Islamic jurisprudence as it relates to the death penalty.
Sharia law is used in some countries as a reason to retain capital punishment. However, there are schools of thought among Islamic scholars stating that Sharia law creates stringent conditions for the use of the death penalty and includes various opportunities to avoid or commute punishment, and that Sharia law explicitly encourages alternatives.
The report begins by explaining the primary and secondary sources and schools of Sharia law. It then looks at the categories of penalties in Sharia law (Qisas crimes, Hudud crimes and Ta’zir crimes) and explains what these comprise in relation to the death penalty.

The book quotes sources of Sharia law related to these offences and analyses what this means for the application of the death penalty, including how Sharia law relates to international standards on the application of the death penalty. It ends by looking at ways in which Islamic jurisprudence has changed over the centuries in various aspects of law and punishment.

Sharia law and the death penalty: Would abolition of the death penalty be unfaithful to the message of Islam?
This publication was written by Michael Mumisa (University of Cambridge), drawing on an original draft by Dr. Mohammad Habbash (Director of the Centre for Islamic Studies in Damascus) and with additional input from Taghreed Jaber and Jacqueline Macalesher of Penal Reform International.
This publication has been produced as part of Penal Reform International’s project ‘Progressive abolition of the death penalty and implementation of humane alternative sanctions’.
The death penalty is one of the core issues that Penal Reform International (PRI) has worked on for over two decades, in all parts of the world. During this time, PRI has witnessed the death penalty’s abolition in a majority of the world’s nations, but it continues to be used in most Muslim countries. One of the main reasons for this is the justification that it is permitted by the Quran, the Islamic holy book. As such, most nations that consider Islam to be the state religion permit the use of the death penalty. Our work has led us to find that this punishment is rooted in these countries’ legal and political systems, with the influence of religious traditions indirectly affecting the use of the death penalty. Although capital punishment is still widely supported in Islamic states and nations, there are growing groups of Muslims who support the abolition of the death penalty. This is for many reasons, including different interpretations of Quranic verses that deal with capital punishment, but also concerns that governments may use religion as a cover for other reasons to retain the death penalty: it can eliminate actual and potential enemies to government and disseminates fear in society while also encouraging a superficial sense of security.
In many Islamic countries which continue to carry out executions, the death penalty has become a taboo subject. Governments frequently use Sharia to justify why they retain and apply capital punishment, and this can seem to close discussion on the subject. However, Sharia law is not as immutable on the death penalty as many scholars or states say. Among the misconceptions about Sharia law is the belief that there is a clear and unambiguous statement of what the punishments are for particular offences. In fact, there are several different sources referring to punishments, and different schools of Sharia law give different weight to them. There is a belief that Islamic judges are required to impose a fixed and predetermined punishment for certain offences without discretion or without permitting mitigating evidence to be admitted into court. This is not true. Additionally, there is also the belief that Sharia law is widely used in national legislation and practice in Islamic countries, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and elsewhere. In fact, most countries in the MENA region maintain a dual system of secular courts and religious courts, in which the religious courts implement various aspects of Sharia law.