Our common agenda

Each country has to tackle the common problem of ISIS in its own way

Peter Millett

Published: Updated:

The headlines have been dominated by the horrific death of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. This criminal act is pure evil and the sadists who committed it must be brought to justice.

Defeating ISIS is a goal we all share. But there is a paradox in the media and public debate. On the one hand “We Are All Charlie” and “We Are All Moaz” but on the other there is a perception of conflict between “The West” and Islam.

Language which emphasizes “jihad” or “crusade” suggests that there is a religious battle. But that diverts the debate away from the fact that we face a common agenda starting with a common threat from terrorism.

ISIS poses a global threat

ISIS poses a global threat to all peace-loving people. They make no distinction between religions, cultures or countries. Their actions are brutal and barbaric: beheadings, crucifixions, the slaughter of children and enslavement of women and now immolating a man who was serving his country.

The horror we see on our screens on a daily basis creates a common agenda for everyone who values peace, justice, freedom and the rule of law

Peter Millet

Despite ISIS’ attempts to claim religious legitimacy to justify these atrocities, the response of respected scholars and reaction of ordinary people make clear that they reject any suggestion that ISIS represents them or their religion. The best way to undermine ISIS’ narrative is from within the Muslim world.

We also face a common problem of “foreign fighters” - the vulnerable people that ISIS is seducing into joining their cult. Young people from the UK and other European countries are travelling to Syria and Iraq. On return they pose a major threat to our security.

Jordan faces the same problem. The motives of these fighters are seldom ideological. They are people who feel marginalized, disaffected and angry. They perhaps hanker after a sense of identity by belonging to an organization that seems to espouse values that appear superficially attractive. But they are being sucked into a nest of vipers that demands unswerving loyalty and imposes harsh punishments on dissent.

Common problem

Each country has to tackle this common problem in its own way. In the UK we have banned preachers who incite hatred or terrorism in schools and universities and cracked down on abuse of charities. New laws enable the authorities to seize passports to stop would-be fighters travelling from the UK, and to prosecute acts of terror committed anywhere in the world.

We also have a common duty to work together to support the victims of conflict. The humanitarian crisis created by four years of conflict in Syria has reached catastrophic proportions. The U.N. estimates that over 12 million people are in dire need of help inside Syria. Around 7.6 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes and there are now over 3.3 million refugees in neighboring countries.

The international community must help the Syrians. We must also help the countries that have so generously taken them in. The UK is a major donor to the organizations who are trying to alleviate this suffering. We have contributed over $1 billion to the effort so far, the largest response ever to a humanitarian crisis.

This funding is providing people in need across Syria and the region with food, fresh water, healthcare, shelter and basic services. It is also helping the communities in Jordan whose services and infrastructure have been affected, for example by providing additional money for municipalities and education.

The horror we see on our screens on a daily basis creates a common agenda for everyone who values peace, justice, freedom and the rule of law. The impact of ISIS’ actions on our common security, stability and prosperity means that we have to work together to counter it.

We share a common need for tolerance and the pursuit of dignity. We must together oppose bigotry and fanaticism. Above all, we have to avoid an “Us and Them” mentality. That means we should underline our common values and oppose those who seek to undermine them. We can all work together for the common good.


Peter Millett is the British Ambassador to Jordan. Previously he was British High Commissioner to Cyprus from June 2005 to April 2010. He has served in a number of positions in the British Diplomatic Service since joining in 1974. He was Director of Security in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 2002-2005, dealing with all aspects of security for British diplomatic missions overseas. From 1997-2001 he served as Deputy Head of Mission in Athens. From 1993-96 Mr Millett was Head of Personnel Policy in the FCO. From 1989-93 he held the post of First Secretary (Energy) in the UK Representative Office to the European Union in Brussels, representing the UK on all energy and nuclear issues. From 1981-1985 he served as Second Secretary (Political) in Doha.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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