With the declaration that the caliphate of ISIS has fallen in Syria and Iraq comes a lot of celebration from various politicians. We see media reports everywhere. Many are breathing a sigh of relief and believe it is over, happy that there is nothing left to worry about.
Yet, they are wrong. What created the buildup of ISIS in the first place was its ideology, a deep-seated belief system centered around strong emotions that propelled the purpose and goals of the organization.
To believe this has ended along with its physical annihilation is lying to ourselves. It’s an excuse to except a false sense of safety. Our politicians look to promote the defeat of such groups for statistical purposes and to promote their own policies.
Yet, ideologies don’t just disappear after a violent war has ended and taken out the enemy from the physical space it occupied. As with Neo-Nazi organizations, for example, these types of belief systems linger behind only to pop up in different forms later, usually quietly and behind the scenes at first. Their members live among all of us — in our communities, schools and daily life.
What can we do about this? Our only defense is to educate and teach our children, the next generation, approaching the problem from a preventative stance. Time and effort need to be spent working at the root of society to bring out the importance of our core values — freedom, tolerance and democracy.
Various communities need to work closely together with each other to make these values stronger. We need to instill in our children the importance of strong connections and human relationships as well as teaching them healthy coping skills when life throws something tough at them. We need to teach them to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions, instead of lashing out and playing the victim.
Think of how medicine can be used when we become ill. We can treat the symptoms of an illness with every possible medicine. Afterwards, they will either go away or be lessened to an extent that we can live with them. However, if we don’t treat the underlying cause of the symptoms — the illness — the symptoms will continue to plague us. Even if those symptoms are different each time, they are all being caused by the underlying illness.
Until we as a society learn this lesson, dangerous ideologies such as that of ISIS will continue forming and living among us, gathering strength and vigor. It is time to work together to root out our underlying illnesses and make this world a better place to live.
Join one of Clarion’s Preventing Violent Extremism training sessions
and learn how you can do something to make us all safer.