EARLIER this month Mohammed Katta (or Qataa in some reports) was working at his family’s coffee stall in the Shaar district of Aleppo when he made a fatal error. Pressured by a customer to hand over a coffee on promise of payment, the 14-year-old shouted good-humouredly:
I wouldn’t give the Prophet Mohammed credit if he came here today.
The light-hearted remark was, according to this report, overheard by two men. Marching over, they whisked him away in a car, ignoring his protestations of his love for the Prophet and the objections of a militiaman from the Free Syrian Army nearby.
Half an hour later, they returned. According to Mohammed’s younger brother and the neighbours, he was staggering and fell to his knees, and had clearly been beaten. A bag had been placed over his head.
Mohammed’s mother, Nadia Umm Fuad, was was upstairs at home when she first heard shouting. The people of the neighbourhood were yelling that “they have brought back the kid”, so she rushed out of her apartment.
I went out on my balcony. I said to his father, they are going to shoot your son! Come! Come! Come! I was on the stairs when I heard the first shot. I was at the door when I heard the second shot.
I saw the third shot. I was shouting, ‘That’s haram, forbidden! Stop! Stop! You are killing a child.’ But they just gave me a dirty look and got into their car. As they went, they drove over my son’s arm, as he lay there dying.
I heard them say, ‘People of Aleppo and people of Shaar! Anyone who curses God is given three days to repent. Anyone who curses the Prophet is killed immediately.
Islamist brigades such as Jabhat al-Nusra and others loyal to the Revolutionary Military Council, backed by the West, have set up a Sharia court. Its director, Abu Ammar, said it was investigating Mohammed’s killing. But it does not know who was responsible.
He added that the law forbade vigilante justice; all those accused must be brought before a court and allowed to speak.
Immediately after the atrocity, it was reported here that the boy was shot for blasphemy after saying that he would never embrace Islam:
Even if the Prophet Mohammad comes down (from heaven), I will not become a believer.