Whenever the Islamic State, or IS, makes a statement, it claims to be fulfilling the work of god and striving for some kind of religious utopia, free of vice and sin. The militants claim they are messengers of Allah, even when they are beheading people and posting videos on the internet.
Yet, as a Muslim, I reject this out of hand. There is nothing in our religion which condones or encourages the vicious treatment meted out to James Foley and the dozens of other people who have been beheaded and then used as public trophies in IS's battle for control of Syria and Iraq.
Even if there were anything in our religious teachings to justify chopping off an opponent's head, that particular edict would be patently anachronistic today. At the time of the Prophet, fighting was done with swords and spears, while today's battles employ the latest weapons. There is no way you can reasonably apply ancient standards of warfare to the reality of conflict today.
Someone wishing to defend IS might point out that, in the Qur'an, it is written: "If you kill, kill well, and if you slaughter, slaughter well". However the passage continues by instructing readers: "Let each of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters." Thus it is clear that this passage is designed to apply to sheep and cows, rather than people.
In reality, IS has no real interest in Islamic religious doctrine. The Prophet Mohammed said that in battle we should not torture the victim, yet the Islamic state clearly does that now. He also commanded us to treat prisoners of war well, but IS does not follow this dictum either. In fact they do exactly the opposite, unless, of course, the prisoner can help them in some way.
Members of other sects and religions, such as Christians, are ordered to pay a sum of money known as "jizya," or forced to enter Islam. Or killed, of course. But this is contrary to Islamic law; the Islamic religion does not impose Islam on non-Muslims, but rather gives them freedom of choice. In the Qu'ran, Allah says clearly "there is no compulsion in religion". Perhaps the IS founders skipped that bit when they were codifying their creed.
In reality, the IS beheadings constitute a systematic attempt to deliver a clear message: that all who disagree will face the most barbaric of fates. This was clear when IS cut off the heads of more than 30 people from the 17<sup>th division of the Syrian regime, and displayed them in the most prominent part of Raqqa – on the roundabout al-Naaim or as residents call it "hell roundabout." Predictably the heads sparked panic among the people of the city, and sent a chilling message to troops stationed at Brigade 93 and the Altabqa airport.
It was also apparent when IS chose to behead well-known activists, such as the young revolutionary Moataz Ibrahim. The militants wanted to send a message to all the activists, even those who are outside Raqqa city: anyone who wants freedom, or a civilized state, will meet this end.
Most notably, when IS beheaded the American journalist James Foley a few days ago, they sent a message to America that it will kill all the Americans resident in Iraq, no matter their background or involvement in the current conflict. There was no religious undertone, or overtone, to the slaughter.
IS might claim that it is acting in accordance with Islam and its slaughter is somehow a force for good. But the world should not be fooled; true Muslims completely reject these ludicrous claims, and our religion provides no basis for their cowardly massacres.
Zaid Al Fares is a photojournalist who moved from Raqqa, his home city, to Turkey following the Isis takeover. You can find him on Twitter here.