On Wednesday, Shirley Sotloff released a videotaped plea to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL and the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic State, asking for her son's release.
Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist, was reportedly abducted in Syria in August of last year but, as the Daily Beast reported, his plight had been part of an international news media blackout until ISIL released a video last week showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
According to those who have seen the [Foley] video, the Islamic State subsequently displays a man who they claim is Sotloff, threatening that he will be next if the United States continues its military operations in Iraq."
In the video, Sotloff's mother addresses Baghdadi directly, referring to him as "the caliph of the Islamic State." This was one part of the many cautious rhetorical calculations made by Ms. Sotloff in the video. As Rukmini Callimachi explains:
In addressing Mr. Baghdadi as caliph of the Islamic State, Ms. Sotloff’s appeal is almost certainly the first time a non-Muslim has acknowledged his authority, a move that may prove controversial.
She calls her son "an honorable man" and adds that "we want to see him home safe and sound and to hug him."
She then moves her appeal from emotional to theological:
As a mother, I ask that your justice to be merciful and not to punish my son for matters he has no control over...I ask you to use your authority to spare his life, to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammed, who protected People of the Book."