I am forcing myself to watch a Muslim killer at work,
A hooded Muslim slashing another Muslim’s throat.
He is using a dull knife.
I force myself to watch the video over and over.
It is the least I can do.
I pray that death comes quickly
For the Muslim man whose neck is too leathery
For the blade, but he is already dead.
The killer holds his head by his hair
Both before and after.
Just one click and you can see dozens of these videos.
The scenes are usually hazy,
As if even light does not want to reveal this darkness.
I resist the temptation to look away,
Yet I still want to gouge out my offended eye.
These videos do not reveal a world without all honor.
The victims, for example, hardly protest, or resist.
They are too resigned to be brave.
The man with the thick neck lets his killer work hard
But slashing is not the right word.
The killer is too devout to believe in thoughtless action.
First he saws, since the neck is like a log,
But he grows impatient that abrasive rubbing will not split the skin.
Then he stabs, making openings that go too deep
For what he wants to find.
Next the Muslim jabs, rapidly, almost delicately,
Like he is puncturing a potato about to be boiled.
Perhaps he is trying to feel the liquid through the steel.
Finally, out of frustration, he chops,
Holding the blade horizontal as the horizon,
Certain that in the pulpy mess he has made
He will sever his target even if it kills them both.
The artery snaps like a weed jerked from its root
Or a clam cut from its adducting muscle,
But unlike in the movies the blood puddles without spouting.
The victim’s neck is splayed fruit on the desert ground
With the juice, black as oil, seeping up from the sand.
I should not say Muslim, you tell me. Would Arab be better?
Terrorist? Fanatic? Barbarian sounds right.
But these killers are not from some primitive age.
They are radical monotheists, with plenty of bullets for their guns,
Yet willing to follow the harder path
Of mercy following subjugation, violence hallowed by obedience.
We say Nazis, not Germans,
So maybe we should say Jihadists, not Muslims,
Except, of course, they are.
We hesitate to name this grotesque devotion,
But the killers do not hesitate to raise the blade.
Nor do their unbound brothers panic while prostrate on the ground.
They share an otherworldly calm that is terrifying.
Try as I might, I cannot imagine the Germans using dull cutlery
Or the French using unserrated cleavers rather than guillotines.
In horror movies they use chain saws.
I cannot imagine I will ever say that Allah is my God too.
I want to be there, before he dies,
To lay down with him, to share his suffering,
So I pause the video between the jabbing and the chopping
And ask God to turn back time and contract space
So that I can see if I have what it takes to be that forebearing.
And I imagine being there, in the thicketless sand,
Calling out to the killer, “Here I am!”
Crawling to a stone, extending my own pale neck,
While imploring him to acknowledge me.
Telling him right in the midst of my agony
That I forgive him. That I know that he too is human.
I could do none of that, of course,
No matter how close fantasy is to faith.
But neither could the victim, nor would he
Since he knows something about submission that I do not.
So I pray that in the next life
Someone else will be able to step into that scene
To take off the one Muslim’s hood,
Wrap a cloth around the other Muslim’s neck
And ask that the camera be put down.
Someone who can open wounds wide enough
To satisfy the rage and stop the bleeding.
The image of the Muslim killer stays in my eyes now,
Forcing me to turn him over to the God he deserves.
Stephen H. Webb writes on a wide range of topics, from the theology of basketball, the stories of John Updike, and the spirituality of pet keeping to Bob Dylan’s Christian period, the metaphysics of matter, and the religious significance of sound. Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, he taught theology and philosophy for twenty five years at Wabash College, Indiana.