When scrolling through social media over the past few days/weeks, I’ve been met with dozens of Eiffel Tower/peace sign hybrids, profile pictures overlaid with the French flag and #PrayForParis hashtags. And rightly so. Any instance in which innocent lives have been lost is a time for unity, mourning and commemoration.
But there does, however, seem to be an eerie absence of any mainstream commemoration for the bombings that occurred in Beirut just a day prior to the Paris attacks. Both instances were acts of terror, both were orchestrated by Daesh and in both, innocent civilians lost their lives. Unfortunately, the mainstream media appears to focus on terror through a very Eurocentric prism. The absolute horror of an act of terrorism goes without saying, but, unfortunately, it is clear that global solidarity has a limit.
As a Muslim, it’s becoming increasingly disheartening, and quite dehumanising, to constantly remind people of the thousands of Muslim lives lost because of Daesh. The people of Kabul didn’t get mainstream recognition or world leaders promising to avenge them. Where is Lebanon’s profile picture feature on Facebook? Where was the 24/7 news coverage of the Hazara beheadings in Afghanistan? Why did the world’s monuments not light up in the colours of the Iraqi flag?
The skewed agenda of various media outlets cheapens the blood of those who aren’t white or European. Dismissing the attacks carried out by terrorists in the Middle East implies that because massacres are, unfortunately, becoming the norm in that part of the world, the lives of those who aren’t white simply don’t matter as much. On top of that, many Muslims feel the pressure to explicitly state that Daesh bears no semblance to Islamic theology, and to deliver the usual exhausting rhetoric defending the values of Islam.
Apologetic Muslims should remind themselves that we can’t be made to feel responsible for the Paris attacks when the terrorism that struck Paris affects the 1.6 billion Muslims, that aren’t terrorists, in the exact same way. Daesh hates and targets Muslims throughout the Middle East because Daesh itself is not made up of Muslims. Ordinary Muslims should not have to continuously make clear that under no circumstances, contexts or frameworks do we accept terrorism when Daesh has killed over 100,000 Muslims in the past two years.
So no, contrary to what the likes of Daily Mail readers think, I can’t, as a Muslim, drop Daesh an email telling them to take it down a notch. Muslims are victims to Daesh as much as non-Muslims, and it is with that in mind that we should remember Daesh was not born from a mere misinterpretation of the Quran, but from a political power game that the ordinary civilian has no part in. Daesh thrives off the poisoned Wahhabi ideology fed to them by those masquerading as Muslims, and it is time that we address who funds and supports them. We cannot ignore the indirect role the West has to play in the cultivation of the terrorist group, including the UK’s own cosy relationship with Saudi Arabia, the biggest advocate of the dangerous Wahhabi ideology.
Rather than focussing on Paris alone, or forcing Muslims to apologise for crimes they did not commit, we must take action in finding a solution to terrorism and we must start at home. If politicians are serious about protecting their citizens from terror, then France, Canada, the US and the UK should halt arms deals with the countries that nurture terrorist groups. If leaders really do want to move forward in a positive direction, they must learn from the War on Terror that mass bombing only leads to social and political instability- the kind of power vacuum that enables extremism to thrive.
The Parisian victims must be remembered, of course, but so must the beheaded children of Kabul, the stateless Palestinians, the oppressed Rohingyans and the imprisoned Bahrainis. The lives of Europeans matter, yes, but so do the orphans of Beirut and Baghdad, the terrorised Yemenis and the demonised Syrians. We cannot simply succumb to the skewed agendas of various media outlets. It is not the responsibility of Muslims to apologise on behalf of Daesh, which is entirely dissimilar to Islam. It is our responsibility, however, to remember the oppressed and to help them by seeking the truth about the nature of terrorist groups, where they originate, and who is supporting them.
In today’s climate, ignorance is a choice, and a dangerous one at that.
Photo Credit: Hasan Shaaban/Reuters