We live in a time in which barbaric Egyptian leaders use their media outlets to call on the masses to burn the houses of dissenters with their owners inside while crying, hypocritically it must be said, over the horrific killing of Jordanian pilot Muath Al-Kasasbeh. When Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi used the attack on Egyptian soldiers to his advantage by encouraging people to vote for him on the basis that he alone can save them from Islam and terrorism, ISIS was planning to deliver the head of its second Japanese hostage on a platter to its supporters.
The group’s execution of the Japanese journalist seemed to have coincided with a speech by Al-Sisi on the importance of political security and how it is being threatened by the actions of Islamist extremists and organisation that he has accused of extremism. These include Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. Hours later, ISIS presented the world with yet another gift, warping us back to the dark ages by burning Kasasbeh alive. The Arab regimes were quick to condemn the crime while others relished yet another opportunity to link terrorist extremism and Islam.
The truth is that ISIS is not unique in this world; there are many like it. The actions of ISIS share characteristics with those of other extremists, from the people responsible for the burning of prisoners en route to Abu Zaabal Prison to those who burnt Egyptian protesters alive in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya and Nahda Squares in Cairo, to the regime using explosive barrel bombs against the Syrian people. The reality that ISIS has imposed on us in the region requires us to act accordingly and not to do nothing, even as we are shaking with horror and grief, as people were when they saw the video of Kasasbeh’s murder. This is especially true of the people of Egypt who cried at what happened to the young pilot but cheered when Muslim Brotherhood supporters suffered the same fate in their capital city. While you have the right to condemn ISIS and cheer its downfall, let’s not forget the ISIS mentality-clones that we have in the region.
Those of us who witnessed the Arab world’s reaction to Kasasbeh’s death might assume that people believe that extremist practices are marginal or limited to a certain political or ideological belief. This, of course, overlooks completely the atrocities committed by the Middle East’s many tyrannical figures and groups. Such thinking promotes the idea that Islam encourages barbaric behaviour.
However, genuine Islam forbids and warns against the actions of people like those who burned Kasasbeh alive. Despite this, many Egyptians still call on their political leaders to burn those with whom they disagree without stopping to think that they are Egyptians like themselves or that a common faith binds them together. It is easy to understand how these thoughts can thrive in the madness that has overtaken the country.
The people who are calling for the burning of their fellow citizens are asking others to participate in a holocaust that is no less gruesome than the burning of Muath Al-Kasasbeh. To such people I say, look in the mirror before you give others a mandate to burn your fellow human beings.
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 5 February, 2015
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.