ISIS is considered to be a blight on the Middle East, a blight that has origins in one of the world’s largest religions. Fortunately, that origin is baffling for many who follow Islam personally.

The problem is radicalism, and the country of Jordan was one of the most recent to suffer from ISIS, a group that has become synonymous with terror and violence. Only weeks ago, a Jordanian pilot was shot down by ISIS and burned alive.

This immolation was broadcast live in Raqqa, a city held by the militant group. In response, the Jordanian government executed two Iraqi ISIS-affiliated prisoners.

These tactics are effective, but to Westernized countries they can only be seen as brutish. Look at the way the United States and Japan responded recently to captives of their own being killed. The United States merely restated their support against ISIS and Japan promised vengeance.

Instead of state-sanctioned violence, both countries merely reaffirmed their support for the coalition led against ISIS. In order to understand the difference, the motivations and actions of ISIS need to be examined.

What makes killing two prisoners seem like an option?

Burning the Jordanian pilot shocked the entirety of the Middle East. It was barbaric and gruesome, which has unfortunately become synonymous with the group.

This action only made opposition more vocal, but it terrified those under the ISIS regime and demonstrated that ISIS is confronting the West with a real threat. In other words, it solidified their current position through terror.

The killing of Jordan’s prisoners indicates to those obeying ISIS only out of fear, that the same ruthlessness can be found in Jordan.

They will do it through a court of law, supposedly, but they will kill you. The execution of those two prisoners merely is an attempt to counteract terror with terror.

Though it may seem brutish, Jordan must win the support of its people. They need to show a hardline stance against the terror of ISIS and show they won’t back down in the face of such brutality.

ISIS is constantly labeled as merely a radical Islamic group, but there are problems with this. Merely calling it radical dismisses the causes for ISIS that aren’t based in religion.

Associate Professor of Religion Dr. Matthew Pierce commented on this misconception. “The primary motivations have more to do with a profound sense of powerlessness. Many of the communities in Syria and Iraq that have been sympathetic with ISIS are groups that have had little-to-no say in the governance of their own countries,” Dr. Pierrce said.

Offering examples of harsh regimes throughout the Middle East, Dr. Pierce cited the less-than-balanced dynamics between the Western and Arab worlds.

With the United States supporting a Shi’a government in Iraq, there were many Sunnis in northern Syria and Iraq who felt like everyone was against them,” Dr. Pierrce said.

When you combine this with the many horrific stories of torture in US prisons, some true some false, and the general legacy of post-colonial exploitation of the Arab Middle East, it’s not a big surprise that you might have a group of people that are so deeply disenchanted with virtues of democracy espoused by the very powers that help oppress them, that they turn to a radical narrative of power through brutality.” Pointing to Islam then is just the easy scapegoat. It also excuses the West.

With this in mind, what, if anything, should the West do? Assistant Professor of Politics and International Studies Dr. Dina Badie feels that the United States should work with the enemy of their enemies. Syria and Iran are both opposed to ISIS, and it doesn’t make sense to divide yourself.

Iran has already extended the olive branch to work with the United States, but the powerful country isn’t willing to work with them because of their nuclear program. And though Syria poses an entirely different set of challenges, Bashar al-Assad is at least someone with whom we are familiar.

There is no way to be sure what kind of group will take power if al-Assad fell. For the moment then, we should be concerned with the immediate threat of ISIS.

Dr. Pierce suggested we act as a mediator for the region at large, provided we step away once they make their decision regardless of whether we like it or not.

He is an advocate for an overall approach in which the United States fosters conversation between major Sunni and Shi’a populations, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, while also continuing to try to work on the Israeli/Palestine debacle. He sees these as strong contributing factors to the divide that has allowed ISIS to fester.

What can we as students do? Dr. Badie says that education is our opportunity to do the right thing. Education is key to fighting radicalism and terror. Dr. Pierce concurred, adding that we should hold our government responsible for what it does.

If we realize our role in problems abroad, we can hold our government responsible and hopefully have more say on future decisions.

Regardless of whether you are okay with Jordan’s response to ISIS, it is clear that the United States needs to step back and work with the powers in the area for lasting change.

Each country has a need to feel agency in what happens to them or it merely feeds into the feeling of being oppressed. This feeling of oppression feeds directly into attempts to correct things through radicalism.

We don’t need to retrofit Islam to get rid of radicalism. What we need to do is allow a long oppressed population to decide for itself what will happen.

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