Sotloff family spokesman challenges ISIS leader to Koran debate

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The spokesman for the family of murdered Jewish-American journalist Steven Sotloff challenged the leader of the ISIS jihadist group to debate the peaceful teachings of the Koran.

Barak Barfi, a friend of Sotloff’s, released a statement on behalf of the family late Wednesday that called the journalist a “gentle soul” and said the family will not “allow our enemies to hold us hostage with the one weapon they possess: fear.”

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Barfi, a researcher in Arab and Islamic Affairs at the New America Foundation think tank in Washington who is fluent in Arabic, offered a personal message to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the end of the statement.

“You said Ramadan is a month of mercy but where is your mercy? You speak of Islam and the Holy Koran but I know the Koranic verses,” he said in a statement translated by ABC. “Abu Bakr, I am ready to debate you. I come in peace, I don’t have a sword in my hand, I am ready for your answer.”

Barfi also said in Arabic that “Steve died a martyr for the sake of God.”

ISIS released a video on the Internet Tuesday showing the beheading of Sotloff. It was titled “A Second Message to America,” following a video two weeks ago that showed the beheading of another American journalist, James Foley.

Sotloff was abducted on Aug. 4, 2013, after crossing the Syrian border from Turkey. Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced the day after the beheading that Sotloff was a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen.