The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), and sometimes introduced only as the Islamic State (IS), dominates the news, social media outlets, and daily conversations. All media systems have given ISIS the platform that has been successful at propagating fear in the hearts of nations, and getting most major world governments involved in deciphering ways to fight them.
While airstrikes have been successful at destroying physical locations for the terrorist organization, somehow their activities keep widening and their threats increasing, leaving the world constantly on alert for their next inhumane act.
Our governments have their various agendas for fighting ISIS, but it is not only up to them. Each one of us has the power to fight back, and we need to acknowledge and act upon this fact if there is to be any hope of a successful eradication of this evil organization.
James Foley was an American journalist dedicated to revealing the tragic truth in the middle of combat zones. Ali al-Sayyed was a Lebanese soldier who joined the forces to protect his country and people from the regional violence. Steven Sotloff was an Israeli-American who was on the front lines of reporting in the Benghazi attacks and whose commitment to his own faith was such that he feigned illness in order to fast on Yom Kippur while being held captive. David Haines was a British aid worker in Syria on a humanitarian mission to help those whose lives were affected by the ongoing crisis. Hervé Gourdel was a French mountaineer whose hike in Algeria led to his capture and beheading. Moath al-Kasasbeh was a Jordanian pilot who left his home in hopes that his contribution to the fight would help prevent the violence from ever reaching his wife and family.
All of these men were victims, but each was also a pawn in the propaganda machine on which ISIS survives. We must make ourselves aware of how we are complicit in the continuation and marketing of ISIS-related violence and horror.
So how do we halt this group's operation and increasing violence? How do we express our outrage and anger without disseminating the propaganda and assisting the enemy? Here are 7 ways that I believe an ordinary person can help fight ISIS.
1. Understand what ISIS is:
ISIS/ISIL/IS has managed to engender an even larger scale of Anti-Muslim sentiment than previously existed. If we attach or attribute their actions to all of Islam, we are helping their mission. ISIS does not represent Islam or the Muslim people; it only represents disturbed people who have distorted the religion's dictums in order to justify their own brutal, violent agenda. ISIS is not Islam, and Islam is not ISIS.
Unfortunately, vindictive minds with criminal agendas exploited the well-intentioned revolutions of liberation to start the terrorist group. Both sides of the revolution caused such chaos that allowed the group to form and emerge before anyone knew of the threat. People in the Middle East were deeply angry about the suppression placed on them by many of their leaders, which left them susceptible to a radical group taking control of a vulnerable moment. ISIS does not represent a religion but rather an agenda of control and destruction. It is our responsibility not to allow ISIS to be confused with Islam.
2. Don't share their pictures and videos:
I have written an earlier piece about this. Sharing pictures and videos of ISIS is like donating to their "cause", giving them leverage to reach people worldwide who might be interested in joining something they don't even understand. We cannot deny that our societies contain individuals of severe psychological illnesses who are vulnerable. ISIS is fully aware of this and seeks those people out. The distribution of their photos and videos, which is disgusting for most people to view, appeals to some marginalized, disturbed minds--and we have now seen that some seek a way to join the "cause".
3. Help the marginalized in our communities:
As mentioned above, ISIS has managed to recruit members worldwide. ISIS, through its international agents, identifies individuals who are disturbed, delusional, lonely or desperate. Social media has helped them identify this population. In addition, there have been many unconfirmed reports on ISIS providing payments to certain members. These relatively unsubstantiated reports have reached the minds of people who we later find have taken a flight to Iraq, Syria, or other ISIS training grounds to join.
It is our responsibility to identify members of our community who may be at risk of being seduced by ISIS, beginning with open discussions with friends and family members, not to mention making every effort to eradicate society's stigmatization of mental illness so that people who need treatment receive it. This may seem a larger-scale issue than we can tackle, but the first step to de-stigmatizing mental illnesses is to understand it better.
Finally, contacting the local authorities about suspicious behavior or speech regarding ISIS and terrorism can become necessary. I do not mean to engender suspicion of all fellow humans or tell you to spy on our neighbors, but I think we must walk a fine line between suspicion and ignorance.
4. Coordinate with social media companies:
From my personal experience, I see many social media accounts posting in support of ISIS, even encouraging its plan and criminal agenda. We must all demand of our social media companies that they provide the government with assistance in identifying these accounts and their IP addresses. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but these people need to at least be monitored for possible criminal association. If we identify a social media account practicing these criminal messages, it is important for us to report it not only to the social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but to authorities as well in some cases. I encourage the notion of the government having an anonymous private hotline specialized for ISIS tips.
5. Identify ISIS financing:
ISIS appears to be strongly funded, with their high-production videos, advanced weaponry, and complex internet presence. Identifying the financers of ISIS is the first major step to dismantling the organization. Besides the World Bank and local financial institutions paying additional attention to transactions, it is our responsibility to report suspicious fundraisers and other activities. It is our duty, and that of every financial institution (banks, Western Union, PayPal, etc.) to monitor any transaction that looks unusual. While it may be inconvenient for many of us who perform these transactions with an honest agenda, it is necessary for our universal war against terrorism and ISIS.
6. Support and liaise with local governments:
While ISIS has taken its mission internationally, its crimes are mainly happening in the Middle East. It is important to support the coordination of international governments, including those that the revolutions sought to throw out of power. In my opinion, it is easier to negotiate with leaders (even those that are seen as dictators) than it is to begin talks with a terrorist organization that does not have any respect for humanity, never mind democracy or civilization. Local governments in the Middle East need to coordinate to fight ISIS, and their troops working together on the ground have proven to be as effective, if not more, as air strikes or distant fighting. Beirut, for example, has been kept largely safe from ISIS because of the strong strategy of the Lebanese army to respond immediately to all threats and attacks.
7. Cooperate with our own governments:
Last but not least, ISIS has become a threat to all of humanity, no matter where we find them in the world. Our governments may take many of these measures mentioned above. But while we all want our privacy protected, we must respect and cooperate with the laws and protections placed on us by our governments. If one has done nothing wrong, then one need not to fear such measures and precautions.
The reality is that we are living in an era where all of humanity actually may have a common enemy. ISIS may be an extremist group that is so inhumane it binds the rest of us together, even former enemies. Use ISIS as the reason to reach out to both friend and foe with the same goal of overcoming this most brutal insult to humanity worldwide. Imagine a world where all previous enemies joined together to fight one small distorted inhumane group and actually succeeded. It is idealistic, but I can imagine the forgiveness that may arise from the ashes once we realize that we are all allies in this fight.