How to Respond to Fire; Asserting the Self while Avoiding Hypocrisy

"In Remembrance," by Alosh Bennett; CC-by-2.0

It is difficult to overcome the shock generated by the brutal assassination of Lt. Moath Kasasbeh. Indeed in many ways, I—and many like me—have yet to do so. Throughout the ordeal which was brought some closure by the awful news Tuesday, Jordanians, Arabs, and Muslims alike were of many minds. From anger towards ISIS to self-questioning of the country’s role in in the anti-ISIS coalition; from a proportionally cruel response to a calculated power-play, or a pragmatic non-response; from an impulse to double-down on the offense to withdrawing from intervention; we have felt it all, thought it all, and wanted it all.

The need to bring retribution onto those who are too cruel to even respect the last moment of another human is eating at all of us. How could one possibly bring appropriate retribution onto inhumane organizations without descending to proportional inhumanity? How do we resist blood thirsty revenge while still asserting that we—the honorable, peace-loving people of the world—exit, that we have might, that we have true red-lines that cannot be crossed? How does one assert anything when up against a force that it itself uses violence and terror?

Reclaiming Culture and Religion as a Duty

Certainly, the answer our response cannot be nothing. Nothing is not on the table. Our religions, culture, and region are too close to our heart to let them by hijacked by thought that promotes violence and barbarism. We must do something; something to reclaim our religions of peace, to reclaim our culture who—not too long ago—was known as a culture of hospitality and generosity.

The continued existence of the so-called “Islamic State” puts those things we hold near and dear in jeopardy. ISIS is not merely transforming the borders, bureaucracies, and institutions of neighboring countries; it is transforming the Arab culture I love and cherish, it is projecting a new radicalized Islam that is tipping scales, shifting spectra, and redefining what it means to moderate.

By participating in the anti-ISIS coalition, we are not intervening in an external matter, we are simply taking charge of our destiny. A continued, strong participation in the efforts against ISIS (both militarily and intellectually) is a matter of sovereignty and self-determination; we must reclaim our culture and religion from extremist radical thought.

Resisting Revenge

Yet, as we respond—militarily and otherwise—it remains imperative not to become the enemy. As the impulse for proportional retribution eats at each and every one of us, some have felt inclined to call for mass-bombings, burning, even gassing and chemical attacks as appropriate responses in moments of anger. Those should likely be off the table, when it comes to the list of appropriate responses. But what is left on?

A shorthand is to realize that actions with no utility cannot be on the table. Refining this shorthand further, we can say that destructive action whose only utility is to gratify our need for revenge and retribution is not permissible.

Indeed, framing a response in terms of its utility, the positive outcomes it generates, is a powerful first step in the healing process after having faced injustice. A proportional response should be of some benefit. This benefit can lie on many axes and is important to consider such axes individually.

In the international sphere and global balance of power, establishing steadfastness is disproportionately effective. Steadfastness is equally important in the global PR battle for the minds of young Muslims to prevent their radicalization. Steadfastness taking a public stance on ISIS and the radicalization of Islam, and taking action—some action—against those in our custody who directly support and promote such radicalization.

It is also important to realize the existence of a radicalization problem and to own it. The society that birthed these individuals who commit actions I find unfathomable is my own—it is our own. Every mom and pop can own this as a problem from within, not some external plot we have no control over, and take charge of deradicalizing the people around them.

Internationally, we must continue to promote reason and moderation, and must do so while avoiding hypocrisy (tempting as it may be).

A Reasonable, Escalated Military Intervention

If left untouched, ISIS is not going anywhere. It is a state-like organization that is armed, militarily entrenched, and active. Though unrecognized and condemned internationally, ISIS continues to create facts on the ground locally, creating bureaucracies and institutions that further reaffirms their presence and reality, leaving as many marks as it can on society. While it exists, ISIS will continue to brainwash youth locally and internationally. After its eventual demise, ISIS’s impact of society will proportional to the duration it remained active and embedded. Continue reading “How to Respond to Fire; Asserting the Self while Avoiding Hypocrisy”

More thoughts on the Arab-Israeli Conflict

I have initially wrote when I was applying to universities as a response to one of the questions. I recently went through it and felt it was relevant to share here. Once the actual website is complete, I’ll probably have a copy of this in my ‘writings’ section. For now, here is it:

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a regional issue that has plagued over sixty years of Middle East history; nearly a hundred thousand on both sides died of direct military clashes, more died as a result of occupation and living conditions, hundreds of thousands have been injured, and millions have been deprived of their most basic rights due to this conflict. Living conditions have been deteriorating so rapidly that light and running water have become luxuries.

As an Arab Middle Easterner, it is very easy to get carried away amidst such conflict, to get carried in the current of hate, bigotry, and intolerance. How can I not take sides? How can I – when the status quo has bred such pain and agony to my people?

To be honest, I must take sides, and I do. But what I must not do is lose perspective.

When millions are suffering on both sides, it is my human compassion that wakes me up to remind me that human anguish and distress on either side is unacceptable; this is the perspective that I strive to maintain: no matter how strong my political dedication to one side is, it should never reward, justify, or even belittle the ugliness of human pain on either side of the conflict.

The problem we are currently faced with is that most people have lost that perspective; most people have lost respect to, or even acknowledgement of, the other side’s humanity. Sadly, the sixty years of conflict shaped a generation unwilling to compromise.

Continue reading “More thoughts on the Arab-Israeli Conflict”