Indiana man beheaded in Syria remembered in Muslim prayer service

Muslims in Indiana held a funeral service on Friday for Abdul- Rahman Kassig, formerly known as Peter, who was beheaded by Islamic State militants inSyria after being held captive for a year.

Kassig adopted Islam while he was a hostage. His family said he made a sincere conversion in a process that began before he was captured by Islamic State, which has seized parts of Iraq and Syria and is the target of U.S. bombings.

Friends and family of different faiths attended the funeral service in Fishers, an Indianapolis suburb, which included a sermon by a prominent Syrian exile, cleric and Muslim scholar Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, formerly Imam of the Grand Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

"He took every risk in order to help the Syrian people, to remove some of their tragedy, to offer them some relief,” al-Yaqoubi said. He called Kassig "one of our brothers who sacrificed his life for the sake of God."

He offered condolences to the Kassigs, calling their son a great hero “who carried in his heart the principles of Islam even before becoming a Muslim.”

Kassig's parents, Ed and Paula Kassig attended the service. During their son's captivity, the Kassigs repeatedly called on Islamic State to spare their son, who became the fifth European or American captive killed by the militants.

They said that they adopted Kassig as a newborn.

"We have always been, and will always be, grateful that his birthmother, Rhonda Schwindt, chose us to be his parents," they said in a statement. "We know that she and Peter's siblings, Jana and Sam Schwindt, share in our grief."

Kassig was a medic and former U.S. Army Ranger who served briefly in Iraq in 2007 in the U.S. Army. He returned to the Middle East in 2012 for a spring break trip while studying political science.

Moved by the suffering of Syrian refugees, he went to Lebanon and volunteered as an emergency medical technician.

He later founded an aid organization to provide food and medical supplies to refugees from the conflict in Syria, where some 200,000 people have died and millions are displaced.

Another Muslim prayer service will be held for Kassig on Saturday in Indianapolis. A memorial service will be held on Sunday at Butler University in Indianapolis, where Kassig had been a student.

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