Friday, February 27, 2015

Building a Coalition against Daesh-bags

 King Abdullah II of Jordan meets with President Obama on 2/3/15

Why is this meeting significant?

King Abdullah II of Jordan met with President Obama on February 3, after the Daesh burned alive a heroic Jordanian pilot. On behalf of his people, King Abdullah vowed revenge and war against Daesh, and asked for increased support from America. After this vow and request, Abdullah has become a leading figure building the Islamic world’s opposition to Daesh.

I prefer to use the term Daesh for the group that currently calls itself Islamic State in Syria or Levant (ISIS, ISIL). Daesh is an Arabic term that means “to crush underfoot,” and the extremists apparently hate it. It implies that they are not a ‘state,’ and they do not represent Islam. They are cutthroat Daesh-bags. (Excuse my terminology, but you'll remember the name now, won't you?) They have declared war on the rest of the world, especially in the Middle East. The rest of us are next.

Groups like Daesh are to religion what rape is to sexuality. They twist and pervert something which is meant to be beautiful, a gift from God, weaponizing it into a tool of oppression, power, and criminal violence. Don’t be confused by their name; this is about politics, not religion.

Jordan’s alliance with the US has been strong over the years and King Abdullah’s father, King Hussein married American Lisa Halaby in 1978. Halaby, now Queen Noor al Hussein, is widely respected in Jordan and has occasionally served as an advisor to King Abdullah since his father’s death in 1999. When our family visited Jordan two years ago, we found the people well-educated, friendly toward Americans, and benefiting from medical centers and other assistance the US has provided. Jordan's leader is one of the best-positioned in the Arab world, to bring this request to America and create a coalition against Daesh.

Jordan is bordered to the north by Syria, to the east by Iraq, to the south by Saudi Arabia, and to the west by Israel/Palestine. This beautiful though poor country has accepted refugees throughout history; for example, Moses brought the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan River, and a group of the first Christians fled to Jordan after Jesus’ crucifixion. Millions of Palestinian refugees have made Jordan their permanent home, and they have also provided safe haven for Iraqi and Syrian refugees in recent years. A moderate Muslim country, Jordan does not tell its people how to worship or dress; in fact, we stayed in a town of Christian Arabs who celebrate Catholic mass. Jordan could easily be the next country targeted by Daesh.

The ancient Roman city of Jerash, recently excavated in Jordan, could come under attack by the iconoclastic Daesh.

The US acts like a modern Roman Empire in the rest of the world. We provide stability, infrastructure, and a pervasive culture. We also flex our military might to funnel profits back home. Like Rome, the American Empire is resented, especially when we do not act in the best interests of all people and when our culture overshadows local traditions. But we are the best option when alternative super-powers like China and Russia are considered. At least we have concern for human rights, and do not officially take over other governments. Our democracy and freedom of speech inspire idealists around the world, and foreign students want to attend American universities.

America’s recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our support for Israel, have made the US less popular in the Middle East. We are seen as interfering and blundering, yet we have also been criticized for doing too little for Syria as their civilian population has been decimated by civil war. I think this administration has tried to help on a smaller scale there, so we are not seen as imperialists for a change. We have waited for an invitation to add more fire power. On February 3, that invitation was delivered personally by King Abdullah. I hope Americans can pull together and accept this challenge, providing both military support and internal stabilization (such as job creation) for countries fighting Daesh.

I hear weariness in the words of moderate Muslims such as Dr. Yousaf Butt:  They are tired of Wahhabism and the extremism it engenders. Simply because the Saudis control Mecca and a wealth of oil does not mean they speak for all Muslims. Even in Saudi Arabia, many of the women are ready to drive and men want to let them.  Perhaps the new Saudi ruler can acknowledge the dangers of Daesh extremism and gradually distance his government from Wahhabi philosophy. Perhaps King Abdullah can encourage him in this effort.

The internet is allowing more moderate and progressive Muslims to speak without persecution, but they need support from American democracy and freedom of speech, as well as our military. It cannot happen overnight, but perhaps ultimate progress is being made, thanks to Daesh’s crimes against humanity and King Abdullah’s diplomacy.

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