Maaz Safi Yousef Al Kassasbeh is the Jordanian pilot who’s plane went down over Raqqah, the Syrian stronghold of ISIS. He was subsequently capture by ISIS fighters and paraded on social media by the group and it’s supporters. Mohammad Momani, the spokesperson for the Jordanian government, initially said that the plane was shot down and has since changed his statement. “We initially thought the plane might have been shot at, but we cannot confirm this now,” Al-Momani said. ISIS maintains that they shot down the plane. How and why the plane came to where it is currently located is something that will be looked at in the future as more details arrive.
The issues that need to be discussed at this point are two:
1. How should prisoners be treated once they have fallen into the hands of the Muslims?
2. What is the Jordanian track record for treating Muslim prisoners that fall into their hands?
Islamic Treatment of Prisoners
Islam is a religion of justice and mercy. It is not a religion of revenge. This means that simply because passions run high doesn’t mean that we can supersede the boundaries that have been placed upon us by Allaah. Thumaamah ibn Athaal was the leader of the Bani Haneefah tribe in the time of the Messenger of Allaah Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and was known to have slaughtered Muslims. He was captured and tied to one of the pillars of the masjid wherein the Messenger said to him “What do you think, Thumaamah?” He said, “What I think Muhammad is good. If you kill me, you will kill one with blood on his hands (because he had indeed killed Muslims) and if you release me you will release one who will be grateful. If you want money, then ask, and I will give you whatever you want.” After three days of visiting Thumaamah and asking him the same questions he released Thumaamah. Subsequently Thumaamah accepted Islam. He said: “O Messenger of Allaah, by Allaah there was no one on earth whose face was more hateful to me than yours, but now your face is the most beloved of all faces to me. By Allaah, there was no religion that was more hateful to me than your religion, but now your religion has become the most beloved of all religions to me. By Allaah, there was no land more hateful to me than your land, but now your land has become the most beloved to me.”
The option to keep or release Thumaamah was up to the Messenger of Allaah and his decision was based upon the benefit that he saw fit. That decision may change from one case to another, however the treatment of the prisoner is clear and constant. Thumaamah was not beaten, nor was he ‘waterboarded’, deprived of food and water, left in sun or extreme cold etc. Allaah mentions in the Quran:
“And they give food, in spite of their love for it, to the poor, the orphan, and the captive,
(Saying): ‘We feed you seeking Allaah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you.’”
Therefore it is well known that harming prisoners is something that goes against Islam and ISIS should do the right thing and treat the captured pilot Maaz Safi well. Not for any reason except that they fear Allaah and they should not let their oppressors become their teachers. The ranks of the Muslims swelled because of this style of treatment. If they treated their non-Muslim prisoners by giving them better food than the captors ate, then how was the treatment of other Muslims in their ranks?
Jordanian Human Rights Record
This is the second part that absolutely must be highlighted. Amongst practicing Muslims Jordan is known as one of the “Torture Capitals” of the Islamic world. The Jordanian authorities have sounded the screams of many bearded men in their prisons over the course of this regime and the previous one. Human Rights Watch posted on their website the following statement:
“The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) transferred at least 14 terrorist suspects to Jordanian custody for interrogation and torture since the September 11, 2001 attacks, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.
The 36-page report, “Double Jeopardy: CIA Renditions to Jordan,” documents how Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) served as a proxy jailer and interrogator for the CIA from 2001 until at least 2004.”
Jordanian national Abu Qatada, who’s real name is Omar Mahmoud Othman, spent many years in a British prison resisting extradition to Jordan after he had been found guilty in absentia on terrorism charges stemming from a thwarted plot aimed at the Millennium celebrations of 2000. These charges were based upon testimonies extracted by means of torture by the Jordanian General Intelligence Division. Only after assurances were given to the European Court of Human Rights that the torture confessions would be thrown out was Abu Qatada repatriated back to Jordan. After a retrial he was found not guilty and released.
The list can go on and on and (truly) on. Does the Jordanian track record of torture and mistreatment of religious Muslims have any bearing on how ISIS is obligated to treat the Jordanian pilot? Absolutely not. I recently spoke to Abdul Salam Zaeef who was the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan and sold to the Americans after the September 11th attacks. He spent four years in Guantanamo Bay prison camp. I was discussing with him about the torture of prisoners by Muslims who have legitimate grievances against other nations. I asked if he thought it was permissible to torture them as they have tortured religious Muslims. Abdul Salam said: “No, as this is a form of revenge. We are here to establish the religion of Allaah and we are not here for the purpose of revenge”. Abdul Salam Zaeef who was severely mistreated by his American captors, would seemingly have much reason to want to see revenge exacted on one of west’s citizens, however that wasn’t his response. He suppressed his desire for revenge and instead focused on that which was allowed by Allaah.
Some will blame me for using this opportunity to highlight Jordan’s awful human rights record while one of their own is in enemy hands. After all Maaz Safi’s father, Safi Yousef, appealed to ISIS to show mercy and release his son. This is expected as he is his father and he loves and worries about his son. Likewise there are many other parents out there who love and miss their children as well who are languishing in Jordanian prisons or who were rendered to Jordan for torture as well. If I don’t use this opportunity to raise awareness about Jordan’s activities then I too do them a disservice.
The Jordanian government absolutely must change its tactics and make real reforms because with a war raging right next door, it is unlikely that pilot Maaz Safi will be the last Jordanian to fall into hands ISIS or other factions who have members who’s blood once stained the halls of Jordanian prisons.