Don’t Fight Fire With Fire: Daesh, Hatred and Islamophobia

Ahlan wa sahlan! Jordan welcomes you.” 

The number of times I heard that greeting during my semester in Amman, especially in taxis, increased my affinity for the country. As a Palestinian-Jordanian-American,
I enjoyed spending my childhood summers traveling between the United States and the
Middle East, familiarizing myself with Arab culture and visiting my grandfather’s house to eat the Jordanian
national dish of mansaf (lamb chunks cooked in a goat yogurt sauce and served
with rice). Now, here I was again, five years after I
last visited my family in Jordan, navigating the streets of Amman, living
on my own with the threat of Daesh, the ‘Islamic State,’ only miles away.

“Jordan is safe and stable,” I heard over and over again from my professors at the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy. “Daesh will never come
near Jordan’s borders.” I was reassured. I felt especially safe at my
grandfather’s house my last night in Jordan, watching Arab Idol and drinking
Nescafé instant coffee. 

“So Leyth, what do you think will happen next?” my
grandfather asked as he lowered the volume of the television. “Well jedo,
grandpa, the future of the Middle East is uncertain, so I wish I had an answer
for you. Inshallah khair.” Everything will be fine, God willing.

On Jan. 3, 2015, 26-year-old Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh was burned alive by the infamous
Daesh after being captured in December 2014 when his plane came down near Raqqa,
Syria, during a mission against the ‘Islamic State.’ Days later, the video of his brutal death surfaced Feb. 3. This ‘(un)Islamic State’ is neither a state
nor a follower of the real practices of Islam. It is unfair to
continue using its actions to paint Arabs and the majority of Muslims that
practice Islam peacefully in a negative, misrepresentative light.

Islam
is not a barbaric religion. It is not aggressive and it is not based on core
concepts like aggressive jihad against the infidel. Rather, Islam promotes
tolerance, acceptance and, most importantly, peace. A few violent acts committed by Muslim
individuals or organizations claiming to fight in the name of Islam do not
discredit this fact, whether committed by two brothers in France or by
terrorists in the Middle East.

Continuing to blur the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists is a grave injustice to Muslims worldwide.
Placing blame on a Muslim-American for the
actions of terrorists halfway around the world is counterproductive, achieving nothing other than the promotion of Islamophobia and insurmountable bigotry. Let me be clear, however: I neither apologize nor take responsibility for the actions of this terrorist group. Rather, I am
reaffirming the need to differentiate between the Muslims like myself and three million others who live in the United States, and the other Muslims who are
committing atrocities in the name of Islam. The belief that Muslims should feel
collective guilt for any crimes committed by fellow Muslims by virtue of their
shared religion is absolutely absurd. Muslims, as people and humans, are as disgusted by Daesh
as any ‘Western’ person is, and should not need to denounce violence each time
it occurs.

Having
just been in Jordan less than two months ago, my heart is doubly broken. While I
learned a lot about politics in the turbulent region
during my three-month stay, I was also reminded of how welcoming, open and kind
the Jordanian people are. If I
learned anything about Jordan during my time in Amman, it was the
resilience of Jordanian society. Muath al-Kasasbeh exemplified the courage that
allows Jordan to remain safe and stable in a region plagued by conflict. The
only thing that we, as Americans, can do in the United States is to inform our community members of the
differences between the principles of Islam and the goals and strategies of
Daesh.

I
stand in solidarity with my fellow Jordanians around the world as a friend and
sympathizer. May Muath al-Kasasbeh rest in peace.

Leyth Swidan PO ’16 is studying international relations and Middle Eastern studies. He spent the fall of 2014 studying abroad in Amman, Jordan, and is currently studying abroad in London. He is also the former president of the Muslim Student Association.

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