Friend of Steven Sotloff Challenges ISIS Leader to Debate on Islam

A close friend of Steven Sotloff's today demanded to debate the leader of the Iraqi terror group that allegedly murdered the American journalist.

"I have a message to Abu Bakr," Barak Barfi, a friend of Sotloff's and family spokesperson, said in heated Arabic before television cameras late Wednesday, referring to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of ISIS. "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."

Barfi then quoted a verse in the Muslim holy book about God's disdain for oppressors.

"Abu Bakr, I am ready to debate you" Barfi said. "I come in peace, I don't have a sword in my hand, I am ready for your answer."

Barfi's personal challenge to al-Baghdadi came after he read the first statement from Sotloff's family since his death was confirmed by U.S. officials Tuesday. Sotloff appeared to have been murdered on camera by an ISIS fighter.

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The family said they would not "allow our enemies to hold us hostage with the one weapon they possess: fear."

Barfi started the Arabic portion of his statement by addressing the Islamic world and reiterating Sotloff's respect and love of Arab and Muslim culture.

Barfi, a researcher specialized in Arab and Islamic Affairs who is fluent in Arabic, had been coordinating efforts on behalf of the Sotloff family in order to secure the release of the writer since he disappeared in Syria in August 2013.