The new execution by Islamist terrorists in Syria has left us speechless. Now, more than ever, it is clear that the "Islamic State" is challenging the entire world, writes DW's editor-in-chief, Alexander Kudascheff.
The Jordanian fighter pilot Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh is dead. He was burned alive by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS). Locked in a cage while burned, he suffered unimaginably for 20 minutes before martyrdom, though marks on his body imply that he was most likely tortured beforehand. This modern-day auto-da-fe now stands at the apex of an already unfathomable escalation of savagery; the public burning was simply repulsive, repugnant and despicable. It is the consequence of lowest instincts and it escalates the terror of barbarism.
At first, the IS targeted Yazidis, Christians, people with other belief systems - kidnapping, enslaving, displacing, torturing, raping and murdering them, even wiping out entire villages. Then their victims were publicly beheaded. Now they are publicly incinerated. What other ideas will these self-styled Islamist "holy warriors," as they call themselves, think of? What else will they come up with in the rage and delirium of their inebriation brought on by totalitarian power? Is there a superlative? Can anything appall more than their horrific videos, their iconography of terror and their supposed return to the "roots of the true, pure Islam?"
IS is challenging everyone - primarily the countries in which it is directly wreaking havoc and destruction: Syria and Iraq. Then their neighboring countries, from Jordan and Turkey all the way to Iran. The entire region is threatened by IS, even Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And then, the group is also posing a threat to the entire world - from the EU and the US all the way to Russia. It is no longer about a few targeted airstrikes. It is no longer about supplying Kurdish peshmerga fighters with weapons. It isn't about asylum for the hundreds of thousands - millions even - of refugees. And as sad as this may be, it isn't even about the political fate of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad anymore.
IS must not only be fought, but destroyed
The time has now come to wipe out the IS - to annihilate it militarily just like the Assassins were annihilated 800 years ago. First, there must be a military campaign to defeat IS, even if the death of al Baghdadi and his jihadis is sure to attract more Islamist recruits at first. The second task for society and politicians would be to tackle the fascination with violent jihad.
The latter will be a difficult feat, as is evident in the fallen and broken states in the Middle East - in Yemen, Libya and even on the borders of the West and in the Caucasus region, where religious ideologies are flaring up as well. But Arab countries will have to face this task themselves. They will decide whether they want to live in a multicultural, multireligious Middle East or whether they will be sucked down into the whirlpool of fanatical Islam.
Jordan's reaction to execute the terrorist al-Rishawi and al Qaeda member al-Karbouli may have been received with approval domestically as an act of vengeance. It might also have been carried out in the interests of Bedouin tribes of the Hashemite Kingdom. But it was something out of the Old Testament and was not in line with today's understanding of justice. In the short term, it may help provide a feeling of strength. However, it will probably only lead to an escalation of violence.