By: Jabbar Fazeli, MD
IS evil knows no religious boundaries
The "Islamic state" released their most evil video to date this week showing the burning of the captured Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh. They portrayed this barbaric and cruel act as an Islamic sharia sentence of a criminal. The 22 minutes video carried a message of righteousness, and justified the burning alive of another Muslim by the usual two wrongs make a right argument. It conveyed a cavalier attitude toward human suffering, and the brutal taking of a life without any second thoughts.
I apologize for the gruesome nature of the images used here, but there is no other way to expose this evil without showing what they actually did. I didn't have the heart to subject you to the moving images of Moaz being burnt alive. His clothes doused with gasoline, the anticipation, the helpless reaction as the fire approached, the struggle, the walking around while on fire in a cage, the melting of the skin as Moaz kneels and waits for death to come. It finally does, and not a moment too soon. RIP.
From this moment on, there is nothing else required to prove to any Muslim that IS is based on pure evil, not religion. No more partially right, sometimes right arguments. They are simply evil that passes candies to children once in a while, only to lure them into the abyss.
If you feel compelled to see the video for yourself, you can find an edited short version at https://www.lebwindow.net/131605. Muslims around the world should watch it and know that this is our cancer, even if we have nothing to do with it.
This evil is committed in the name of everyone with a Muslim heritage, regardless of sect or where they happen to live. This is not a Sunni crime, this is not a Wahhabi crime, this is a crime committed in the name of all Muslims for the world to see.
Yet, how many demonstrations , outside of Jordan, were there in the Muslim and Arab would? Maybe they would have been demonstrations in Pakistan if the story line was "Muslim pilot burnt alive while holding a burning Quran".
How could some Jordanian still sympathize with IS?
Before this execution, the Jordanian pilot's influential clan publicly demanded that the government make any deal necessary with IS to secure his release. The public pressure was so enormous that the Jordanians, in an unprecedented move, offered to free a convicted female terrorist on death row, in exchange for Moaz's release. The rest is history.
What is not emphasized in the media is that the Kasasbeh clan also called for an end to the Jordanian participation in the war against IS, even as their son fought IS and was being held by IS. This illustrate the shakiness of the resolve within the Arab world, and specifically Jordan, to fight IS.
|Arabic Caption: Why wasn't the Jordanian Pilot downed over Palestine?|
In the aftermath of this blatant assault directed at the Jordanian nation as a whole, there are still some Jordanian voices that publicly ask "why are we in this fight?", or blaming the Jordanian government for not acting in a "timely manner" to meet the demands of the terrorists. That's the same argument that some Pakistanis made after the Taliban ruthlessly killed innocent school children en mass. The apologists in the Muslim world always find a way to justify evil by blaming the victim for provoking the murders or not doing enough to appease them.
|Arabic Caption: "Jordanian politicians hold their government responsible for the burning of Al-Kasabeh"|
Jordanian government use of media and lessons learned
To their credit, the Jordanian TV showed the video of the burning pilot in a loop, and every Jordanian with access to TV watched it, over and over again. The public reaction was so great that Jordanians felt compelled to come to the airport to support their King as he cut his trip to the U.S. Short and ordered the execution of IS prisoners in death row. Other Arab networks simply showed still images like the ones shown here, maybe that explains the relatively muted public reaction in the rest of the Arab world so far.
Before this killing, the big elephant in the room was the Dilemma Jordan faced in selling the fight against IS to their people. How do you convince the conservative segment of the Muslim Jordanian society to fight a group that raises a flag containing the name of God and the prophet Mohammad?
The answer is now clear. You wait for them to do something stupid, like burning alive a member of one of Jordan's most influential clans, then put it on TV and make every Jordanian watch it over and over again.
Extremists shoot themselves in the foot sooner or later, as they always overreach and commit acts outside acceptable norms, even by Middle Eastern standards. They will keep doing that without fail. All Arab and Muslim nations need to do is expose it when it happens and let the illiterate supporters turn against them. The educated strata have to endure more displays of gratuitous violence in order to allow the least educated supporters of Islamists to see the evil they support with their own eyes to believe it.
When 911 happened, the Muslim world saw burning towers, but they didn't see the images of people jumping to their deaths from the burning towers. Now we know why they needed to see those tastefully edited images. For an average Jordanian Islamist, the images of falling bodies was the differences between a "courageous" attack against a hated enemy, and a cruel act of terrorism against innocent civilians. Seeing is believing, especially for the backward segments of Muslim societies with little real education.
Jordanian Response-- Big and immediate, otherwise it's useless
This brutal killing, as sad as it was, is also a rare opportunity for Jordan's to act despite the Islamist sympathizers and apologists. The government will have the support of the Islamists within the Kasasbeh clan who are less interested in religion and more interested in taking revenge now. That will secure badly needed tribal support, despite the power of the Muslim brotherhood in Jordan, and the significant support for the militants.
IS is betting that this would never happen, but I hope that Jordan would mobilize its entire Air force to bomb IS positions in Syria around the clock in response to what they did to their Moaz. The pilots may carry cyanide capsules this time around and feel that they are fighting for a cause worth risking their lives for, not just a mission ordered by their western allies.
The internal support for the Islamists in some parts of the Jordanian society won't be eclipsed by today's public anger forever, so if the Jordanians wait a month or two to bomb IS, the move won't be as popular, and it may not have the same transformative impact in the Jordanian society. The response needs to be big and immediate. Such action won't destroy IS, but it will serve a larger purpose.
The Jordanian governments needs to look past the usual Muslim brotherhood politics and ask itself, what would Israel do if an Israeli pilot was burnt alive by IS?
The King would be more popular than ever if he acts courageously and decisively now, but will he? If he doesn't take the risk now, he risks more later. The public anger directed against IS today can easily revert back to the boogeyman, the USA, and the King tomorrow.
It would be refreshing to witness the sense of purpose and comradely that a massive Jordanian military action would trigger in this conservative society. I wonder if it could finally make the people feel that this is their war, not America's war. Jordan can cease the moment, and other Arab societies can follow their example in how to deal with extremists who hijacked their religion.
History has shown us that the leaders in the Middle East never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. As such, we are destined to watch these critical chapters of history repeat themselves over and over again without being taken advantage of.
Arab and Muslim rulers are more apt to be preoccupied with protecting their existence, and invariably take the easy middle of the road option. They rarely take the decisive actions history demands. I hope King Hussein will prove me wrong, and doesn't stop at just a promise of "increasing" involvement in the anti-IS coalition.
The King may have struggled to explain to some Jordanian why he was fighting IS before, but today he is given an opportunity to say " We fight because they burnt our son alive". This week no other explanation is required, except these words and this fallen patriot.