"So when you meet in Jihad in Allah's cause those who disbelieve, smite their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them…"
— Surat 47, al-Qital (The Killing), Ayat 4
The May 12 canonization by Pope Francis of more than 800 Catholics martyred -- by decapitation -- by Turkish invaders in Otranto, Italy in 1480, and the May 22 beheading of a British soldier in London, recall an event in the life of medieval Muslim hero Saladin.
Saladin has long been romanticized -- by Western biographers, Hollywood producers, and "anxious-to-please" Christians -- as a paragon of chivalrous virtue. England's King Richard, leader of a Crusade that failed to recapture Jerusalem from Saladin, often suffers in comparison to his contemporary Muslim rival, Saladin.
In recalling Saladin, it might be helpful to highlight the long-standing theological sanction given beheading as the preferred method of executing non-Muslim combatants. The historical Saladin was not only warrior, statesman, and scholar, but also a religious zealot.
Following a decade-long consolidation of power in North Africa, the Levant, and Yemen, Saladin adopted the role of liberator of the Holy Land from Euro-Christian fiefdoms. The most persistent, powerful obstacles to his religious quest were the Knight Orders of Christendom. Saladin apparently first intended to vanquish the fighting skills and intense religiosity of the Knights Templar and the Knights of St. John Hospitallers. Saladin had vowed an oath to purify Arab lands "from these two monster orders." On July 4, 1187, on a Galilean plain near the town of Hattin, history provided Saladin with his opportunity.
Saladin's army decisively defeated the Crusaders at Hattin, ultimately making possible the capture of Jerusalem by Muslim forces. After his impressive victory over the out-numbered, out-generaled Crusaders, Saladin singled out for special treatment the approximate 230 Knights Templar and Hospitallers who had surrendered. With religious ritual, Saladin choreographed the mass execution of these prisoners of war. He even ordered each cleric in his army personally to behead at least one knight. Only a few prisoners saved themselves by "converting" to Islam.
This ritual purging of the Muslim-claimed Holy Land should be understood by us infidels as an event theologically approved by the "eternal" Koran itself. Over the centuries, several Muslim commentators have commented on beheadings' psychological impact upon their enemy's fear factor and will to resist, as stated by the Koran:
"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks and smite them over all their fingers and toes"
— Surat al-Anfal (The Spoils), Ayat/Verse 12.
When the epithet of "Zionist-Crusader Alliance" is ascribed to military cooperation between Israel and the United States, we should expect no less a gruesome fate than did British Afghanistan War veteran Sergeant Lee Rigby, the townspeople of Otranto, or the Knight warriors of medieval Christendom.
Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin served as the former OSD Iran Desk Officer, Reserve Attaché to U.S. Embassy Israel.