Shock, horror! When ISIS steals the headlines

Blame the media for the rise of ISIS and blame them for empowering an extremist Islamic group that has nothing to do with Islam and its teachings and has everything to do with anger, hate and lack of opportunities for a decent life.

Blame our societies both eastern and western. They became so focused on materialistic interests and forgot that human beings are still at the essence of everything. Mothers give birth to babies and raise them with a set of beliefs influenced largely by her education and environment. Children are shaped by events around them and they are brainwashed while very young on purely man-made skewed ideas such as patriotism, religion, resistance, war and peace, right and wrong… In Arab cultures, generations were raised under different genres of monarchies. Others were offered dictatorships with modern titles. They acted exactly the same as monarchies ruling for life and passing the baton from father to son unchallenged.

Who are the members of ISIS if not our own sons seeking “righteousness” and “justice” as they were taught at home, in schools, in the streets or at mosques? Who brainwashed these young men into believing the world needs them and their version of Islam? Was it a mother, a father or a relative or sibling? Was it a teacher or school administrator or fellow student who shared a book or a desk? Was it a clergy or was it an inspiration from the likes of bin Laden, Zawahiri or Zarqawi?

Cannot be removed from memory

The media has focused on the end result of ISIS and what its members do. Graphic images we can’t remove from our memory: Beheading, mass executions, crucifixion, not much different from what some programs offer on TV or in film these days for entertainment.

Our societies became so focused on materialistic interests and forgot that human beings are still at the essence of everything

Octavia Nasr

Watch a statement by one of the real-life heartless young murderers, notice his passion. It must be coming from a nearby place that you know well. That’s where we need to search and change.

ISIS is not much different from other fundamentalist groups born in various parts of MENA. They are the same except more extreme and, if not eradicated at the root, will expand and turn into a bigger problem.

Collective actions and reactions give birth to extremism and help it grow and spread. Can we stop being shocked at what ISIS is doing as if this just happened?

Arabs and Muslims must have the courage to admit wrongdoing and examine themselves critically. If not, extremism will continue to spread until the ISIS-type world is the only one available for all of us to live in!

This article was first published in al-Nahar on June 23, 2014.


Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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