Speaking on Tuesday at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, Queen Rania delivered a powerful speech condemning the actions of ISIS. Her view that war and weapons will not be able to overcome ISIS, citing the death of Osama Bin Laden as an example, but instead a change in perceptions is needed is one of the most accurate assessments of the situation that has been made to date. To kill a leader, you leave behind an army of people continuing to follow an extreme ideology and the desire to avenge their death. Bin Laden’s death allowed his legacy to live on and for Al Qaeda to continue to function. To offer an alternative and highlight the shortcomings of a terror group will starve the fire of oxygen. Without support, ISIS would simply be able to operate.
ISIS’ continuous supply chain of Western recruits to Syria and Iraq is key to the survival of the organisation. The growth of social media has provided the group with a platform to distribute threatening material to world leaders and pollute the minds of young people across the globe with their ideology. Cutting off this supply chain is key. Queen Rania advocated the need for a ‘media war’ against the terrorists. Challenging the group through both traditional and social platforms gives the opportunity to prevent the image of martyrdom that ISIS is currently portraying to impressionable and vulnerable people. Military action which will inadvertently lead to accidental civilian deaths will lead to further recruitment.
Recognition from Queen Rania that the Arab world needs to act in overcoming the terrorists is crucial and needs to be taken on board. Western intervention is viewed with suspicion by many in the region. Through education of younger generations in the region explaining the wrong doings of fanatical groups, the support base would dwindle. Western leaders should encourage the Arab world to speak out, just as Queen Rania so bravely has. For a woman to have spoken out in a region of vast gender disparity, it is encouraging to think that the region is realising the significance of the problem ISIS poses.
The monarch stated “These images don’t represent me anymore than they represent you. They’re alien and abhorrent to the vast majority of Arabs – Muslims and Christians. And they should make every Arab across this region seethe. Because they’re an attack on our values as a people and on our collective story.” This reiterates the point that this is categorically not an Islamic problem. A majority of Muslims are equally disgusted with what is unfolding in Syria and Iraq.
Her use of phrases relating to the younger generations emphasised the age group that needs to be supported to avoid further ISIS recruitment. To challenge the perceptions of the Islamic world ISIS are consistently advocating through multiple social media sites, Queen Rania calls for Arabs to present their own ‘profile picture’. The Arab world faces the great challenge of attempting to restore the reputation of Islam and emphasise that ISIS do not represent the majority or even a reputable number of the minority. Queen Rania declared “We either develop our region, or we let others dismantle it; find solutions to the challenges, or watch the challenges avalanche; harness the tools to drive the Arab world forward in the 21st century, or let others use those tools to drag us back to the dark ages.”
ISIS is not only a threat to the West. Arab nations are facing risk of the extremists on their doorstep with the ever growing possibility of violence spilling over borders. The historic border between Syria and Iraq has been eroded by the jihadists. For the other nations in the area, this threat is very real. They need to take an active role in dealing with ISIS before the group becomes so powerful they will be unable to do so.
Queen Rania’s speech may have had her a potential target for ISIS. With her Western appearance and being an avid women’s rights campaigner, the terrorist organisation will be sure to condemn her comments and claim she is un-Islamic. She has taken the brave risk of speaking out and challenged the stereotype of Arab women remaining in a subservient position in society and the growing negative view that Arab people are indifferent to events unfolding in Syria and Iraq.
With unprecedented access to social platforms and the ability to share a message to an untold number of people ISIS have the opportunity to have their message heard. Queen Rania encouraged the Arab world mirror this, harnessing “the tools of the 21st century” and ensuring the reputation and story of the region is not rewritten by the fanatics. The Arab nations have found themselves at the forefront of Islam’s reputational battle. If they continue to sit silent, they risk being aligned with fanatical view points and having impressionable youths seeing ISIS as the only representative voice. Fighting back through the various traditional and social platforms, as advocated by Queen Rania, the Arab world has the opportunity to challenge perceptions and offer young people a viable, moderate alternative to ISIS and reduce those flocking to Syria and Iraq. Queen Rania has challenged the view that ISIS is the voice of Islam. Now the Arab nations need to speak up to prove it.