Instead of Seeking Revenge, We Must Fight ISIS by Advancing Ideologies of Human Solidarity

02/11/2015 11:40 am ET | Updated Apr 13, 2015
Jordan Pix via Getty Images

AMMAN - The excruciating death of our pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, at the hands of Daesh/ISIS militants has rallied Jordanians and the world at large. Much like "Je suis Charlie," "We are all Muath" as well. The truth of these proclamations is evident but the mission to which they call us is more intricate and transformative than the international media portrays. For we Jordanians know more than most that progress in fighting fanaticism does not come from exacting revenge on individuals. To be sure, we will struggle against such evil, and we will win.

But the issue of our people, our neighbors and our friends being targets of extremism is not a new phenomenon. From the heinous terrorist bomb attacks on our hotels in Amman that claimed over 60 lives in 2005 to the recurring cycles of violence throughout the region that have displaced millions of Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis and Syrians inside our borders, Jordan has faced the consequences of asymmetric warfare every decade. We understand that eradicating extremism, including this latest evil that we see in Daesh, requires that we address socio-historical conditions that continue to marginalize and demean Arab youth and their communities in West Asia, North Africa, Europe and beyond.

The Jordanian government has recently made strong statements about the scope of Jordan's retaliation with "just the beginning" of its "multiple targets." Reminded of Rev. Martin Luther King, I speak now "with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision" in order to stress the importance of internationalism and making connections across borders to see global struggles as our own. Our approach to fighting such oppression must be founded on an ethic of human solidarity that is broader than Jordan. This attack on multiple targets must be made in conjunction with the support of network intelligence gathering from Boko Haram to Raqqa and to a multitude of universal targets. It is how we will learn to differentiate when we talk to sleepers inside our region, through moral and not just military re-armament.

At the core of these efforts is the patent truth that real security is human security, one that takes a long-range view of human welfare and addresses long-term issues of poverty and injustice and not only the short-term causes of particular violent conflicts. For millions of people, structural violence has become a fact of life; their suffering -- the banality of their pain -- is the inevitable product of the postcolonial debris with which nation states in our region continue to grapple with to this day. That some, like Afghanistan and Iraq, have all but failed, and others, like Syria, have succumbed to state violence has eroded people's trust in states' capacity for social management. When we read that some 3,000 so-called "European jihadists," or "war tourists" as Paul Collier has aptly put it, have joined Daesh, we must remember that it is this socio-political, and not a religious, vacuum that groups like Daesh are filling with their platform of populist hatred.

These state and social failures apply to Europe too. As Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, recently commented in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, "Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination." The sensationalist tendencies of our contemporary global media have offered an ideal echo chamber for the warped and corrupt ideologies of these militant groups.

We must better utilize this echo chamber to put forth convincing ideologies that strengthen the possibility for human solidarity. The European Neighborhood Policy, which attempts to tie the periphery to the center, is a good attempt at governance, but it stops short. European policymakers must comprehend that good neighborliness does not only take place between countries, but also between communities. Inter-existence with Muslims in European cities, but also with other groups such as Ukrainians, is as important a practice of good governance and good neighborliness as fostering good Eurasian relations. So the citizens of Europe as well as of West Asia and North Africa, Arabs and non-Arabs, followers of all faiths, must stand up and be counted.

An ethic of human solidarity, of humanitarianism, must take us both beyond and in the midst of national allegiances in order to present a convincing alternative to the nihilistic, but unfortunately uniting, ideologies of radical and militant groups like Boko Haram, Daesh and Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis. They are appealing to the millions of people who have sunk into the depths of absolute deprivation precisely because they traverse the national borders that they, victimized by structural violence, hold responsible for their captivity into poverty and injustice.

In Jordan, it means not forgetting about the alienated Syrian and Jordanian children who have been rendered vulnerable. Human development, specifically through long-term education plans and inclusive community centers that seek to change attitudes, is the ultimate goal of our national development. It is the ultimate goal of imaginative long-term international policies that must help and include the desperate, rejected and angry young men and women from the Parisian banlieues to Raqqa, Syria.

This broader context for good neighborhood policies throws into relief the very qualities of inter-existence, mutual obligation and a reasonable level of tolerance whereby these borders are markers of our respective cultural specificities but not hindrances to practices of solidarity and reciprocity. Our problems are not new. The faces of the unvirtuous who exploit these problems for remapping power and wealth do change, but the root causes remain predictable. Hasn't the time arrived for us to revive an inter-disciplinary and eco-social framework for a world humanitarian order?

Inequalities that are incompatible with human dignity anywhere are politically, socially and economically destabilizing everywhere. We need to find out how people, the disenfranchised, think, and we must think with them towards long-term solutions, in good times and in bad. Good governance engages the needy -- those who see themselves as discarded by society -- so that they can live with dignity and begin to see themselves as integral to social order and stability. Regional stabilization will only be achieved in the context of recognizing security as humanitarian. That is the real war that we must struggle to win in Jordan and the world at large.

IS Capture Jordanian Pilot