Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Christian political party Lebanese Forces, spoke Thursday of Lebanon’s commitment to international military intervention taking place against the militant organization ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
He also called for a new initiative to combat the ideas of ISIS in all countries, communities, and online.
Speaking in Beirut, Geagea said: “Lebanon stands staunchly with our international friends in this necessary military intervention against ISIS. It is not just our geography on the border with Syria and the fact that the conflict has spilled over into our territory that motivates us.
“It is also an horror, shared with the international community, of the kidnapping and beheadings of innocent American, British and French civilians, and a concern for the terrible plight of millions of Christian, Muslim and Yahidze refugees fleeing ISIS, many of them into Lebanon, as well as Kurdistan and Turkey. Just yesterday we learned that UK authorities foiled an ISIS terror plot in London. ISIS is a threat to us all.”
Geagea continued: “The military intervention is essential. But we must also take ISIS on in a war of ideas. The basic premise of what ISIS claim is deeply flawed. How can their violence and intolerance make Muslims become more virtuous?
“Violence and intolerance run directly against the true principles of all three of the major faiths in our region – it has no place or grounding in Christianity, Judaism or indeed Islam.
“ISIS know their ideas have no merit or they would not have to use force. They know their actions are shameful or they would not need to cover their faces when they behead their victims. We really should be able to challenge their ideas and win. We must achieve it so that more impressionable young men are not seduced to their cause.”
For Geagea, the online realm is a very important medium for defeating the ideas of ISIS. He argues: “At present ISIS are being allowed to manipulate social media and the internet. They post highly polished edits of their gruesome videos of beheadings and achieve wide coverage of images of their victims in orange jumpsuits. Why should they own that space?
“I urge the ordinary people of the region and beyond to express their disgust in a modern way – online. We have seen the power of online movements in the region in the recent past. And now we see it in Hong Kong, ordinary people speaking out. I yearn for a positive, anti-ISIS message to take hold. Just as the ‘HeForShe’ campaign is so powerful in engaging men in the progress of women’s rights, we need one that stops a disillusioned, impressionable young man from turning to ISIS and their destructive ideas.”
Geagea asserts that community leaders also have a role to play, saying: “Muslim leaders, including Bin Bayyah, are bravely standing up to defeat the ideas of ISIS intellectually and spiritually. But the real battle of ideas will be won by our ordinary Muslim brothers and sisters here in the region and far beyond.
“With many millions of voices I urge them to speak out in their own way and say that the murder and intolerance of ISIS has simply nothing to do with the true ideals of Islam. Members of my own faith, Christianity, also bear a solemn responsibility.
“Christians, in the part of the world where Christianity was born, are being murdered and forced to flee. Our response to this crisis is our chance not only to offer real help and rescue to those in peril, it is also a chance to defeat ISIS morally, to show compassion.”
For Geagea, this is the most important battle of ideas since the Cold War. He concluded by saying: “The ideas battlefield is different this time but it needs no less commitment or resource than in the Cold War days. The US government made a start with its “Think again, turn away” Twitter and YouTube campaign but more can and must be done.
“Winning this battle means going beyond governments and leaders. The battle for the values of common humanity must be won by the peoples of the region and beyond, in their countries, their communities and, increasingly in this modern world, in cyberspace.”
Samir Geagea is the leader of the Christian Lebanese political party, Lebanese Forces.