UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—

Queen Rania of Jordan took a strong stance against ISIS November 18 at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit in the United Arab Emirates. She condemned the atrocities and said ISIS is trying to “hijack” the Arab world and “drag it back to the Dark Ages.”

ISIS commonly uses social media to rapidly distribute gruesome images and videos of brutality. “These images don’t represent me anymore than they represent you,” said Queen Rania. “They’re alien and abhorrent to the vast majority of Arabs – Muslims and Christians. And they should make every Arab across this region seethe.

“They are an attack on our values as a people and on our collective story,” she said. “This is their version of the Arab world’s story, their plot, their narrative, their heroes, and the rest of the world is listening and watching.

“A minority of extremists are using social media to rewrite our narrative and hijack our identity,” she told the gathering. “That’s what ISIS is doing to the Arab world and all of us.”

She proceeded to indict the silence of the majority.

“We – the moderate majority – are equally to blame,” she said. “They say ‘a story is told as much by silence as by speech.’ Well, our silence speaks volumes. We can spend our lives letting others dictate our narrative, and cast ourselves as victims. Or we can realize the truth: that we are the creators of our own story.

“We either develop our region, or we let others dismantle it; find solutions to the challenges, or watch the challenges avalanche; harness the tools to drive the Arab world forward in the 21st century, or let others use those tools to drag us back to the dark ages.”

The queen added that “quality education for all” is necessary to prevent youthful “ignorance” and to combat the radicalism destroying the Arab world. She explained that many of the new followers of radicalism are “from classrooms in which they were never challenged to think for themselves, and where they learned an outdated curriculum. From societies in which a quarter of their peers [are] unemployed, where there’s inadequate social security to afford a life of dignity, and where opportunities to help to change the status quo are few and far between.

“[Young people need] the satisfaction of a job, the relief of justice, the solidarity of equality, and the fulfillment of participation,” Queen Rania said. “We [can] provide real opportunities for change and advancement.”

The queen also emphasized the importance of educating girls as well as boys.

“Because educated girls strengthen their nations’ economies, they prioritize the health and education of their own children and they help to build stable societies more resilient to radicalization. Our strategy must be long-term. And that starts by investing in quality education for all . . . Education reform doesn’t come cheap. But the price of ignorance is far, far greater.

“For the sake of each one of us . . . for . . . the Arab world . . . for the future of our young people, we must create a new narrative and broadcast it to the world,” she said. “Because if we don’t decide what our identity is . . . and what our legacy will be, the extremists will do it for us.”

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.