Faisal Alotaibi is a Southern Oregon University student with a story. Born in Saudi Arabia with an Egyptian mother, the 31 year old has already earned an Information Technology Degree from Riyadh College in Saudi Arabia, made friends in Sweden, Canada, and South Africa, and cultivated a tolerance and curiosity for other cultures. He has lived in the US for over four years, is pursuing an Economics degree, while acting as the Vice President for the UN Club and playing an active role in the International Student Association.
Across the globe, in the Middle East in countries near his home, the growing threat of ISIS has captured the media’s attention and worries Alotaibi. He describes ISIS bluntly, “Most Saudis, especially educated people, know how horrible ISIS is and wants to end their bloody false state because they are a threat to every single human being who doesn’t believe in their own interpretation of Islam.” ISIS has “their own beliefs of blood, torture and killing, their own sick ideology that justifies killing mercilessly and in the most inhumane way with anyone that disagrees with them.”
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State or ISIL, is the militarized extremist Islamic group that has grown in notoriety after declaring a caliphate (Islamic State) and announcing their own authority over the worlds approximately 1.5 billion Muslims. They have dominated the news, after taking control of swathes of land in the Middle East, released numerous brutal beheading videos, and the near massacres of religious minorities. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama referred to them as a “network of death.” The president sent a request to Congress to formally authorize military force against ISIS last week. Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the President can send U.S. forces into a conflict, or use airstrikes as in this case, but has a limit of 60 days unless he receives Congressional approval. This means that legally, he needs to receive the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, often shortened to AUMF, to continue military operations against the group.
Meantime, President Barack Obama, spoke at a summit on countering violent extremism Wednesday saying, “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” Obama wanted to separate ISIS from average Muslims around the world and in the US. He called upon Muslim leaders saying they “need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam.”
Obama spoke at length before the summit began avoiding any link between extremists in the Muslim faith; and the ideologies of Islamic State or al Qaeda terrorists. His intent was clear; not to stir outrage against Muslim Americans. It’s a strategy which appears to be working in Southern Oregon. We spoke with members of the mosque in Talent who told us they did not have an experience of being discriminated against as Muslims. They admit it may not be everyone’s experience but so far it has been theirs.
Alotaibi, meanwhile, waits to see the latest news and like many of his fellow students hopes for a peaceful resolution.