Our Greatest Weapon Against ISIS Is Compassion, Not Justice
In the wake of the Friday the 13 terrorist attack in Paris, the biggest threat to us now is not further attacks from ISIS (ISIL, DAIISH), but our leaders giving in to fear and anger by ramping up military and security. These decisions are often rash, with no long-term strategy, and result in the further radicalization of terrorist recruits and an increased suspension of citizen’s civil liberties.
Our greatest weapon is not justice, but compassion. How can there be justice when there are so many deaths on both sides? How can this justice be restorative if it is fueled by vengeance and seeks to punish? Acts of war will get us nowhere. They will only take us further away from a unified world of peace.
Monuments and embassies around the world have been lit up with the colors of the French flag in a show of solidarity. Individuals have taken to Twitter to show Paris their support. The media was quick to report on the solidarity from particular parts of the world, but neglected to emphasize the showing of support from individuals across the Middle East and North Africa, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
At the same time, Islamophobia came out in full force, causing Muslims and their allies all around the world to defend themselves and declare that#MuslimsAreNotTerrorist. This hatred will lead to more fear, more violence, more war, and deeper divisions within humanity.
This hatred is what we must fight against. It is why we must be compassionate.
We live in an interconnected, interdependent and arguably cosmopolitan world. The outpouring of solidarity shows that our cultures, our histories, our identities have collided. For many of us, we feel a sense of pride, a sense of oneness, a hopeful optimism and compassion towards our fellow human beings.
However, there are individuals all over the world that feel left out. They feel marginalized and oppressed by the international world order. They have lost their local sense of identity, but have not been accepted into the larger international community. This is reflected in the systemic violence, prejudice, and economic disadvantage they face. No where is this greater than within the territories ISIS has taken over, and for young Muslims across the world.
Wahhabism, the foundation for radical Islam, is not representative of the history and ideology of Islam, nor the culture and identity of the Arab world. It thrives on fear and hatred, and it preys on young, disenfranchised youth. With every declaration of war, with every outpouring of violence, with every condemnation the international order declares against those it has ignored, these individuals feel an even greater desperation and need to join the only alternative they are offered for community.
These are the individuals we have failed. These are the humans who need our compassion the most. ISIS is a symptom of disparity and disenfranchisement, not the embodiment of all that is evil in the world. Even if we manage to destroy their leadership and dismantle their operations, the underlying cause still festers, yearning for a new form to take.
The best weapon we have against our greatest threat is compassion.
We must seek to end the disparity, to invite all to share in the wealth and joy of humanity. This will not be easy — it requires time, caution and very difficult conversations on values and cultural beliefs. However, the world has come a long way in a very short time. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris back in 1948, has demonstrated our capacity to overcome differences and find common ground for the rights of humankind. It was a collaborative international effort that received recognition from nations all over the world, and became the foundation for a human rights regime that has transformed all nations of the globe.
We have not just hope, but evidence that we are overcoming our differences and sharing in the common good. Let us continue to invite more and more people to the table to continue the fight against injustice; especially towards our fellow human beings who call us their enemy.
Our violence will strengthen their rage while our compassion will transform them. Let’s share our compassion and show solidarity not just with Paris, but with each other, and with the members of ISIS.
That compassion is the single greatest threat to the continued existence of ISIS.
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