In what begins like one of the Islamic State’s brutal propaganda videos, a clip uploaded Monday shows a Syrian rebel group line up nine jihadist fighters in preparation for what appears to be mass execution, only to spare them at the last minute and instead lecture them on the peaceful nature of Islam.
Fighters from an Aleppo-based coalition rebel force mimic the style of the group’s mass executions in the eight-minute video entitled “Muslims are not criminals,” in what appears to be an answer to IS’s own clips, in which the jihadist group has murdered hundreds of people on camera.
At the beginning of the clip, the handcuffed IS militants, clad in the orange jumpsuits usually associated with their own captives, are marched by balaclava-clad rebels to the site of their purported execution.
As the dramatic music builds to a crescendo, the IS militants are seen kneeling on the floor with the rebels pointing guns at their heads. But the rebels do not pull the trigger.
The scene then cuts to another rebel who tells the prisoners: “Muslims are not criminals.”
The masked rebels take off their balaclavas and walk away, making way for a Muslim preacher who tells the IS prisoners, “This is not our policy. We are not evil,” according to a translation in the Daily Mail.
The prisoners are then ushered to jail cells.
After the video was published, English and Arabic hashtags, including #muslims_are_not_criminals, began trending on Twitter. Many users also used the hashtag and the video clip to protest comments by US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who on the same day as the video release, proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the US until authorities “can figure out what is going on” with radical Islam.
IS has used brutal violence to enforce its rule in the so-called “caliphate” it declared in territory straddling Iraq and Syria. Homosexuality and loyalty to Syrian President Bashar Assad are also considered capital punishment offences in IS-controlled areas.
It has filmed several executions, including by decapitation, firing squad, stoning, drowning, burning, and in at least one case, pushing the accused off a high building.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based NGO, Islamic State has executed more than 3,000 people, including at least 1,800 civilians, since it announced its caliphate in June 2014.